First off, I’m Paper, yeah. It’s our time. One love. It’s Paperboy Prince, Paperboy Love Prince.
It’s hard to describe what exactly it is that I do because the more that I talk about one thing, it’s like leaving out a bunch of other pieces that help better contextualize everything. I’m an artist, an activist, an athlete, a dancer, a motivational speaker, a creator, and a community leader. I also ran for mayor of New York City, and for Congress as well.
The mainstream want us to be asleep and to not think. Just do, and not really analyze.
It sounds weird when I talk about myself, so what ends up happening when someone asks me to is I’m like, “How can I say it in a unique way that breaks it down?” But then it’s like, Oh, man. I sound like I’m full of myself. So that’s my preface before saying that I consider myself a thought leader—someone who’s an influencer of thought on the topics that’ll change society. Everything from schools, to climate change, to racial justice, to queer issues, to housing, to marijuana justice, to ageism, to religion, to business. My job is to be a conversationalist, to speak about these things, and to challenge people to think in a new way.
The mainstream want us to be asleep and to not think. Just do, and not really analyze. They don’t want us to ask questions or speak out. They want us to wait until we get a certain degree, wait until we’re a certain age, wait until we have a certain status.
I was always very political. I was into reading the newspaper because I was a paperboy. Sometimes that would involve politics. Sometimes you go straight to sports and style, or whatever’s flashy, but then sometimes it’s like, Oh, okay. This story seems interesting. There was a lot in there. I knew that the world was messed up in a very real way.
I grew up with a revolutionary education at home. I feel like it starts there. My parents were very open. They were much younger then, so they showed me a lot. They told me about how New York used to be, and how the country used to be. It inspired me to just look at things through that lens.
In middle school, I was able to get some internships on Capitol Hill. I was there really alone, honestly, because everyone down there is ambitious. So the intern coordinator, or whoever’s supposed to be looking after me, they wanted to do something better than that. I had a bunch of time to just wander around, which was probably the most formative thing for me. I spent a lot of time being a sponge, soaking it all in, understanding the culture of federal politics at a young age.
It’s like being able to be around NBA players in elementary school, and realizing these guys wake up at 8:00 AM and they’re in the gym for six hours a day. So I know that if I want to be in the NBA, I have to do that. Same thing for the political stuff. It’s like, Okay, these people work with everyone. There were Democrats working with Republicans, who were working with diplomats from overseas—everybody’s working together and they’re all thinking in a certain type of way. But their constituents are left out of the entire conversation.
I spent a lot of time being a sponge, soaking it all in, understanding the culture of federal politics at a young age.
I also worked at the Supreme Court, which was the same deal, interning with a bunch of folks who were law students, stuff like that. They wanted to do cooler things. It was the summer, and sometimes it would be slow, so I had more time to go around, explore, be places that I shouldn’t. I’d be like, “Oh, can I help with this for a week?” Just doing whatever I could. But my favorite part was playing basketball on the top of the Supreme Court. It wasn’t really kept up that well, but it was cool to play on the Supreme Court’s secret court.
As a kid, you really take that stuff for granted. Now I would’ve been able to really use that in a Paperboy way. I’d have gone there and did something. They would’ve kicked me out and I would’ve never been invited back. But I was really quiet then. I was taking it all in, speaking when I was spoken to, just doing my time.
My mom used to say, “Whatever you do, this will be a good experience.” The funny thing is, they never thought that I would take the experience this literally. “Oh, you’re running for mayor?” Should’ve never signed me up.
My parents are creative, but they’re not what you would consider creatives. They’re more like business people, lawyer-type folks. Growing up, I definitely wanted to be an athlete, but realistically I knew that I had to do something business-y. That’s how I could describe it as a kid. I didn’t know what type of things really made money, my thought was just that all of this is good for business jobs. That was my mindset. I wasn’t trying to be an artist. In fact, I wasn’t interested in art at all.
I think my parents are lukewarm on my political career. They’re not super into it, but they’re not not supportive. I’m luckily a person who’s never been a prisoner to what my parents thought. I’m more like, “You guys think this is a bad idea? Perfect, that means it’s a great idea.” I want them to be into it, but part of me works harder, stays up longer, and is more inspired by the fact that they aren’t. Even though I have nothing to prove at all, it’s added motivation.
