KillerHipHop Exclusive | Prince Ea Interview
Thanks to his clever rhymes, and deep content, Prince Ea has racked up millions of views on YouTube. Most notably, Prince Ea is responsible for creatively flipping the script on “Backwards Rappers.” Ea is also the founder and leader of the Make SMART Cool movement which has picked up cosigns from Beats By Dre and Immortal Technique. The St. Louis MC is undoubtedly one of hip-hop’s brightest young minds.
During our conversation, Ea talks about the meaning of his name, the Make SMART Cool campaign, YouTube, making “Backwards Rappers,” working with Juicy J, politics, and more.
QuezKHH: Where does the name Prince Ea (pronounced E) come from?
Prince Ea: Ooh. How much time you got man [laughs]? In a nutshell, “Ea” is an abbreviated form of Earth. As you know a little bit about my background, I’m an academic. I got my degree in anthropology. The thing that got me into anthropology was a place called Sumer. 6,000 years ago, this is the cradle of civilization, the first known civilization. The Sumerian people had so much advanced technology. They created the first written language. They put 360 degrees to a circle. They created the wheel, [and] so many different things. This is right out of the stone age right. I’m going to get to where my name comes from, but this is kind of the background of where I’m going. Basically, the Sumerian people, not only did they have all this advanced technology on Earth, but they also knew about the planets in our solar system without the telescope, really amazing stuff. Like I said, right out of the stone age. If you would’ve asked one of these people where they got their knowledge from, they would’ve said that the living Gods gave it to them. So a lot of people in my field, a lot of anthropologists, [and] archeologists, we kind of write it off as mythology. But me and a couple of anthropologist friends actually give merit to what these people were saying, and try to believe in what they were saying. How else can you really explain how they had so much advanced knowledge? These are people that lived in clay huts and used stone tools and they just had so much advanced knowledge so quickly that it had to have been bestowed upon them. I believe.
Basically, Prince Ea was actually their creator God. These people wrote about Prince Ea or Prince Earth Enki. He freed them out of [darkness]. He gave them knowledge and enlightenment. I kind of took the name as far as what I do with my hip-hop. I enlighten my fans. I give them knowledge. In all of my songs I have an educational undertone to it, pretty much across the board. [No matter] what subject I’m talking about, it has some type of informational or educational [message], either a couple of punchlines or some kind of line to underline the whole thing and punctuating it. So yea, I basically took the name and I felt like it was my mission to be that in the hip-hop world, to enlighten my fans. But not only prophesying my fans but really just showing them that it’s more out there. Don’t necessarily listen to me and believe what I’m saying as face value, but do the research. Do the corroborating, the data, and all of that. So that’s pretty much it. That was long winded, but I had to get that back story out [laughs].
KHH: Is there a specific incident in your life that made you want to become a rapper?
Ea: Yea definitely. Growing up I was a terrible student. I was really complacent. It was only until I came in contact with hip-hop that kind of changed me. When I say hip-hop, I mean the pure essence of hip-hop. Growing up I was a big Ma$e fan and Diddy fan. But when I actually discovered Chuck D, Immortal Technique, Canibus, Ras Kass, guys that put a lot of content embedded in their rhymes, it totally blew my mind. I was so compelled, not only from listening to them. I advanced my knowledge. I did better in school to the point where I ended up getting a full scholarship. It actually made me want to rap too. I felt like these guys have created a great avenue, a great vehicle to reach people intellectually. Just me coming in contact with I guess the pure form of hip-hop made me want to rap. It made me want to be give somebody the experience that these guys gave me. It’s kind of like the each one teach one philosophy.
KHH: You have also started a campaign called “Make S.M.A.R.T. Cool.” What can you tell people about that?
Ea: Make S.M.A.R.T. Cool is an organization that goes beyond hip-hop. It goes beyond music in general. Kind of like a way of life. S.M.A.R.T. is actually an acronym [for] sophisticating millions and revolutionizing thought. We want to popularize intelligence. If you look at the mainstream media or whatever you want to look at, you want to look at a magazine, you want to look at TV, look at radio, they push a really hedonistic, and materialistic message throughout, across the board. The intellectual side of that takes a back seat. So I feel compelled to give the game balance. That’s the media. That’s the actual machine, but I think people in general, we want knowledge. We want to know stuff. We want to learn because we feel good. It’s in our DNA. We want to explore. So I kind of just wanted to balance it out. A lot of people have taken to it. We got a lot of cosigns [from] Beats By Dre, Immortal Technique, [and] Black Thought. A lot of people have cosigned the movement and a lot of big things are definitely coming up in the future.
KHH: Is there anything people can do to contribute to your movement?
Ea: Definitely. You can either reach out to me via facebook or even go to the Make SMART Cool website and sign up. We got a lot of big things coming. But yea, you can definitely sign up and when you do sign up, you’ll be informed via email about everything that’s going on, whether it’s something in your community, [or] something you can do. If you don’t want to sign up, just think about making smart cool. It’s nothing corny. I think a lot of rappers, honestly, in this game are corny, especially the conscious ones. We’re against that. We think that making smart cool is not only being smart in education or academia, but also smart in your daily life, smart in your environment [and] making the right decisions on a daily basis. That’s making smart cool. If you really want to contribute, you can just embody that message truthfully.
