Princeton Perez’ fanbase speaks for itself. Almost every video the rapper posts goes viral and leaves audiences in a frenzy. Coming up as part of boy-band Mindless Behavior, signed to Interscope at one point, the Downey, California native is now solo and doing him.
It was at 9 years old when the dancer-turned-recording artist joined the notable aforementioned urban group, which came into fruition in 2008. Perez performed alongside them for the majority of his teenage years. In addition to touring with the likes of Backstreet Boys and Justin Bieber, the group’s debut 2011 album, #1 Girl, peaked at #7 on the Billboard 200.
Starting out as childhood stars, and Mindless Behavior’s explosive launch into the public eye, the label realized they didn’t want to burn the group out. In 2017, there was a collective decision to let the members take their respective 20’s off and enjoy life. With each 4 members going their separate ways and focusing on their solo careers, Princeton is hyped as ever to unleash music on his own terms.
While the young heartthrob was preparing to release his first solo single weeks ago, he decided to delay it due to Nipsey Hussle’s tragic passing. Princeton explains that he wanted to “show respect and really let him have his time to show everybody his whole world.” Flaunt Magazine caught up with Princeton to chat about his journey to solo artistry, the inspiration behind his new single, “Perfect World,” and his work with Taylor Bennett in the studio.
Talk about transitioning from boy band (Mindless Behavior) to solo artist. What’s been the hardest part?
Probably people taking me serious as an older man. Sometimes when you start off as a young star, it’s hard to transition. But we live in a different age now with social media. You don’t have to prove people you’re grown, you can just post it. Vocally too, I’m doing all this shit by myself. I don’t have 3 other dudes to do it with me.
What’s been the best part then?
My music! I’m about to go on tour. There’s plans for me opening up for someone big, but if not, I’m blessed enough to do my own little tour with my fans. That’s my favorite part about being an artist.
You say your new music is fire. How would you describe your sound?
It’s that good R&B you can listen to in the whip with the top off, at a barbeque, or at the club. You can just dance to it. Mindless Behavior, we grew up on tour. We opened up for everybody — Backstreet Boys, Janet Jackson, and Justin Bieber. That’s what I’m used to. In the studio, I make records that are made for concerts.
How does being from Downey play into your life and career?
I still stay in Downey, I love it. You know LA, the minute you hit downtown, you’re in this free-for-all. I do so much shit out here, I just want to go back to Downey. Nobody knows who I am, it’s chill and boring. I don’t want to be around the noise.
Is your family back home?
A lot of my family’s in Mexico, out in Guadalajara. Or New York.
What do they think about the music?
My mom’s side of the family is Mexican, so they never really got into Mindless Behavior. They didn’t watch any of those channels. I’m singing in Spanish on my album, they love that. But my dad’s side, the black side, they knew. They watched BET.
What’s the inspiration behind your name?
My real name is Jacob [Spanish accent]. Two other kids in my class had that name, I hated it. When I was 9, I’m like, “you know what, I’m gonna change my name to Princeton,” because I was a book nerd. I always said if I wasn’t in music, I’d probably go to Princeton University. Go to New Jersey, go to college. Princeton represents who I am.
Your new single, “Perfect World,” what can we expect?
I’ve been sharing snippets of the song for one year. When I first recorded it, I shot the vertical video for Spotify. Some people from my team posted it, and fans got it. Before then, my fans didn’t know I was doing music. I didn’t tell nobody. Then radio people caught on and started playing it in Atlanta on the radio. I’m like, “okay, the song ain’t even out yet.” It’s out a couple days before BET Awards, so perfect timing.
What was your mindstate creating this?
I was in a relationship. I don’t want to say I cheated…
Damn, you foul for that!
I didn’t cheat—because I was honest. I was talking to this girl like “in a perfect world, you can get what you want, I can get what I want.” I thought it’d be a perfect concept for a song. In my perfect world, what would I want? Honestly I’m 23 now. I wouldn’t even be in a relationship, I’d just be dating. That would be my perfect world.
Talk about linking w/ Taylor Bennett on the intro track.
I’ve known Taylor for a couple years. One day, he invited me to the studio. Usually when I go into the studio, I need a regimen. Then when I was in there, Chance the Rapper walks in like, “yo I know you sing from the group, just get in the booth.” I sang and he put it on the album. That’s the first time I ever walked into the studio spontaneously with no plan.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
To never give up. It’s very rare to see a young black child star who can transition and not have no scandal on them or do some wild shit to be taken seriously. All you gotta do is stay focused, work, keep your circle cool, and you’ll be good.
What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
I’ve had specific goals since I was 9. I want to be on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. When I was a kid, I used to collect every magazine. Remember they used to mail you magazines? I had a wall full of them.
Talk about performing at the BET pre-show.
Well it’s the pre-show or after show, I’m cool with either. But I’ve been in rehearsal. Sometimes, BET will let you know the day before like “we need you to perform tomorrow!” I’m already preparing for that. I’m excited. BET is home. Mindless Behavior won a couple awards there, they’ve always shown hella love to me.
Music is your life, what do you like to do to relax?
I can spend a whole day at the movie theaters watching movies. I’m not on my phone, it’s dark, and I’m by myself, in the cut.
What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
I wake up, pray, do some type of yoga and stretching. Do my vocal lessons, rehearsals, gym, then get into something at night. If it’s not the studio, then it’s going to the movies, going to someone else’s studio session. My friends has a house in Palm Springs so I’ll drive out an hour near Coachella and just stay there.
Are you an introvert?
I love talking to people. I’m an entertainer, naturally when I walk in a room. But I don’t need many friends with me. You don’t need all that.
What’s the last movie you’ve seen?
I saw Aladdin. I went because my vocal coach, Tim Carter, was Will Smith’s vocal coach. It was lit. Will Smith killed that.
How important is social media for your career?
Very important. Look, I just posted this video 2 days ago of me doing absolutely nothing. I was in the car, singing to a record. It got 1.2M views on Twitter. A 60 second video, 1.2M in 2 days. It gave me 20K followers on Instagram in one day. How the hell? I’m at 950K on IG and haven’t put no music out. When Mindless Behavior took a break, I was at 500K. I don’t know what happened for me to gain almost a million followers, but that’s good because now I have people on my pages ready for the music. Social media’s big. I’m not trying to be no influencer though. I have some influencer friends, they go through some shit. I don’t even want to do that.
Who’s your favorite person to follow on IG?
My mom. She doesn’t posts pictures, she posts quotes of how much she hates Donald Trump. Celebrity wise, Diddy. I love the stuff he posts, it’s fun. One post you see him at a party with Ciroc, another post you see him with his kids. It’s dope. And J-Lo! Jennifer Lopez is my favorite. She’s got a 100M followers, she’s huge. J-Lo’s lit. She posts her workout videos, and she’s 50 years old!
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Jay-Z and Beyonce’s album, Everything is Love. I know I’m late on that. My favorite song’s “Friends.”
Missy Elliot. I love Missy Elliot is the only person I want to do a song with. If I get that, I’m good. Don’t need anyone else.
What else can we expect music-wise? Are you working on a project?
The EP’s done, finished it last week. It’s getting mixed. We’re getting some features right now which I’m excited about. The benefit coming from Mindless Behavior was I didn’t burn any bridges when I met a lot of artists. The best part of being a child star is you make connections and you use it.