The thing is, they’re also super supportive people. I have amazing parents. I completely lucked out and it’s a big part of why I do what I do.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time in our church choir. I went to some big churches and that allowed me to start getting in front of people and performing. In high school, I was in our praise band. But I started my rap career by making parody songs, and making fun of music because I thought everyone took themselves way too seriously.
I just loved making a bunch of stuff and having an ocean’s-worth of content that’s hard to categorize and that feels very raw. That felt very internet to me, or what the internet was about. I’ve done a bunch of brand deals, too, where I’ll make jingles and stuff like that. Eventually from making the parody stuff, I started getting more serious with it, and that ties into how I now use my music with politics. It’s very much theme music—and themed music. Songs that are about my policies and specific things we’re doing.
Some songs are very straight on, and some allude to politics, and some blur the lines between the political and parody. I have the song “Spreading Love.”
I’m spreading love/ Instead of community I’m on a block/ I’m spreading unity/ I’m being positive/ What they going to do to me waving that stick/ This isn’t new to me/ I’m in a trap/ I’m spreading love/ I’m in your hood/ I’m giving out hugs/ I want your girl/ She want some love/ They need some more/ This ain’t enough/ I’m Paper, yeah.
I have a song about housing for all and talking about why that’s important called “Everybody Needs A House.”
Everybody need a house, house, house, house, house, house, house/ Everybody need a house, house, house, house, house, house, house/ Paperboy in the house, house, house, house, house, house, house.
And then I have songs which I also use for our campaigns that have either poked fun at other politicians or have highlighted issues. One that was popular during my mayoral campaign went like, Eric Adams get out of my room/ What you doing in my room, Eric Adams/ Get out of my room/ What you doing in my room.
I had before:
I got the governor mad/ He said I’m too wild/ He said I’m too rad/ I talk for the people you talk for the man/ I got the list we made a demand/ I’m spreading love but he hating again/ We spreading love again/ We spreading love again/ I got the governor mad/ Governor Cuomo heard my speech/ He know that we want to help all the peeps/ He just want Brooklyn for the elites/ We got the video we got the receipt/ So many promises that you ain’t keep/ Reach out everyone spreading more peace/ They bossy I ain’t talking Kelis/ I was at the meeting they weren’t talking to me.
With a little bit of help, I can do a lot. I’m really Mr. And Mrs. Make Something Out Of Nothing.
These are just some examples. It’s so hard to actually do this work with music, present it the way that I want to, and that I feel like really will connect with people. That’s a big part of what I like to do with music, and how I like to get out there.
Because of my background doing parody music—making songs about random things—I can make a song about housing for all make sense, and feel comfortable in that, whereas somebody who might be even better than me at music, or better than me at politics, isn’t going to be comfortable using that medium to talk about these issues.
With a little bit of help, I can do a lot. I’m really Mr. And Mrs. Make Something Out Of Nothing. By myself I’m going far, so with a little help I can do a whole lot. And with a little bit of money, I can go very, very far. I’ve been battle tested. Everything has been a natural progression. I’m really ready to take it to the next level, and way past it.
Politically, I’m definitely going to be running again. We want to help the state of New York become the best state that there is. It’s looking like for 2022, Paperboy Prince for governor. I mean, it’s only right. I’m excited about that but I’m really excited about Congress. I’m going to be running for Congress, too. It will be interesting. It’s a redistricting year, so they are going to be redrawing all of the districts. This is a process that has disenfranchised a lot of folks and helps to keep our established politicians in power. I’m going to be running for Congress in a very unique way to call attention to all of that.
We did smokeouts at City Hall during the campaign and gave out free weed. We did multiple rallies like that. We did one at Union Square, which is just a great link-up spot but also has a lot of political significance. Union Square is where unions would come to protest injustices back before it even had its name.
We did one at the Board of Elections, who have made a lot of mistakes and still haven’t released a lot of voter data. I’ve been vocal about that. It was a cool way to merge my issues—elections protections and marijuana activism—into one by doing a smoke out there. Most voters don’t even know where it is (it’s right next to the bull on Wall Street). We smoked out there, saying, “They must be high.” It was an awesome event and really one of a kind.
