Prince Aries has been a presence in the Bay Area's hip-hop scene for more than a decade now, holding down VJ duties on the Distortion 2 Static show, throwing local rap parties, and now releasing a mixtape that combines exclusive tracks from the Bay's bright new stars like DaVinci and Bambu with regional classics and smooth sampled break-beats. (Titled Clean Ass Whip, the slick project is available for free download here.) Ahead of Thursday's mixtape release party at SOM, Prince Aries looks back below on the serendipitous day he traded his E.P.M.D. cassette for a Too $hort album, and reveals why he considers 50 Cent and Tajai rap gentlemen -- but has less than stellar memories of meeting Busta Rhymes.
The online trailer for Clean Ass Whip has you telling a story about trading tapes in school and ending up with a Too $hort cassette. Was that your first real introduction to Bay Area rap music?
Yeah, I mean I probably heard songs before and didn't think about it, but moving to the Bay from New York was a big culture clash, and being here and hearing the music in the local environment was a completely difference experience. I understood it a lot more then.
What happened with the tape trade?
Well, we weren't allowed to have Walkmans in junior high, but once a month -- or maybe once a week -- they let us bring them in. They called it Walkman Day. I had my regular tapes, my E.P.M.D., my Public Enemy, and some mixtapes like DJ Clue and lots of DJ mixes, and we decided to trade. I had no idea what the guy had, and I ended up trading the E.P.M.D. for Too $hort and Public Enemy for N.W.A. I listened to the Too $hort and I was hooked from the first time I heard it. That Too $hort tape means a lot to me, to this day. It was like hearing a whole new form of music.
Since you've been in the Bay, have you gotten to meet Too $hort?
Yes, actually, we had an interview with Too $hort for a TV show we do called Distortion 2 Static. It was pretty big to interview him. I met him another time at a club but it was real brief. I wouldn't say we have a working relationship or anything though.
So how did you get involved with the Distortion 2 Static show?
We were in college, myself, my brother and another guy, and we were all doing our internships and looking for work so we decided to put our skills to use. [My brother] Ariel came up with the idea of doing a TV show just for fun, and it was on San Francisco Public Access at first. It wasn't intended to be a hip-hop show -- it just turned out that was what we always talked about. Then after about a year we got an email from a local affiliate station and we were asked where we'd like to take the show. We were like, "Oh, man, we're gonna get paid!" We were wrong. But we met with them, came up with a structure for the show, and worked together in building it to what it is today.
Who was your first guest on the show?
On Public Access it was really just our friends, 'cause we were involved in the hip-hop scene locally, but I would say the first bigger artist we got was Lyrics Born. I was a big fan of his before that, and that was my first taste of real hip-hop journalism in a way -- like to be able to interview him from our own backdrop and perspective. And another group would be Zion I, who are good friends of ours. From then on we got involved in the hyphy movement which came after that, and it just took off.
Have there been any guests whose music you hated but then they won you over after meeting them, and vice versa?
Oh, yeah! I would say when we interviewed 50 Cent ... I mean, I wasn't sure what to expect, as, you know, he always has beef with other rappers. But he was actually a very nice person, and I became a fan and stated supporting his music a lot more after that. You'd think he'd be a jerk but he's actually very cool.
What about any really bad interviews?
A big disappointment was Busta Rhymes. I was a big fan of his for a long time, and then he was just ... Well, first off we didn't get the interview, and he was very rude to us, like not really even trying to hear us at all. And there's this artist Cage -- have you ever heard of Cage?
Yeah, he used to record on Fondle 'Em and Def Jux.
Yeah, him. So he was another one that wasn't very great. That's probably the worst interview I ever had. I guess that's his character.