As a founding member of the iconic rap group N.W.A, Arabian Prince has a rich musical history that spans almost four decades. While he left the crew due to business differences shortly after Ice Cube joined, his solo career has flourished, and he’s known most notably as the producer of JJ Fad’s hit single “Supersonic.”
This Friday, the longtime DJ, rapper, and producer graces the decks of The Uptown for Oakland’s celebration of Dre Day. We got a chance to chat with the OG Arabian Prince about the roller rink days, the importance of empowering youth, and his favorite video games.
SF Weekly: As someone who started as a dancer, then went on to titles like DJ, rapper, and producer, which of these hats have you enjoyed wearing the most in your musical career?
Arabian Prince: Wow, dancer! I have not heard that in years. I used to pop-lock back in the day for money and trophies when I just started to DJ. I have always been a DJ since I was 14, never stopped. I actually think that DJ, producer, and rapper all go together for me; I enjoy all three the same. When I DJ, I usually rock the mic and even bump some original songs or beats.
SFW: It seems like roller skating rinks were the place to DJ in the ‘80s, with you even getting your DJ moniker there. Can you tell us that story?
AP: There where two spots that we used to DJ at back in the day: Skate Land USA in Compton and World On Wheels in L.A. All the top DJs used to spin and party there. Me, Egyptian Lover, Dr. Dre, and all the West coast DJs. One night, I was spinning with Egyptian Lover and a girl came up to me and asked who I was. I said DJ Prince. She said, ‘Why don’t you call yourself Arabian Prince? You’re always hanging around Egyptian Lover.’ I thought, that’s a good idea, so I kept the name. The same thing happened a few years later when I dropped my Professor X Saga single. I could not release the record under Arabian Prince because I already had a single out, so I called myself Professor X on that record.
SFW: How does your current DJ setup compare to your first one?
AP: When I first started out, I had to save money to get one turntable and a cheap Radio Shack mixer. My homie DJ Termite got a turntable and we started our DJ biz at 15-years-old. We built our own speakers and started doing school dances. I have always used turntables, but recently, since I still do a lot of traveling and a lot of concerts, I have used Serato and Traktor on both turntables, CDJs, and Controllers. My new favorite toy is the Roland DJ808; it has a drum machine built in.
SFW: Electro funk and rap seem to dip in and out of mainstream music. How has the genre changed in the past two decades?
AP: The sound has not changed much at all. It is a lot bigger in Europe and Asia than it is here, but every time a current artist drops a song with that electro funk sound it always is a hit. Mostly you hear it a lot in EDM music now because of the BPM.
SFW: Having a career spanning over three decades, which era do you think was the best to party/be an artist in?
AP: All three decades are party scenes to me but very different. The ‘80s had a more freaky party feel, with people dancing nasty on the dance floor. The ‘90s brought that gangsta G-funk feel where everything was slower and laid back, and now there is a vast wealth of music styles and party scenes that you can get anything you like in a party anytime.
SFW: Switching gears, tell us about your upcoming project, Open Labs.
AP: Even though I have been doing music and DJing for more than 30 years, I have been quietly in the tech scene as well. I had a very successful 3D animation and special effects company that worked on a lot of TV, film, and videogames. From there, I moved into working with big tech companies to help them understand the younger generation and how to break into the entertainment space. I am creating a new project called Open Labs in LA’s Silicon Beach to give back to kids, students, diversity groups, women in tech, etc, to give them a place to learn and create tech.
SFW: Why is it more important to empower youth now than ever?
AP: I understand how we must give the tools to succeed to the next generation. When I was young, I had uncles and cousins who where all in the military. They would come back with all kinds of electronics, synthesizers, stereo equipment, and ham radio stuff. This is what got me motivated to get into music, tech, and electronics at a very young age. I want to give those same opportunities to this generation and the next.
SFW: As someone who has always stood up for what you believed in, what’s some wisdom you can impart to young artists?
AP: One thing I know for sure, and this is something I say over and over again, never give up, never stop trying. It only takes one hit, one chance, and one thing that you do that will change your life. But if you don’t keep trying and keep exploring your creativity, it may never happen. Never let anyone else tell you it won’t work.
SFW: You’ll be headlining Dre Day in Oakland. What’s something you can appreciate about his career?
AP: Dr. Dre is a perfectionist, a master at what he does, the ultimate hitmaker, and I do know this about him. He keeps looking for the hit, never satisfied with the average, but he knows when he has it, and that is the key to a great producer.
SFW: Musically, what have you got coming up in 2017?
AP: Working on a new album with Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen! Now that is gonna be crazy, something different. Also doing a lot of experimentation with sound and music for VR and AR applications.
SFW: Lastly, we read you appreciate a good videogame. What’s currently rotating on your console?
AP: I am a big RPG fan so I mostly play RPG or action adventure games. My favorites are the Borderland series, Bioshock series, The Witcher series, and if you ever want to find me online, I am always playing Quake Live still to this day.