I’ve never seen a politician do this kind of stuff. It opened up a lane for me. I see myself really growing to be the first marijuana activist politician that I know of. It’s not my main issue, but it’s a core issue.
During the mayoral race, it wasn’t something the other candidates were going to talk about in a real way. They were going to talk about it in a fake way to get them retweets. They were willing to accept whatever. They were not going to fight for it like their family member was unjustly incarcerated. They weren’t going to fight for it like it was their community that had been ravaged by the over policing of this plant.
If people are getting arrested so much for something it means it’s not a problem with the people, it’s a problem with the system.
It doesn’t make sense. If people are getting arrested so much for something it means it’s not a problem with the people, it’s a problem with the system. These politicians have been empowered this long and they’ve never said anything about it. And if they have, it hasn’t cut through because I haven’t heard about it. It hasn’t cut through how it should. I’m running for mayor and I’m listening closely and I don’t hear it. The smoke outs were a way for me to put this issue in the forefront, and to help catapult my voice as a leader on this issue, It’s allowed me to meet a lot of dope marijuana activists and to open doors for others, and it’s allowed dope folks to come together and have a lot of fun.
I have a bunch of TV and some film stuff coming. We’re going to be homing in on the entertainment stuff. It’s going to be a lot bigger than before. I’ve got people who are excited to work with me on it and see the vision. It’s like a new lane is opening up. I’m gonna have songs as big as Lady Gaga while I’m also running for governor. This is a part of my new artist trajectory. It’s going to hit different.
My gallery basically started as my campaign office and was serving as a resource center for protestors. I was very embedded in all of that. My idea was there had to be a new way of doing business where you give back to the community beyond the products that you offer, and also create spaces for people like me, who are different, who are creatives, who have different interests, who are figuring out where they want to go.
It’s been amazing. We’ve given out over 2.5 million dollars worth of food. We’ve given out thousands and thousands of cases of PPE to folks. We’ve given out clothes. We’ve been doing STD testing. It’s all pretty much funded by me, but we have some folks who have helped donate here and there. It’s also funded by the people who support our space. By supporting me and supporting the Love Gallery, you’re supporting the work that we’re doing. It’s been really fun and rewarding. We had our soft opening in January but it’s technically not even open yet because I was running for mayor this whole time.
It’s already inspired at least 10 people across the country who have told me that they want to do something similar. I’ve even seen people here locally who have started to transition their current business into something like the gallery, or something similar with that same type of mission. At first it was like, Oh, man. People are copying what I’m doing, but then it’s like, Oh, wow. Folks are inspired. They want to help. That’s the whole point of this.
It’s a love gallery. Art galleries display art, a love gallery displays love. It’s just me being my truest self. A lot of rappers, if you listen to their songs, one of the main things they talk about is weed, right? And so that’s the central concept of it. Weed, getting high, the lifestyle around that. We’re going to be doing a bunch of 4/20-inspired events, and fundraisers, and meetups and things like that.
For me, it’s spreading love, getting love, and making the lifestyle around that cool. I’m passionate about that. I also got a lot of love. I grew up in an environment where I had a great childhood and was given a lot of love. Everything wasn’t perfect but it was good enough to let me focus on the positive.
I’ve also lived a life where I focused on the negative, and I’ve lived a life where love wasn’t my main focus. I’m much happier now that it is. It’s just naturally in me. I’m a preacher. To really want to help somebody, you have to love them. To really want to help other people, you have to love yourself. A lot of people want to help people but they can’t help themselves. How you going to help me, you can’t even help you? How you going to love me, you can’t even love you? Once I completed the task of learning how to love myself, then it was like, Okay, now I can really go out and love others. When I completed that task of helping myself out of a bind, then I could help others to help themselves.
It’s me being selfish. I feel like one of the reasons I stand out is because I’m doing it in a way that is selfish. I’m doing it so that it can help me get bigger and get better. I want that. That’s important because it’s real. For so long people have been fake about it. Helping people and doing it in a selfless way, I personally don’t think that’s real. I feel like when you’re helping people, it’s selfish. It’s better to give than to receive. It really is. It’s good, being selfish is good.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Paperboy Prince photographed by Ryan Duffin in Brooklyn. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.