Ever since the epochal film Paris is Burning brought the Ballroom scene into mainstream consciousness almost 30 years ago, the movement has gotten bigger and brighter.
Enter recording artist Prince Airick, whose single “GO AWF!” featuring the iconic Kevin JZ Prodigy put him on the map. The catchy single came with the #GOAWFCHALLENGE, where countless people around the world submitted their best vogueing moves.
Part commentator, part performer, part Ballroom ambassador, Prince Airick is setting out to present his music and the celebration of queer culture loud and proud.
It says in your bio that you hail from Norfolk Virginia. What’s it like over there and is that where you discovered the ballroom scene?
Norfolk is a city in southern Virginia, and in relation to New York where I currently live, it’s pretty small. It’s a military town, and the tallest building downtown is a Bank of America.
That is in fact where I discovered the ballroom scene. I decided to live in my truth around the 11th grade. This made the other “out” guys in school comfortable enough to approach me about hanging out. There was all this talk of (ballroom) “houses” with lingo I had never heard before. Then one day after school these boys (Deanthony Balenciaga & Lil Jon Khan) took me to their “father’s” house. They cut on this music (Ballroom/House music) and proceeded to walk runway and vogue. I GAGGED, I had never heard that type of music nor witnessed guys so comfortable with their femininity. This is how I was introduced to ballroom.
What kind of music were you fed on and is that what you continued to pursue as you got older?
Growing up, my mom was the Neo-Soul Queen of my house.
When I was younger she would listen to a lot of Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and Maxwell.
Although I have yet to dabble into that specific sound, I do takeaway the lessons of self awareness and reflective consciousness that those artists put into their art and apply them to my own creative processes.
Tell me how you started rapping and then eventually got to writing “GO AWF”? Did you find the ball scene to be competitive when it comes to doing this style of music or is it open territory?
I started rapping when I was around 17 for sport. My cousin is a producer and one day while visiting, he played me one of his most recent beats and dared me to spit some bars to it. So, I took the challenge and before I knew it, I was going bar for bar into a microphone we had hung over a rack in the closet. However, with me being so young at the time, I didn’t know if music was a profession I wanted to pursue seriously. Especially since I barely knew myself at that time.
Fast forward a few years to me at 21, looking for different ways to express myself while also learning what it is to be young, black, and gay. It was at that point in my life where I just really wanted to metaphorically GO AWF on anyone that stood in the way of my growth.
And yes, while I knew the scene is built upon friendly competition, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the same rules applied to musicians. A lot of people were taken aback with my interest in the House sounds and the way I approach my music, so it gagged them a bit when I actually started attracting listeners. Luckily, I’ve learned to look at the negativity as a “hater-milestone” versus a setback.
I see that you’ve had some celebrities grace your work such as Kevin JZ Prodigy, Shauna Brooks and Precious Ebony. Tell us how you came upon these collaborations!
It goes unsaid that Kevin and Precious are iconic figures within the Ballroom scene, so to team up with them after being introduced to their respective music by a member of my team was no question. I started each song out with an original concept before pitching the ideas to them to see if we had musical chemistry and the rest is history. With Shauna Brooks, who’s an icon in her own right, I kept hearing people on my social accounts saying “Do Wut” which inspired me to include a sample of this into “Act UP.” I honestly didn’t even think I’d get the opportunity to have her personally come into the studio and still cant believe she’s now a good friend of mine.
The #GOAWFCHALLENGE was a brilliant idea. When did you come up with it and how did you get it to spread around the world? Did you get some newbies to join in? Also, I take it you vogue too?
(HAHAHA) I dabble with dance, but I’m still learning the intricacies of vogue for my live performances. And while it may be one of the most challenging contemporary ways of dance, I’m extremely excited about learning more!
The idea to implement the #GOAWFCHALLENGE before the video release was actually the brainchild of my manager, Ali. With me being a new artist, I was actually petrified of the idea and initially thought no one would do it. But shortly after the original video of Buffy Khan was posted online the challenge went viral and before I knew it, I had pretty boiz and girls from all over the world sending me videos by the dozen. The international vogue community has all been yearning for a reason to come together, and this challenge was the perfect opportunity to do so. Oh and yes! I noticed everyone who did the challenge connecting with each other as I posted each of them. There were a lot of new faces.
How has Ballroom music evolved over the years, if it has at all? God knows it’s definitely spread its wings where it seems like it’s almost mainstream. I also see so many women participating now, although I’m not sure I’ve heard a female commentator yet.
Ballroom music has evolved with different mixes of the same five or six samples over the past 40 or so years. I feel like the amount of interest in the music has never been higher, and the literal sound, in all its intensity, is peaking its head into mainstream.
I want to burst through and spearhead the movement as an MC. DJs and producers are now fusing Ballroom with Hip-Hop and Funk, and it’s truly amazing to hear. As far as commentators, I’m sure they are out there but Koppi Mizrahi is the only girl I’ve heard attempt to commentate live. I love her sound. It’s bouncy and cute, just like her.
And I forgot to ask…how did you get your name? 🙂
A friend called me on the phone one day (I’ll never forget this) and he was like, “What’s up? What’s goodie honey? What’s good with the Prince?” out of nowhere. I had one of those Oprah “aha” moments and stuck with it. From then on everyone begin referring to me as Prince or Prince Airick….And yes my birth name is spelled A-I-R-I-C-K 😉