Gon’ #ArtOnArt tomorrow’s SpiderSpic,
as he spins verses, All on time
Downs Trump’s walls, And all them lies
LO! Look out!
Here comes the Powerule!
Polo whitsands groove into every next brick in the wall building my upward hike to be born. In a few moments, I’m going to perch myself on this wall and study a great that climbed here once. If I’ve even made it this far to journalize these artistic brethren, it’s because there are knives, guns, pens and pointed breaks stabbed deeply into the muck that molds these walls. Embedded by these marvels, their fossils of weaponry slung become the paths of freedom. It’s so cause each pull upward, the love and loyalty of pioneers’ ideas, moves and sounds wither down and form counter grip and cultural handles into this savagely trumped wall. A wall that always was here racially, industrially, economically and artfully fucked. And no duck, bird or Donald, will be original in their oppression again. The power to rule is still a blessing of creativity and originality for us that break blackened barriers, browned borders and popularly recorded boundaries. And I, the writer with the sharpened science chiseling a way through the walls see the anomaly of amplified grace ascend again…
…Prince Power of Powerule posts up anew, with an LP on the way that turns him to more than a pioneer, that first Puerto Rican solo MC to drop an album, 1991’s Volume 1. Prince is now an MC, whose matured insight propels one of Hip Hop’s greatest comebacks. Whereas Prince ran headfirst into the scalding spotlight into his skills, today he works with uncompromised freedom and elevated technique. Skills of advanced layered lines that pattern an even smoother progression, accentuating the ill enunciated clarity his voice of ideal raspiness blesses the mic with. As we ready ourselves for the Anomaly LP, featuring production from Large Professor, the Beatnuts, Lord Finesse amongst many and MCfeatures from Tragedy Khadafi, Psycho Les, Dave Dar, Kurious and more. Now clung to this wall and preparing to strike, Powerule took a moment to build with Powerwrite. Knowledge the jewels in Prince Power’s origins I share as the greatest honor:
“Here’s the story about how I got where I am/I used to go for mine in every neighborhood jam…”
- “Let The Years Roll”
SUNEZ: Now, I’m a 5 Percenter, God of the 5% Nation of Gods and Earths. An important visual impact was seeing you calling yourself Powerule which is from our Supreme Alphabet (P – Power, R – Rule or Ruler) as in Power Rule or Puerto Rican. It showed me we also were in the included diaspora of those whose knowledge of self of their supremacy was lost. It strengthened my resolve.
PRINCE POWERULE: I never was a 5 Percenter. What happened was I grew up in an all Black neighborhood in Hollis—Shadyville really. Then they merged together to Jamaica, Queens. Growing up in the 80’s you were either Zulu or Godbody. Being one of only about 2 or 3 Latin brothers around the way, everyone was Godbody. They never called us by our name. They was like, ‘Yo, whatup Powerule!,’ ‘Yo Powerule, what up?!’
I started off with the breakdancing but I realized I wasn’t that nice as a breaker. I could fool you for a minute but that was about it. I’ve always been a writer and I realized I ought to be in Hip Hop in some way. I really want to contribute. Why don’t I take my writing skills and my love of music and start MCing.
When we were around the way I two other dudes that were down with me. Johnny Jay and House. That’s John Morales and Pablo Cortijo. Pablo you couldn’t tell he was Puerto Rican, he was a big Black dude. His family is actually Los Hermanos Cortijo from Puerto Rico. Pablo was my beatboxer and Johnny Jay was my mentor writing. I didn’t know Pablo was was Puerto Rican until one day I went into this Spanish American store –that’s what they used to call them—to get some tocino, aji dulce—my grandmother would send me a whole list. His dad is up in there and he’s talking to everybody in Spanish. Paul’s daddy is a big Black man and I say, ‘Mr. Cortijo, you know Spanish?’ He says you didn’t know I was Puerto Rican. We were so used to saying his name so American like ‘Mr. Cor-tee-hoe!’ He told us Paul’s name is Pablo Encermo Cortijo. I said, ‘Yo, we’re gonna blow him up in school the next day!’
SUNEZ: Word! He comes from one of the great musical families!
PRINCE POWERULE: A huge great musical family! That was the original Powerule lineup. Me, Pablo and Johnny Jay, we used to call him Beatmaster because every crew needed a beatbox. We decided one day what we were going to call ourselves. We went through the regular names: Force Two, Dynamic Two or whatever three. Then my man Pancho—he was down with Dynamic Rockers at the time—said, ‘call yourself what everybody else in the hood calls you. Call yourself Powerule.’ I was like, ‘that’s it right there.’ Now I’m not shoving the Puerto Rican thing down your face but if you know and have knowledge of it then you know who we are.
