Rihanna's "Needed Me" Songwriter & Mary J. Blige, Giorgio Moroder Collaborator Prince Charlez Reveals 'Back Around' Video & Talks 'Old School Meets New School' Style: Exclusive
Meet Prince Charlez. After being handpicked by hitmaker Red One to pen songs for Usher back in 2010, the wunderkind Los Angeles based singer/songwriter has since racked up a career's worth of credits on hits by Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, T.I., Kehlani, Mary J. Blige, and Rihanna, including the latter's striking ANTI cut "Needed Me," the longest running hit of her career.
But before he earned his mainstream breakthrough, Charlez was just an "introverted pre-teen" growing up in Compton, California in the ‘90s. There, he witnessed music’s response to the outside world of drugs and police brutality, and instead turned inward, to hone his artistry and songwriting talent at home, harmonizing with his heroes on his favorite records.
Despite the early pull to music, Charlez was always a triple threat: he studied dance at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, and began a modeling career in Milan before catching his first break as a songwriter. But in December of 2016, he pivoted fully, as the multi-talented musician inked a deal with Republic Records to focus on his talents as a singer and performer as well as a songwriter. He teamed up with Drumma Boy to release his debut mixtape, Black And Gold, and also featured on tracks by icons like Giorgio Moroder ("Champagne, Secrets, and Chanel") and on Mary J. Blige's 2017 Strength Of A Woman cut "Smile."
Today, after releasing a string of new singles this year -- including "Make It Work" "Can I" and "Bitty" -- Prince Charlez returns with the release of the official video for his gem "Back Around," premiering exclusively via Billboard.
The song tells the story of "feeling the need for a divine intervention," and is off Charlez’s forthcoming EP Evolution (out Nov. 3 via Republic Records), which was executive produced by XO Record’s Danny Boy Styles.
Below, Billboard caught up with the fast rising star about his recent Spotify 'Secret Genius' nomination, his current fashion musts (see: beret military hat), his longtime style icons, and more.
Describe your style in three words.
Progressive. Vintage. Authentic.
How does your style reflect your music?
It reflects my music because there is no boundaries where I take my music and it’s expression. My style is when old school, meets new school. The newness. Having that authentic and progressive and vintage appeal. You never know where my style is gonna go..it’s very unpredictable.
Favorite piece to wear on stage while performing and why?
Designer jackets. Signature pieces because it gives the viewer something to look at. I like anything that pops out, is different and or appealing to the eye.
What's your off-duty look like and how is that different from your on-stage look?
My off-duty look is just me chillin’ in sweats or a lot of denim. I like to have that balance of off-stage and on-stage look because I feel there’s a ‘time to be on.’ My personality on stage is different and completely opposite of how I carry myself off-stage. When I’m not on stage I’m chillin, fashionable and forward but dumbed-down a little bit. More of a relaxed vibe.
Favorite and least favorite trend currently and why?
Favorite trend would have to be the bomber jackets. I love the bomber jackets. I also enjoy how Men’s style is changing and more receptive. There’s more zippers, buttons, accents etc on men’s clothing now. Least favorite would have to be the ear gauges. I think to myself, how does one do that? I wouldn’t even know where to start.
What's one thing you never feel complete without wearing?
Beret Military hat. I feel that I’m in this military stage due to where everything is in the world, I have this militant vibe and spirit within me. I’ve been rocking it the past 6 months, different colors and styles. I love the aesthetic of it and the strong appeal. Next would be any good quality shoe but specifically my Balenciaga Speed Trainer shoes, their so comfortable and stylish. The first thing people do is look down at your feet so you've got to make sure their fly.
Who are your biggest style icons you looked up to growing up/as you evolve as an artist?
Michael Jackson. Kurt Cobain. Beyonce. Rihanna.
You've written tracks for lots of superstars, of that batch, who wins the style game and why?
Mary J. Blige. She’s so real and authentic and she’s not trying to do the most. Her fashion is an expression of herself. She’s very cool and gives people something to look at. She’s also very progressive and tries to incorporate where she comes from and new things as well.
What's your favorite accessory?
All gold chains. Not too big, just that nice Miami Cuban Link Chain that lays nicely.
Most beloved vintage/thrift find?
This Calvin Klein denim jacket from the ’90’s I found when I was in Italy. I wore that thing for 2 years and unfortunately I can’t find it now because it disappeared.
Who are some of your favorite designers to wear?
D squared. Balenciaga. Valentino. St Laurent. Gucci.
Favorite fashion find(s) while traveling/on the road?
I’m a really big denim fan. I also like those big field-looking hats. I found this Sombrero-looking sun hat in Miami and it’s perfect since I run a lot. Being in LA it’s so hot and covering your face while running is a must.
How has your style evolved since you were younger, and as you’ve gotten more notoriety as a songwriter and artist?
It's more refined. I used to wear whatever and big sweats. I wasn’t comfortable with myself and my body. I wore a lot of baggy clothes and didn’t have money to spend on nice outfits. That’s changed cause I’ve slimmed down and I have a more refined look now. The slim cuts, very sleek looks. I don’t like clothes too big, I like to be comfortable (doesn’t have to be name-brand) but something that’s nice and shows my hard work as well as my body structure.
What was your first 'treat yourself' purchase after you got your first big songwriting check? After you inked your deal w/ Republic?
After that first big check, I rewarded myself with a car. Jeep Challenger to be exact. After inking the deal with Republic, I was still recording like crazy so I invited all my friends to the studio and ordered a case of Veuve Cliquot Champagne and we just popped bottles and ate good. It was like a working festival celebration.
You received a nomation for Spotify's Secret Genius accolade. What in your closet would fit the bill as the most 'secret genius' appropriate outfit?
A Gucci suit or something from D Squared. Something classy, sleek, not doing too much but definitely making a statement. I’d also rock my signature Beret hat, depending on the outfit choice of course.