Courtesy Photo: Elastic People
Prince Royce Reflects On 10 Years In Music, Talks New Album 'Alter Ego'
It's 2010. A 20-year-old Geoffrey Royce Rojas from the Bronx is gearing up to release his debut self-titled album as Prince Royce. Donning his then-signature look, a slick paperboy hat turned slightly sideways, he breathes new life into tropical music across Prince Royce, now officially the fourth best-selling Latin album of the last decade. Released 10 years ago today, the album established the foundation for Prince Royce's prolific career and extensive discography, which would soon grow to encompass 13 Latin GRAMMY nominations and multiple multi-platinum releases.
Since debuting on the scene a decade ago, Prince Royce has become one of Latin music's most versatile pop stars. Prior to the "Despacito"-fueled Latin music global boom of 2017, Prince Royce's first four Spanish-language releases topped Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart. Aside from conquering the bachata music market, he's crossed over into other genres like pop, R&B, reggaeton and Latin trap and has released high-profile collaborations with legends like Daddy Yankee and Latin pop queens Thalía, Shakira, Anitta and Jennifer Lopez. He also teamed up with Colombia's J Balvin and Maluma and Puerto Rican urbano superstar Bad Bunny as their stars were starting to rise.
In a fickle music industry where artists come and go, Prince Royce has kept up with the times while staying true to his roots. As tastes in music change, he's steadfast in representing the genre of his Dominican heritage, bachata, and adventures into new sounds he's come across in the past decade. "I'm not that kid anymore that I've been. I'm kind of joining the list of veterans," Prince Royce tells the Recording Academy, with a laugh.
Fast-forward to 2020, and Prince Royce is about to embark on his Alter Ego Tour, a 40-date U.S. trek and his most ambitious tour to date. For the first time, Prince Royce, who's worked his way up from smaller venues to theaters and has opened for major stars like Pitbull and Ariana Grande, will headline arenas on the Alter Ego Tour.
"It's 40 dates," he says. "It's going to be long as hell, but I'm just excited to try to give everybody my best."
The Alter Ego Tour, kicking off this week (March 4), is supporting his new double album of the same name, which he released last month (Feb. 7). (The tour launches just two days after the 10-year anniversary of his debut album). He calls the newly released Alter Ego, his fifth chart-topper on the Top Latin Albums chart, a reflection of his musical journey so far.
"I went to the Dominican Republic and really tried to catch that feel from my first album to celebrate the 10 years of my career," he says.
Alter Ego is a double album tracing Prince Royce's early music days as a teen in the Bronx to the tropical sounds that put him over the top. The "Genesis" side represents the bachata music he is known for since dropping Prince Royce. The "Enigma" side has a mixtape feel rooted in his youth as part of the duo Jino and Royce, who were recording R&B and reggaeton music inspired by Puerto Rican icons Wisin & Yandel. In a full-circle moment for Prince Royce, that dúo dinámico now features on Alter Ego's "Una Aventura."
With momentum running high as he enters his next chapter, Prince Royce chatted with the Recording Academy about the past decade of his career while looking ahead to the future with his latest album and upcoming tour.
Going on a decade in the music industry, what have you learned about yourself in those 10 years?
It's all such a blessing. I'm so proud. It's a bit weird at the same time, because when I first started coming up, I always saw myself as like the underdog or the new kid, that I have to prove something—not that I don't still have to prove something. You always have to prove something to yourself when you're looking for growth. I'm really grateful. I feel like all of this proves that you can really do what you want if you set your mind to it.
In those 10 years, what is one moment that you're most proud of?
There [are] so many moments. But one that really resonates with me was singing "Stand By Me" with Ben E. King at the Latin GRAMMYs [in 2010]. That was so powerful. I recorded the song because Sergio George was telling me, "You should choose a cover." I chose "Stand by Me." It was a weird Spanglish thing in bachata. That song really opened the doors for me. The song was 50 years old when we performed it. Having Ben E. King there, supporting this Spanglish song that I did at the Latin GRAMMYs, was something that I'll always be grateful for. That song is so special to me.