SUNEZ: Now I heard you say that Tito of the Fearless four was a great you looked up to. You realized MCing was the craft but how did you become good at MCing?
PRINCE POWERULE: Initially, I was totally into Rock music. I got into so many fights in my [assigned] school district that my mother switched me to District 26 in Bayside, Queens where there were lots of Anglos and all different types, Irish, Jewish…They all loved Rock music. This is me growing up in the ‘70’s.
They invite me to these keg parties and family affairs. I love Led Zepellin, Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd. I know all that as well as I know Hip Hop and R&B. I used to love that so I was in a Rock band at first and sang in it. Once that started dying down and I saw the influx of all the kids in my school wanting to be Rockers anymore they decided they wanted to be breakdancers. So now all the kids that were half-Puerto Rican started to say, ‘I’m Puerto Rican. I’m a breaker!’ I started to realize I don’t want to be a Rocker anymore. I identified more with Crazy Legs and Dynamic. That’s how I started with that but I wasn’t that good. I just took my writing skills as a Rock singer and applied them to Hip Hop.
SUNEZ: It’s an anecdotal question I have but from your experience out of mine I’ve noticed growing up and as a journalist, why do you think so many Latin brothers try breaking immediately when we dealt with Hip Hop? It seems that there is a dominance toward that over the other elements.
PRINCE POWERULE: You know, I couldn’t tell you. There were plenty of MC pioneers before me from Ruby Dee, Tito, OC was DJIng, Whipper Whip, Charlie Chase. I think we had our hands in everything a little bit. I don’t think it’s because we weren’t gravitating toward the microphone part. We’re multi-talented and did a bunch of stuff. You don’t see as many Black breakdancers but they were some of the first to do it and start it. In the beginning, one might go through this from the Black community saying, ‘oh, you’re Puerto Rican. He can’t rhyme.’ You have to go prove yourself and get on the mic. That took many battles for me to get respect in my hood. I can imagine what it was like for a Ruby Dee or Tito and all of them. By far, you look at the Fearless Four, the star was Tito. I don’t care what anybody says. That guy walks around with an aura to this day. I’ve got curly hair now cause I’m trying to bring the Tito look back.
PRINCE POWERULE: [laughs]
PRINCE POWERULE: We were in a neighborhood group, Powerule and we became very popular. There was a kid that lived in the backstreets, E Ville. He told me ‘I know this lady. She wants to put out records. You guys are dope. I make some beats and whatever. Why don’t we go to this studio I know.’ So in the beginning we used to go to the studio and Johnny Jay wouldn’t show up when I booked a session. He was the star of the group and wouldn’t show up. Eventually I asked him what’s up. Why aren’t you showing up? He told me, ‘to tell you the honest truth. I never got into this for show business. I love doing it but I don’t like to be in front of the camera.’ And I respected that so much. I said, ‘Jay, you know what? Good for you. That’s not who you are but guess what? That’s who I am.’ I want to go out there and do it. So I was forced to be a solo mc. I started to write on my own. I was having the same problems as everyone else, hood problems, drugs and I’d put all that stuff in my rhymes. But guys would tell me that was too negative. When I was left to my own devices all I rhymed about was guns and all that. Right before KRS-One came out I could tell you how I was killing the murder raps. But everybody was like, ‘you gotta be positive.’ These are the days of Run DMC and everybody had a positive message. That’s why you see my first two songs, “Smooth” and “Brick In The Wall” were both positive songs. I kept on trying and I was living downstairs with my cousins and I heard these beats upstairs. It was my friend’s boyfriend, DJ AX/Victor Romero. I said, ‘that beat sounds dope.’ He was, ‘I heard you rhyme.’ We lived right on top of each other and he was a huge dude doing his thing hustling. I would hear him making beats and observe the lifestyle, rolling up in the Benz, see him on motorcycles and the giant chains. I was like I want to do that but I can’t do this if I want to do that. So I gotta play it smooth and not get upset. That’s how “Smooth” came up. How can I not get sucked back into that life because I did that. I did hand to hands at sixteen (years old).
SUNEZ: And as many tell me, the music becomes therapeutic and becomes a way of becoming who you want to become. So now, who noticed you once you started recording and sharing these songs?
