Both Chris Jones, 36, and Charles Hinshaw Jr., known professionally as Prince Charlez, found success in the music industry as teenagers. For Jones, this meant working behind the scenes to manage Young Juve as he produced songs for artists such as Dem Franchize Boyz and FloRida. It was during Jones’ time as an A&R at Warner Music Group, around 2014, that he first heard Hinshaw’s work and tracked him down through a mutual friend.
The Compton-bred artist had made a name for himself working with songwriter RedOne since he was 16, and Hinshaw has since written songs for Usher, Beyonce, Kehlani and others. He co-wrote Rihanna’s ANTI hit “Needed Me,” her longest-charting (45 weeks) single to date.
Still, he says his partnership with Jones has been his most fulfilling collaboration to date, saying: “I just felt more comfortable with him than anyone I had worked with before.” Now, the pair hopes to advance Hinshaw’s career as a solo artist while also giving a platform to a new generation of rising talent.
While working to elevate Hinshaw’s career, the duo founded the Atlanta-based label Island Prolific under the Atlantic Records umbrella in 2016. Jones says the two wanted to create a legacy that would outlast its two founders, while Hinshaw says he was inspired to help other artists because of his own experiences. “I know how it is to be discouraged,” he says. “I know how much work it takes to get to where you want to be because we’re still pushing and I’m still not [there].”
Island Prolific currently has four artists, including three R&B singers, Vedo, Raiche and Ayanis — all of whom are primed to break out in 2021. The titular track from Raiche’s 2019 EP Drive (GDE/Island Prolific/Atlantic) landed the emerging artist a music placement in Netflix’s Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker, while Ayanis’ latest EP Yani (Island Prolific/Atlantic) features appearances from Mulatto, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Jack Harlow and more. Jones says one of the label’s key strategies is placing heavy emphasis on artist development both in and out of the studio. Before heading on her first tour in 2018, for example, Ayanis went through two weeks of boot camp, including eight-hour days of vocal lessons, dance practice and exercise. The label founders are now encouraging that same work ethic from Florida rapper Tyte, Island Prolific’s latest signee.
The label scored its first charting single in 2020 with Vedo’s “You Got It,” the lead single off his For You album that Jones describes as a “straight down the middle R&B record.” It peaked at no. 6 on the Hot R&B Songs chart (dated Sept. 26) and at no. 87 on the Billboard Hot 100. To date, it has garnered more than 100 million streams on Spotify and more than 50 million on Apple Music.
Ultimately, Jones and Hinshaw see their current lineup of R&B and rap acts as just the beginning of the impact they hope to have on the industry. “It doesn’t stop there. I see us in the future expanding into different genres as well,” says Hinshaw. But for now, Island Prolific is doubling down on the R&B acts it has, and expects to release new music from all four of its artists this year with the goal of landing more breakout hits. Of R&B singers Raiche and Ayanis, Jones says “they’re basically one song away in their career now — [and they did it] in less than two years.”