October 24, 2018 Interview – DJ Prince Hakim
Growing up around a multi-million record selling, award winning band like Kool & the Gang, you are going to learn a thing or two about music and the business of it all. This is especially the case when your dad is Robert “Kool” Bell and uncle is Ronald Bell – Kool & the Gang founders/songwriters. That is why it should come as no surprise that Hakim Bell, who goes by the name of Prince Hakim, not only has music in his DNA, but a talent worth checking out. Working as a DJ, touring with Kool & the Gang, curating huge events, but also dabbling in production and talent mentoring, Prince Hakim has a thing or two to offer the music world.
Recently releasing his new single “R.O.Y.A.L.T.Y.,” a special song that hopes to inspire women and act as a musical salute to Breast Cancer Awareness, Prince Hakim is also on the verge of dropping a new EP. An exciting team for the talented and determined creator, he recently sat down to chat about his upbringing around music, what he has learned, plans for the future, plus more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been surrounded by music your entire life. Going on to producing, DJing, etc. First, tell us, did you know right away music was something you wanted to pursue?
Prince Hakim – Honestly, I think I came out of my mom with it born into my DNA. Obviously my dad is Robert “Kool” Bell of Kool & the Gang. Plus my mom is a great dancer, they met in Jersey City. You take those two energies, they create my brother and I, we are just full of music! It’s in my DNA for sure. I was put on this earth to deliver good music and make people feel good with DJing and performing.
CrypticRock.com – That is awesome to hear. You have done a lot of great things with DJing. You have DJed a lot of lot events, toured with Kool & the Gang, and so on. What has it been like being on tour and being able to host so many great events?
Prince Hakim – I am so blessed and thankful, it’s amazing! It’s like I am doing what I would do for free. They say, “Do what you would love to do for free, that’s how you know you really love it.” I would do it for free, so to get to be paid, to get people to want me, ask me to participant and curate the music for the evening, and think I am good enough to go on tour! Even though going on tour with Kool & the Gang is my family, with Van Halen and Kid Rock, but they are not going to put anyone up there who sucks – they recognized my talent. We went on tour with Van Halen for 50 nights, an arena tour. I was on the same stage with David Lee Roth, Eddie, Alex, and Wolfgang Van Halen. From there we went on the Kid Rock tour, then I was hanging out with Kid Rock! All I can say is thank you.
CrypticRock.com – It is well-deserved, and like you said, they would not have you there unless you had the talent. You recently returned to the studio and produced the new single “R.O.Y.A.L.T.Y.” which is in honor of breast cancer awareness. Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the song.
Prince Hakim – “R.O.Y.A.L.T.Y.” is a song that I had in my iPhone notes four years as an idea. I was executive-producer for my dad’s latest single “Sexy (Where’d You Get Yours),” it was their first top 10 hit in around ten years. I helped them out with that, connected the dots, found them a producer, and came up with this great modern sound meets the ’80s, which is their sound. From there I was re-inspired to work on my own DJ album.
I listened to a lot of ’70s and ’80s music, went back to my notes, and came up with “R.O.Y.A.L.T.Y.” to uplift women. To make them feel good and like royalty, that is how they should be treated, and that’s how they want to be treated. I said from there, I am going to take the proceeds from that and give 10% back to my mom’s Kool Kids Foundation. My mom has faced some serious health challenges over the past nine months. I have been basically her caregiver with cancer. That’s what inspired that movement to give back for cancer overall.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, let’s hope your mom recovers strongly! Sadly, so much of us are effected in one way or another by cancer. We have also all more than likely lost someone to this horrible disease.
Prince Hakim – I know, I don’t understand where this disease comes from. Something’s not right.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it is very rampant and scary. Again, all the best to your mom. Staying strong for her is the best you can do.
Prince Hakim – Yea, this is the co-creator of my life. She carried me for nine months. It’s tough, music is the only thing keeping me going.
CrypticRock.com – Music can serve as a great source of emotional release. It seems your parents had a major influence on you. Were they always supportive of your love for music and wanting to pursue it?
Prince Hakim – Yes, quietly. When you are searching, try to follow your passion and goals, but when the money is not coming in, it stresses your mom. So I would do temp work, and in the beginning it was not fun. All I am thinking in my head is music, but I am grateful for it. It taught me lessons, it taught me teamwork. I still do it here and there during slow periods. I have been so busy the last six months between my career taking off and my mom, I don’t have time for anything else. I like to be my own boss, and, I’m doing what I love!