PRINCE POWERULE: So E Ville, he knew this lady that was a substitute teacher in the school. She told him that if he knew any guys that make music, bring it to her. He showed her “Smooth” and she loved it. Back then it was all record pools. They were fantastic back in the day. We would send out all the records and every DJ would get them. If they liked it then they started killing it. So she sent the demo to record pools and pressed it on her own, on Revenge Records. DJs got it and I knew certain people that knew DJs. I knew one of the girls that dated Marley Marl and my boy Ax knew everyone that worked at WBAU, Spectrum City, Chuck D, Big Doctor Dre, Wildman Steve. The first records, Wildman Steve was the first to play it in college. Ax went to Marley Marl and brought him some Dom P champagne. Tragedy used to work up there with him (and its funny that now I have a record with him on this upcoming album). Right after EPMD’s “The Big Payback” he dropped the “World Premiere” [announcement] and played “Smooth.” I just remember that day standing in front of my girl’s house, at the time, in Jamaica. That’s when everybody listened to the radio. Friday night, you had either WBLS or KISS on, choose which one or you were going back and forth. And to hear my song playing around me and reverberating in the streets, it was the best feeling I’m going to feel in my life. Nothing will capture that again. To see my cousins coming down the block bumping it like ‘Yo! We did it!.’ It was crazy. I had no idea Marley would play it and I didn’t know he was going to get the bomb dropped on it with the “World Premiere” too. Then Red Alert fell in love with the record. It was on at 10, then 10:30 then he started to play it on prime time when everybody was driving, going out at night.
SUNEZ: What happened with these singles?
PRINCE POWERULE: We actually were entrepreneurs where we were on the label but we put up our own money for the video of “Smooth.” It exploded and was on everywhere. Major companies started looking and we did the “Brick in the Wall” video and the same happened—it was everywhere. We were even hosting BET. There were no Puerto Ricans hosting BET! I was the first visual face and was worldwide on everything. People thanked me and got their half-moon haircut cause of me. Craziness. I saw Chuck D one day when we were doing a show in Long Island. Chuck D came up to Ax and said, ‘I see what y’all doing. You need to go to speak to this man. Bobbito Garcia. He works at Def Jam.’ He set it up and I meet Bobbito and he said he seen our shit. We Boricuas and all that. He said he had a homegirl that’s been calling, seeing your videos and are starting a label called Poetic Groove. Her name is Carmelita Sanchez. She wanted to sign us. Now there were at least three labels wanting to sign us but being that it came from Bobbito and Carmelita was Latina, I said let’s just do that. It wasn’t’ the best thing for me but that’s how it happened.
SUNEZ: In retrospect, is there a way to choose properly?
PRINCE POWERULE: none of us were educated in the business sense so how can you prepare kids who walked around with 25 dollars in his pocket at the most. 25 was a great day. You could get a 40 and a dime bag of weed. It’s a party! I had more fun in those days than all these dumb parties spending a crazy amount of money. I actually wanted to be on IRS records, part owned by Stewart Copeland, who was part of The Police. With my Rock background, I was like “Oh my God, I could be on Stewart Copeland’s label! That’ where I want to go!’ But all of us together knew they were really Hip Hop. They didn’t see how we would fit at Copeland’s but I did. So we went with Poetic Groove.
PRINCE POWERULE: Not everybody.
“This is one badass rice and beans eating motherfucka!/Born and bred in a hardcore community/with no opportunity/so what can you do to me?!/Take away what I don’t have and never did?!…”
- “That’s The Way It Is”
But we Boricuas did out in Sunset Park and other assorted hells we ciphered in. Prince’s debut, Volume 1 isn’t a classic LP but holds a cherished position. It is the first solo LP by the least represented ethnicity of the Black diaspora that co-created Hip Hop culture. The 90’s, the golden era of recorded Hip Hop music, is filled with classic LPs that sit below the seminal LPs. Still, the decade is even more incredible for the many LPs of potential that made the entire genre full. Full of talent not merely incredible anomalies. Prince Power, with a tempered cadence that, as we shall soon see, was time stamped in overemphasized rhymes through pause filled phrases. Songs as “Ruff Neck Style” or “Pass the Vibes” show expertise in the respected skill sets over the expected sounds of the day. Yet there are clues as the intensely versed “Back,” the vocal highlighting all over “Smooth,” the stylistic slow pace of “5 Minutes to Showtime” to fluctuating charisma on the ragga’d “Rub of the Wax.” Spoiled by MCs leading with legendary prose and beatmakers mastering primitive machinery for the most refined grimy sounds, the industry of the 90’s wouldn’t get the young artist out of his own ways of ignorance imposed or embraced to develop artist to the full repertoire they had dormant in them. So Volume 1 for us was just that, a beginning, an introduction to a rising representative of real Hip Hop, who happens to be Boricua, expressing himself. Things did not work this way and Powerule’s Volume 1 for the next quarter century became a cherished crate to Hip Hoppas.
