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Interview With Phre$h Prince

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Press image for the Manitoban hip-hop artist Phre$h Prince.

Jayvaun Gabriel, or Phre$h Prince as he has come to be known on stage, is a Winnipeg rapper whose career first began in middle school with the motivation of a teacher. “My English teacher was proud of [the poems] I was working on and was trying to push me to do more,” he told me over a large coffee had on a small table. At the time poetry wasn’t the sort of thing Jayvaun would spend his time doing outside of school. After handing in an assignment his teacher was particularly fond of, Jayvaun was encouraged to read the piece in front of his class. It was this experience that inspired what would eventually become his music career.

It was around a year and a half later, with the help of some friends made along the way, that the Phre$h Prince would come to record music for the first time. To him, this was a clear exhibition of what could be made in the creative process. The potential of his effort now had new horizons. For the first time, he was able to create something greater than the poetry he had been filling scribblers and notepads with.

After having recorded that first song, the friend who mixed the track titled it Fre$h Prince for no reason other than he had to name it something. The friend then asked a simple question; What are we calling this? “I didn’t have an answer” Jayvaun laughed, thinking back, “so he asked, what’s your name? I didn’t have an answer for that, either. So he says, well, it’s called Fre$h Prince, we might as well roll with it. And I thought, okay, let’s just roll with it.”

It was a friend from that same social circle that brought the Phre$h Prince to perform on stage for the first time. It was a week after working on some other recordings that his friend approached him with a proposition; Would you be down to try performing? At first, Jayvaun was skeptical. “Ehh, I don’t know,” he recalled saying. Well, his friend went on to explain, I got you a performance, so you can’t really say no. “That was kind of that. I spent that week stressing over it.”

Despite the stress and involuntary nature of the scheduling, Jayvaun followed through and stepped on stage for the first time at the end of that week. Looking back, he humbly describes the performance as having gone “pretty smooth, for a first show.”

When sitting down to write, Jayvaun prefers to be on his own in a relaxed environment which sometimes calls for a dimly lit room with candles or incense. “At that point, it’s just kind of gathering my thoughts and thinking about the month or the week that’s gone by.”

One important aspect of his writing is capturing truth and authenticity. This can sometimes lead to unearthing thoughts or emotions he doesn’t want to deal with. “There are times where you don’t want to write about things or think about things, but you can’t avoid it.” He went on to describe the times when he has the perfect beat, the perfect sound, but doesn’t like the subject the song is revolving around. “If I go to a different beat, the subject will remain the same.” Moments like this have allowed Jayvaun to realize the power of using music to get through problematic thoughts and issues. He has also learned the importance of sitting down and working through these thoughts in any facet.

Though he doesn’t listen to his own music all that often, Jayvaun finds that when he does it has a therapeutic nature. The feeling of oh, I’ve been through this before that comes with being able to hear himself rap about his issues can help him make sense of things going on in his life. As if speaking to himself through his own music as a friend would. “[When] I sit down and play it, it just feels like oof. I can feel it in my feels, you know?”

Jayvaun allows himself to flow along with the rhythm of life’s rivers. What comes his way is what he works with. Though he had little say in the matter of his first performance, he steps out on stage today with the confidence to perform as the Phre$h Prince. “I used to think I was afraid before going on stage,” he once told me, “then I realized it’s not fear, that’s adrenaline.”

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