KHH: Now let’s talk about “Backwards Rapper.” For those who don’t know, played forward the song conveys a negative message, but when rewinded it turns into a positive message. How did the idea for that song come about?
Ea: The actual song was inspired from a poem. There was a poem that I had seen online a couple of years ago. It’s called “Lost Generation.” It was pretty much the same format, only it wasn’t in a rap form. It was in poetry form. It didn’t have any real structure or cadence, but I thought it was really really really clever. So I took it and I was like, can I make this poem into a rap? Can I sequence it so that it can be a rap, and it was hard as hell! True to that. But that’s where the inspiration for the song came from. The video actually came from The Pharcyde’s “Drop” video, how they go backwards. If you really pay attention to the video, we actually shot it backwards. So I was walking backwards and then we just reversed it in post-[production]. So that’s where the idea came from: “The Lost Generation,” and for the visual it was Pharcyde’s “Drop.”
KHH: With the amount of content that you put into your songs, how long does it take you to write a song?
Ea: Good question man. It can take me a while. Right now I’m getting bored with the original 16-hook-16 structure. I’ve been doing a lot of conceptual songs. I don’t know if you heard the song I did called “The Brain.” It was a big big project. It took a while because I had to do research. I had to make sure that all of my facts were up to date, and correct, and I wasn’t just spewing garbage and nonsense. It’s an ethical thing with me. Whatever I’m saying, I’m responsible for. A lot of rappers, a lot of artists don’t look at it that way, but I do. I have to cross-reference everything that I’m saying, and make sure it’s valid before I put it out there. Honestly, a regular 16, if it’s like a freeverse, it can just take me an hour to carve something out. But if it’s a conceptual song, it might take me a week or two to get it really done how I want. I’m a big cadence guy too. I put a lot of time and attention on my cadence, the multi-syllable rhyme patterns and stuff like that. I try to maintain a balance between that and with content. I got inspired to really focus on my craft when I heard [that] Eminem used to spend hours, apparently, in his basement just rewriting a couple of lines over and over. So I kind of do the same thing. I’m really a perfectionist man. It’s a good and a bad thing at the same time.
KHH: Do you think that sometimes the industry looks down on YouTube rappers?
Ea: I don’t know man. I think when you call it “YouTube rappers,” they might. But for me, I see YouTube as a platform. A platform that I can release my music on, and build a fanbase. You’d be surprised at how technology is moving on par with music. They’re pretty much in-sync right now. If you look at the biggest artists, how they got their name, it was pretty much from YouTube, on the internet from MySpace. You got Soulja Boy from YouTube. Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube. Sean Kingston. All of these guys are really huge artists and they built their fanbase first on YouTube, and then branched out. I don’t know. Does it have a stigma? Maybe. It kind of doesn’t matter anymore. It’s the same stigma when you say you met a girl online, eventhough I think like 1 out of 4 relationships are begun online. The world is just changing man. The purist fundamentalist way of looking at things doesn’t work anymore. [Do] they want people to go out and have CD’s out in the streets? You have to utilize the digital world and technology to your advantage because that’s the way the game is moving.
KHH: What are you currently working on?
Ea: I’m working on a secret project. I can’t give out any details. I’m working on a couple of projects right now. One of them is a secret project I can’t reveal yet. If you want updates, definitely go to my facebook. I’m also working on a song with Juicy J. Hopefully that comes out real soon. It’s going to be a big big big record. I’m working on other individual projects, and my EP. I’m trying to really come out with something special. I know my fans have been longing for a Prince Ea CD. So I’m working on that. It’s going to be a lot different than what a lot of people are used to. I’m sharpening my swords.
KHH: How did you link up with Juicy J?
Ea: Juicy J man. Basically he handpicked me. I submitted a song. He had something on his website. I submitted a song. He really really really liked it. I think a whole bunch of artists submitted. His people reached out to me, and that was it.
KHH: Now I’m really looking forward to that collabo. It’s going to be interesting.
Ea: It’s crazy right [laughs]? How is Prince Ea going to link up with Juicy J?
KHH: I also heard you’re working on a movie. What’s that about?
Ea: That’s the secret project.
KHH: Oh that’s the secret project?
Ea: Yeah. I’ll have to show you. I’ll try to send it to you once I get [the] edit back. But yeah man it’s a secret. It’s going to be big. Trust that.
KHH: If you could be President of the United States, what would be the 1st thing you would change?
Ea:The first thing I would change is I would remove the ass ends out of loafs of bread [laughs]. I don’t think they need to be there. No I’m just kidding [laughs].
The first thing? That’s a tough question. The 1st thing I would change is…I’d say get out of bed with the pharmaceutical companies. More people die from the drugs in the cap than freakin’ heroin, terrorism, traffic accidents, and murder combined. They’re in bed with the government right now, and it’s really bad. I think we’re killing people. I think that’s one of the first things that I would definitely do. Just get out of bed with the pharmaceutical companies and start actually working towards actually helping people. That’s what Obama was saying. He said he was against lobbying, corporate greed, and all of that. But it seems like it’s kind of business as usual. We lock people up for drug offenses too. Like Marijuana is the stupidest shit ever. These prisons, and law enforcement agencies are making so much money off these silly crimes that, if you do the research, are funded by pharmaceutical companies. I would do that man. They say there hasn’t been a disease cured in 60 years because a patient cured is a customer lost. They start looking at what’s the [price] of a human life, and that’s terrible man. So I would definitely do that.