PRINCE POWERULE: What happened was that I was not ready to make an album on my own. I also should have never been given a lump sum of money that I never had before and be expected to go to th e studio and work. I came in as a always-want-to-be-at-the-party type dude because that’s what Hip Hop was then. I concentrated more about being at the party, spending money, buying chains and didn’t spend any time on my craft. I’m flattered that you said the album came out well. But at that time, Large Professor, DJ Premier, Busta Rhymes—they all said, ‘we’ll do your whole album.’ I would’ve been put in a work mode. These guys stayed in the studio. While I was making my album, Tribe Called Quest was making Low End Theory. Large Professor was making Breaking Atoms. Gang Starr was making their next album, Step In The Arena. These guys were making some of the most classic albums ever made. They all wanted to be a part of what I was doing. But we figured we’ll do the album ourselves and keep most of the money ourselves. So I come to the studio at 4 o’clock in the morning wasted, try to write some rhymes. I didn’t put my best work effort forward and it didn’t come out as good as it was. The sounds were okay. It might have sold about a hundred thousand but the fact that I was Latino and it is a Black [i.e. African American] industry and no one had broken through. I was that first face and I didn’t come with that real, real strong rap single off that album that could’ve worked. I chose to do the Rock thing anyway and came out with “That’s The Way It Is” and at that time, MTV banned anything that was too political. They had banned Ice Cube, myself. If you look at the end of that video, “That’s The Way It Is,” I got that quote from Bobbito. In the year 2000, Latinos will be the largest minority in the United States. We were in 2000 and in the next 50 years the entire world. So we’re just growing. So I broke in the door for everyone but I wasn’t ready. Yet I helped bring in Kurious. I gave Beatnuts some work and following up comes Fat Joe. Those guys were doing about the same in the beginning as me but then started to do better.
My label was on the West Coast and I’m here on the East Coast. They never returned my calls. How can you have a relationship where someone cares about what you’re doing if they don’t see your face every day. So it was a disconnect. They had Tupac and they were worrying about him. God bless him. The guy was nasty. I started not getting any phone calls. Where’s my money? Where’s this? No shows are getting booked. After a year and a half of keeping me on contract, they finally let me go. The next girl I run into is Faith Newman. She signed NaS among many things. She hooked me up with Ruffhouse Colombia. At the time I’m recording demos with Charlie Marotta who did stuff with EPMD. We put together a nice demo and we started recording for them. They wanted me to do more bilingual stuff. Come on. Now, I’m Puerto Rican but I don’t talk Spanish every day. I grew up in a different way, in a Black neighborhood, have a lot of Black characteristics. That’s just the way I am. I’m not going to rhyme bilingual when I don’t do it well enough to do it justice. I could speak but I can’t be the writer I am in that language. So they drop me and I don’t even come out. Andy Panda who had Fever Records have a deal with Def Jam. Lyor Cohen and them have this idea saying there’s going to be a great thing with Latino exposure in Hip Hop. Sign five guys: me, Fat Joe, somebody else, whatever. Two dope records for them. They were going to do a compilation first. It was a killer record. Andy Panda and Russell Simmons and Lyor have a falling out and now that’s over. So now what am I going to do? Released from Def Jam and Ruffhouse and I’m in a bad spot now. The singles industry was very much alive and people were buying wax and 12 inches. Fat Beats was getting real strong in the early 90s. So all these hustling dudes that want to wash their money and do some Hip Hop. I’m Latin and I know them so they ask me to make a record for them. Those singles I came out with on Hydra and Dolo and the ones I made with Mark Ronson—those are the best records I made and should’ve been my album. I worked with Erick Sermon, Beatnuts, Ronson in my singles. Those should’ve been my second album. But people pay me off to make some singles and that was that. I just got tired and stayed on the business side. I didn’t even write any lyrics down for about three or four years. I stopped making songs period in 1998. Now we’re in 2016.
In 2016, writes are recorded and pressed to play. Atop the wall, armed with rhymes a klu klutzed billionaire couldn’t pay for, Prince travels via them hard snapping breakbeats through the barbed chartswire. Powerule, yesterday’s precocious talent unrealized returns as today’s Anomaly creating on Zen-equalized tracks. Powerule to the People!!!…