CrypticRock.com – As long as you are doing what you love, everything else is secondary. That in mind, your EP Healing Love hits in November. What can you tell us about this release?
Prince Hakim – More Funk, Pop, fun, happy feel good music. I call it the PPP EP. My goal was to release three songs a year. I have two more months and I have to release two more songs. I will do the same thing again next year. I didn’t have time to write seven or eight songs. I have three amazing songs and I think that is a good way to introduce myself to the world.
CrypticRock.com – Most certainly. It works well, especially today where people do not purchase LPs anymore.
Prince Hakim – Yes, it’s sad. You know what though, back in the day, The Beatles and even Kool & the Gang would only give you about seven songs at a time. Now people are giving you three or four, because it’s really a single driven market. It’s a shame though, because I remember picking up albums and listening to the entire album. It’s a body of work looking at the album cover, reading every credit on it, to know who engineered, who mastered, etc. That’s gone, but you know Spotify just added credits. I hope Apple music does it too. Now you can read the credits on Spotify if you really want, which is cool.
CrypticRock.com – Yes! To a music junkie, reading the credits is part of it all. You look at credits, you will see many great records are collaborative efforts. A great example of that is Bobby Brown’s 1988’s Don’t Be Cruel album. There were so many great people involved with that.
Prince Hakim – That’s right. Chuck D from Public Enemy, while at lunch, one time told me, “Hakim, it’s never one person. There is always more than one person.” That stuck with me. I have about five people on “R.O.Y.A.L.T.Y.,” it wasn’t just me, that’s why I want them to be recognized.
Don’t Be Cruel, oh man! Bobby Brown is one of my favorite artists. He is the only person to call me a genius. That stuck with me my entire life. That Don’t Be Cruel album was amazing, L.A. Reid, Babyface, and Teddy Riley!
CrypticRock.com – It is an fantastic album! It will be exciting to hear your EP when it comes out. You clearly have earned a lot of experience through the years through touring and working in the studio. Through all the years, what are some of the most important things you have learned?
Prince Hakim – I have learned so much. Quincy Jones would tell you, “Pieces of a hit make a hit.” That is some brilliant stuff. Jermaine Dupri said, “Keep them two stepping.” He also said, “Don’t crowd up the track so much, keep it open.” My uncle, Ronald Bell, who wrote a lot of the Kool & the Gang hits, I learned so much from him. As far as the business, just being out there on the road, they don’t have to say anything. All I have to do is listen, I’m a sponge. I know everything from arranging flights to sound-checking. Everything from arranging equipment to how record deals work. I am adsorbing it all. I have learned so much.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like it has all been wonderful experiences that help you moving forward.
Prince Hakim – Yes it does, because you know what to do and what not to do. I am also mentoring new talent. For example, Victoria Skie, brilliant and beautiful singer/songwriter from Paramus, NJ. She is incredible. The Grammy foundation has songwriting contests every year around Grammy Awards time, and she came in first place two years ago, that’s how long I’ve been working with her. I take this knowledge I get and I will share it. If people want to listen I will share it. I like mentoring talent.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and if we all listened to each other the world would be a better place. With the EP coming out soon, the single already out, what do you have planned for 2019?
Prince Hakim – I am going to speak this to the universe, because I just go with the flow, but I am obviously going to release three more songs this year. Next year I want to release three more songs, I want to be on more TV shows performing. I want to go on road and tour the song. I want to keep spreading my energy into the universe. It’s going to be a big year!
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like a lot of great things are on the horizon. Last question. Beyond music, CrypticRock also covers movies. If you are a fan of either Horror or Sci-Fi films, do you have any favorites?
Prince Hakim – I’m sorry, I’m not a fan. I’ve been watching a lot of tech talk lately. I just want to get smarter. I haven’t really been watching a lot of movies, just a lot of Documentaries. I do want to see Lady Gaga’s movie A Star Is Born.
CrypticRock.com – Educational television is fantastic. Speaking of Documentary-like films. Have you seen The Bobby Brown Story?
Prince Hakim – I saw a piece of it and I have it on DVR but haven’t watched it yet. The New Edition Story was incredible though.