The Man Guide’s Tony Hernandez sat down with Bronx native, and multiple-award winning singer/songwriter Prince Royce to discuss his Latino roots, making it in the music industry and the importance of gratitude.
I was born in the Bronx, in North Central Hospital in Woodlawn. It’s the last stop on the #4 Uptown train. I remember my family was very close. My father was a yellow cab driver and my mom was a hairdresser.
What kind of advice did you get from your father as you were coming up?
I remember he used to tell me to always stay positive and to stay away from drugs. He asked me to be careful with whom I hung out with in school and to watch where we went. His goal was always to keep me away from negative influences. The Bronx is a tough place and I believe what scared him most was the thought of me falling into the drug scene like some of my friends. He was afraid I would get into trouble in the streets or wind up in jail like many of the kids I knew. That always terrified him.
“New York has always been home for me, but when they ask me where I’m from, I always say I’m Dominican.”
Did you find inspiration to succeed in your parents strict work ethic?
Yeah, of course. I remember my father would always wake up at three in the morning and he’d come to my room – a room I shared with my brothers. He would always stop in to say goodbye to us and he would kiss us on the forehead. He would do this daily – Monday through Friday and occasionally on the weekends too. My mother always worked as well. My brother worked since he was 16. I got a job when I was 16. We were a family that always had that on our minds. We had to work. We had to get up early in the morning to go to work or go to school. Yes, I believe that work ethic provided me with a lot of motivation.
Who’s been the most influential person in your life thus far?
My mother has always been the person who’s influenced me the most. My parents are very different from one another. My father was always more strict. He was always a little tougher. My mother was little less strict, she was sweeter. She was a little more understanding. My father was always like, “You can’t go there, because of this or that..”.
My mother was willing to bend the rules a bit. “You can go there, just make sure to get back early.” She was always very supportive of my school and my music. She never gave me a hard time. She never said, “You can’t do this or you can’t sing.”
There were times when I was like 15 or 16 years old and I would go sing in Discos or talent shows or Karaokes, and even though she would get home late from work, she knew that I was out singing, trying my hardest to develop my talent. When I would get home in the early morning hours, thinking that everyone would be sound asleep, she would be there on the sofa waiting for me to get home. That’s a beautiful thing. Whenever I needed money to record or to print some flyers to promote myself, she was always there for me.
You were born in the Bronx, yet you identify as Dominican. Where do you feel most at home? Is it in New York or in the DR?
New York has always been home for me, but when they ask me where I’m from, I always say I’m Dominican. I don’t see myself as….I mean, yes, I’m American I guess because I was born here, but I’ve always considered myself Latino. I guess I feel at home in both places. I see the DR more like a vacation spot because that’s what I remember from my childhood. We would go to the Dominican Republic on vacation and we’d stay for a couple of weeks or a month at a time during the Summer. New York will always be home and the DR will always be my home away from home.
“My father’s generation is completely different from my generation. Back in the day, there was no time to play games.”
You’ve enjoyed tremendous success but I’ve yet to meet anyone successful who hasn’t had to overcome their share of adversity. Looking back, what was the toughest obstacle you had to overcome?
The music industry is an extremely tough business. Making it is like winning the lottery. I always wanted to be in the music industry, and on TV, but in the back of my mind there was always some doubt. I always believed in myself, in my ability to sing and dance, but there was always that little voice saying, “Who are you kidding?”
It’s so hard to make it, and growing up in New York it was tough to stay grounded. I had to attend school and at the same time I worked selling cell phones. I had a full-time job, and I attended school full-time, all the while trying to record my music as a hobby.
I grew up in the projects. The tough part was walking those streets with that dream of making it, but without knowing whether I would get there or not. I always envisioned myself on TV, in the award shows, on the radio, but it’s one thing to dream it and another thing altogether to live it. I always had faith, but I had that thought in the back of my mind that maybe I wouldn’t get there. Maybe I would just stay in the Bronx trying and trying to no avail. I knew plenty of people who lived like that. I have plenty of friends and family members who wanted to be artists, or actors or singers and they worked and worked for years and years and they never got to see that moment. For me it’s been such a blessing. Everything has happened so quickly, man. It’s just been a blessing and I’m extremely grateful to my fans and everyone who’s helped me along the way.
You are a member of a generation that arrived at the right moment. You guys are making a difference in society in so many ways. Yet you guys owe so much to your taxi driver dads who sacrificed and busted their asses to give you guys the tools necessary and to give you the right advice. What do you have to say about your father’s generation?
My father’s generation is completely different from my generation. Back in the day, there was no time to play games. He had no time to relax. My father had eight brothers and my mother had eight sisters. They both came from large families. They tell me stories about their lives in the Dominican Republic. They had no shoes and at times had nothing to eat. They didn’t have a choice. They couldn’t afford to go out to the movies or to go and enjoy a dance. There was no time to dance. There was no time for fun and games. My generation, we might have cars, a TV set, a bed and we take that all for granted. We don’t realize sometimes that there are people out there who don’t have a bed, who don’t have food on the table, who can’t afford the luxury of a Playstation. My parents never had that.
I think that’s the greatest difference between our generations, and since they never had that, they came to the United States with that dream. They came with a desire to have a little more than they had in the DR and I think we tend to take that for granted.
My aunts and uncles share stories about how difficult life was for them in the DR. And you’re like, “Wow, it’s like a movie!” You can’t believe it. Sometimes you have to look back and really think about the sacrifices they had to make. I was in the Bronx, perhaps feeling poor, but certainly not poor like they were. I had a TV set, I had a warm bed and toys, I had food to eat every day and I never realized how much they were sacrificing for us. My dad having to get up early every day and mother working long hours every day, and I never realized it. Now that I look back on it, I have to say, “Wow, they worked so hard.” They sacrificed so much so that my brothers and I could enjoy a different life. It really makes you value life. It’s something beautiful. Just beautiful.
Keeps you humble doesn’t it?
Keeps you humble.