Be Consistent — Consistency is the key to life. There’s consistently been a lot of things in my life that have taken my focus off of music and as a result it’s hurt my growth. You have to constantly create, not just for fans but to be the best that you can be. Being elite means doing it every day.
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Prez Harris.
Hailing from just west of Chicago, artist Prez Harris attended Northwestern University where he studied Computer Engineering and Music Technology. His freshmen year, he created a student group called DOJO, a music community that reintroduced production and songwriting to Harris, inspiring him to begin MCing again. His recent album “State of the Union” demonstrated flashes of musical versatility and soon after, Harris began doing shows non-stop throughout Illinois and Wisconsin. He has opened up for major acts like, B.o.B., Jay Electronica, Little Simz, and CJ Fly. His electric and collaborative performances have won the hearts of many, as he gears up to release new music throughout the rest of 2021.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up just outside of Chicago in a town called Maywood. It was four of us: me, my older sister and my parents, so we were really close (and still are). My dad is a pastor and my mom always worked for local hospitals or health centers, so from an early age it was impressed upon us the importance of community and giving back.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Music was always a part of my life. I dabbled with a few different instruments when I was really young and did some singing in church. Then in 5th grade I used to always write these “poems” to a girl I liked in my class and that turned into me writing a rap for my school’s DARE program competition. I won the competition and had to perform my rap in front of an auditorium of people. I wish I could say it was that moment that I knew I would become an artist, but there were A LOT more career aspirations and experiences I had to have between then and now. Ultimately, I think it came down to a prayer where I asked God to lead me in the path He wanted me to go. I’m blessed that He’s brought me this far and we’re still going.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There’s been some amazing moments and stories that I’ve had in my career so far. Probably one of the craziest is that I rapped for Big Sean. I swear the whole thing felt like a movie or a dream or something. He was performing at my college and I remember the night before I listened to his song ‘Nothing is Stopping You’ and I was like “That could be me” lol. So after the show, me, one of my homies, and our girlfriends at the time, snuck in the back of the gym and he walked out of his dressing room at that exact moment. It turned out my girlfriend knew his DJ, unbeknownst to me, and he called us over to meet him. I was so nervous I couldn’t even ask if I could rap haha. My friend ended up asking if I could though, and he said yeah. I can’t even tell you what words came out, but I’ll never forget the two words he said when I finished: “That’s hard”. I ended up getting his email and I probably sent him an email or two, but never heard from him. I don’t even know if he was telling the truth or not, but there were times when I lacked confidence and his words helped.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It’s definitely been a journey when it comes to recording! The first song I ever recorded in high school was on a mini webcam mic. My friend and I played the instrumental, he recorded his verse, and without pausing, passed the mic to me to record my verse. Needless to say, the audio quality was rough. I was so excited though. We posted it and got a few likes and a few comments, but one of them was something like “this is garbage”. It was a starting place for me though. It gave me things to work on and set the bar very low. It also taught me I had to have tough skin to do this, because there might be something that I love and think is the greatest work of art ever that people think is trash (even though he was right in this case).
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m super excited about my EP called Hourglass that I am putting out this fall. It’s my first project in a while, but it feels like it’s coming at the perfect time. It’s important to run your own race and enjoy your own journey. That’s what it’s all about.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I believe media and entertainment is one of the most powerful things we have. Nowadays, it comes in more shapes and sizes than ever, but regardless of where you get it, it has an impact on our thinking and actions. So with it having so much influence, I think it’s crucial you have diversity when you’re aiming to give an accurate depiction of people’s cultures. It’s important to tell our stories, especially when the news mostly highlights the negatives in minority communities. I also feel that you can’t be what you can’t see. It’s important Black children see Black actors and the roles they play. Chadwick Boseman inspired an entire generation to be actors/actresses, baseball players, lawyers, entertainers, superheroes. That’s impactful. Lastly, in order to bring people together, it’s important to understand people. It’s important to understand there’s differences, but at the end of the day, we’re all human. Diversity in film and television can help us move closer to that.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Invest in Yourself — There’s no greater return you can get than investing in yourself. It’s a risk, but so is dogecoin, at least one of them you have some control over.
- Marketing is Everything — I’ve had some great things happen and some great songs I released, but a lot of people that may be interested in them did not know. Market, Market, Market. This year is the first year, I’ve really focused on that.
- Be Consistent — Consistency is the key to life. There’s consistently been a lot of things in my life that have taken my focus off of music and as a result it’s hurt my growth. You have to constantly create, not just for fans but to be the best that you can be. Being elite means doing it every day.
- Be Yourself (Even if you Fail) — It took me a long time to do this and I still struggle with it. I would write a tweet or social media captions then erase them and do something completely different because I was afraid of what people would think. I started to be myself and sometimes it flops haha but overall all of my social media platforms have grown exponentially.
- Leverage (Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help) — I have a bad habit of trying to do everything myself, but it’s just not healthy or efficient. I have super talented people around me that want to help and I have to force myself to relinquish control and allow people to assist me.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Like I said, ask for help! It’s crucial to have a good team that can support you professionally and personally. Outside of that, have a strict calendar. When you’re on, you’re on. When you’re off, disconnect. Schedule time off and don’t move it for anyone.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
One of the things I have been thinking about lately is how we can have more formal education on topics/lessons that most of us learn from trial and error. We need more education on finances, mental health, physical health, relationships (friendships and romantic relationships), religion, cultures. There’s too many things that the majority of us are ignorant about. I think we can fix it and transform the way we interact with each other, as well as alleviate some of the financial stress that so many across the country/world live with.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My parents mean everything to me. They’ve supported me and encouraged me in everything that I’ve done and demonstrated core values of Faith, Education, Hard Work, and Integrity. They’ve made me who I am today.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Lately one of my favorites is, “You always get back more than you give.” It’s a reminder for me to shift the focus from me to giving to others. It may not come back in the form you expect, but you always get back more in return.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
This question is tough. I’ve always said, for pure entertainment, two people I would love to sit down with one day and listen to them tell stories are Jamie Foxx and Magic Johnson. I love watching their interviews on Youtube. There’s so many good people though. If I had to choose one, it would probably be Jay-Z, with Drake being a close second. I’m a huge Drake fan and would love to learn from his journey, but from music to music business to business in general, I think I would get a lot out of a conversation with Jay-Z. (I’d choose the millions over that conversation though, if anyone on twitter was wondering haha)
How can our readers follow you online?
Follow me on Instagram! I’m @presidentharris on all social media, but I’m most active there. They can also stay up to date with all of my releases by signing up at my Norby link: https://presidentharris.norby.live/ I appreciate you all reading this!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!