How important has it been to you to represent bachata music throughout your career?
It's always important. I think it shapes who I am, where I'm from, a Dominican from New York from Dominican immigrant parents. Although I do a bit of everything, it's what really got me to be successful. With this new album, I was going to put out this R&B mixtape type of thing and then work on my bachata album. The label almost didn't want me to do bachata. They were like, "The urban stuff does so well if you look at the numbers." I still feel the need to represent bachata. That's where the idea came for a double album. I wanted to be genuine and give the fans that fell in love with that Prince Royce from 2010 what they want, which was the bachata album, too.
You've worked with a lot of great artists. Who are some of your favorites?
I think all of them are so different. Daddy Yankee was my first collaboration. That one is always going to be special for me. When I wrote that song, "Ven Conmigo," I was literally still in the Bronx. He was one of the early bidders in my career. [Working with] everyone's been such a great experience, like working with J.Lo, who I admire so much. Her [being] from the Bronx and being a strong woman and doing her thing. And Shakira, too. Seeing them at the Super Bowl [last month] was a very proud moment as a colleague, friend and as a Latino in general. I learned so much from them. I learned something from every collaboration that I just try to absorb as a sponge.
The "Enigma" side of your new album, Alter Ego, has '90s samples, like Keith Sweat's "Nobody" and Ginuwine's "Pony," and a cover of Craig David's "Fill Me In"? Why did you decide to include those throwbacks?
Originally, this was a mixtape idea. I feel like Tory Lanez when he does his mixtapes called Chixtapes. The idea was [to] let me grab some old-school joints and make them into Spanish. It's me bringing in that flavor that I grew up with, which was growing up in New York, hip-hop, English and Spanish. A lot of people don't know that "Fill Me In" is a cover, but it sounds so different. That's a whole other vibe. That B-side to me is like the alter ego side of the album. When you hear that song "Really Real," which has that "Nobody" vibe on it, you hear my voice. I don't sound like myself. I'm singing in a low octave that people haven't really heard before. That B-side is about showing people more of that Prince Royce they haven't heard on the radio.
What can fans expect on the tour?
They can definitely expect the songs that they know and love from the past. We're going to mess around with the Alter Ego concept. We got two stages. There will be some surprises from the collaborations. I'm really going to try to bring out my friends and the people who supported me for so long. It's going to be a big 10-year anniversary party.
I remember on the 2016 Bad Man Tour, with Pitbull, in Anaheim a few years ago, you brought up a gay fan to sing "Stand By Me." You were also a part of the song "Hands" for the LGBTQ+ community. I was wondering if you have a message for your gay fans.
Just a lot of love. For me, it doesn't matter where you're from or who you like: It's all about love. The gay community has shown so much love [to me]. I just try to put out a lot of positivity. In these last 10 years, I wouldn't be able to do it without all these people that have shown love. We've been going through all these hard times recently in general—as Latinos, as human beings—that at the end of the day, we're all human. We all just want to have a good time and enjoy music. I feel like that's what it should be when it comes to concerts and music. Let's go out there. Let's have fun.
What do you see for the future of Latin music?
Things are looking bright, seeing the women out there in the Super Bowl and seeing that it's shattering records. I remember when I first came out how much of a struggle it was to try to get American artists to collaborate with Latin artists. Now it's the reverse. You have all these Anglo artists wanting to get into the Spanish market and collaborate with the Latin artists. I think it's great. Latinos have always represented something great in the U.S. and the world. We're seeing more of it in music now, and I think we're finally getting our shot to demonstrate that we are a big community. That we're powerful. That we're part of the U.S. We can sell records. We can sell concerts. Now we feel like we're f**king here to stay. As long as we keep working, we'll continue to go up. It's been a pleasure to be part of the Latin movement.
For tickets and for the full routing for Prince Royce's Alter Ego Tour, visit his official website.