The music and film of hip-hop artist Prince Mick takes you on an extraordinary journey: his own. The journey begins on the streets of the west side of Chicago, where Prince Mick once lived the violent life of a gangbanger. His song and video “Imma Beast” captures that life with a raw, gritty style, and a brutal honesty (a visual statement about the world that once defined him appears 14 seconds into the video: his own neck, pock-marked with a bullet wound).
But Prince Mick as he wants you to know him today is a changed man – or at least he’s trying to be one. With the help of his mother, he’s left his criminal past behind and now uses his art to express his spiritual values. As he told me in the following interview, “The essence of my story is my spiritual journey. I believe in God. But I am not perfect. I fight demons.”
His spiritual side with his street past explains why an examination of street life like “Imma Beast,” and the raunchy “Miss a Nigga” live alongside an urgent spiritual bulletin like “War Stories,” and his contemplative video essay “Heaven or Hell” on his YouTube channel.
I met the 22-year-old Prince Mick on Global 14, the social community founded by music mogul Jermaine Dupri. After we swapped a few messages, he sent me his music, which I featured on my blog. Our interview, which we conducted over the telephone between breaks in his schedule attending junior college near Chicago, contrasts sharply with my recent profile of Indiana-based hip-hop artist Symon G. Seyz. Whereas Symon G. Seyz views himself as a J. Cole protégé playing for a middle-class audience, Prince Mick says he sings for the streets. “The streets mean the neighborhoods I grew up in and the places where I made my mark,” he says – the kinds of places he depicts in songs like “City Streets,” which is a documentary-style tour of his old west-side neighborhood.
“I’m not a happy-go-lucky rapper,” he says. “I’m telling stories. I’m telling you real life. God does not just reach out to people who are good but also to the thugs, murderers, prostitutes, and the lost.”
Thugs. Murderers. The lost. They’re still part of Prince Mick’s world: but as his audience now, not his peers.
Learn more about Prince Mick’s spiritual journey through our interview:
Tell me about yourself. How would you describe yourself in one sentence? A filmmaker? Musician?
I consider myself as a songwriter and storyteller. I started off as a storyteller with a camera, and I do so now through film and music.
The essence of my story is my spiritual journey. I believe in God. But I am not perfect. I fight demons.
I celebrate life, too, which you see coming through in my secular music.
Where did you grow up? How did those experiences influence your art?
I grew up in the west side of Chicago. I was raised to believe in God, and so I had a spiritual side for my entire life. But I also grew up in a thug’s life. I remember when I was about 4 years old. We were living in the projects, a lot us playing in the park. The thugs started firing shots from the top of the roof. The kids started scattering, but I didn’t know what was going on. My aunt screamed, “Baby, run!” I said, “Aren’t those fireworks?” “She said, “Those aren’t fireworks.”
That experience exposed me early on to a violent lifestyle. I eventually joined a gang and became a top dog. I got kicked out of school. I became a stick-up kid and was harming a lot of people.
Because my parents lived apart (my parents separated when I was young), I would visit my mom in the suburbs and be exposed to a better way of life. But life was good in Chicago, or so I thought.
My thug’s life led to me being was shot in the neck at age 16. The bullet came from the right side and out the left side. Blood was spurting out my neck and my mouth.