Will Prince Harvey’s Apple Store Gamble Pay Off?


By Lia McGarrigle

Prince Harvey’s career is off to a weird start—but there’s no denying he has one. He’s only released three tracks, but his unique story went viral last month. The 25-year-old New York rapper and producer recorded the entirety of his new album, out today, in an Apple store. Appropriately, it is titled PHATASS: Prince Harvey At The Apple Store: Soho. The Daily Beast wrote an article detailing exactly how Harvey pulled it off, and the internet aggregated its tiny heart out.

Coverage was always a part of the plan for Prince Harvey. He showed me a list made back in January, the outlets he hoped would discover his story. It included Complex, The Fader, Vice, The Guardian, and Pigeons and Planes. Every one has posted his story.

“I remember looking at this list just thinking, ‘You’re so reaching beyond your means, it’s not gonna happen.’”

Prince is overwhelmed by the coverage and is “really grateful for the people who’ve reached out so far,” but when places who previously didn’t reply to him reposted the Daily Beast story without reaching out, he started grappling with the attention. “They’re just writing about me because it’s gonna get them clicks. They’re not gonna care tomorrow. It didn’t really make me feel comfortable that everyone was paying attention…Once my album drops I want coverage on that too, because that’s the most important thing. How do I turn this into that.”

They’re just writing about me because it’s gonna get them clicks. They’re not gonna care tomorrow. It didn’t really make me feel comfortable that everyone was paying attention.

Prince Harvey isn’t overly worried, though. He says he’s just “living life” and “ staying on top of the work that I have to do.” Right now, it seems like there’s a lot of that; the album comes out in two weeks, and while I was with him he spent a considerable amount of time fielding calls about show details and interview requests.

Harvey is ready to direct the spotlight away from the Apple Store story (which he describes getting “super out of hand”). Right now he’s focusing on getting coverage for the album itself. His songs are entirely a capella, although that’s not necessarily apparent on first listen. “I didn’t want to make an a capella album, I wanted to make an album just with my voice that was still danceable,so that you wouldn’t know that it’s a capella unless someone tells you.”

If you listen to his single “New Black,” you can see that he achieved that goal, somehow making his voice sound like trumpets. When asked if he has any vocal training, Harvey described a background in theatre, which impressed on him the importance of your voice. “You gotta use your voice right, you gotta use your stomach muscles, gotta stay fit,” he explains. Even back in high school he was interested in speech and voices. “They told us that we have to get rid of our vocal clutter because our most used words in everyday speech are ‘like”’and ‘um’. I went on this whole campaign- saying, ‘I’m not gonna say the word like unless I’m actually comparing’ but it just didn’t work out. After like a year, I just fell off.”

Because PHATASS was all made in a public space, recording wasn’t the easiest process, but Prince saw it as an artistic exercise and ignored the strange stares he was getting. “I said to myself, ‘As an artist how can you make this thing and cut all the bullshit out?’”

“I wanted to express the idea that all I have is all I need. I wanted to make something that would prove there’s no excuse to not make anything. I wanted people to see that you don’t need everything, you don’t need all kinds of equipment to put something together.”

But in reality, Harvey didn’t really have everything he needed: He didn’t have access to a computer and recording software. It’s the one tool that’s becoming non-negotiable in almost every creative industry.

The first thing is, do you have access to a computer?

His story is being framed as inspiring, but in reality the response has ignored the actual problem behind Harvey’s hustle and reinforced the idea that inequality is the individual’s fault. Although he was being supportive, Talib Kweli missed the point when he tweeted, “After reading about [Prince Harvey] recording an entire album in Apple Stores I don’t want to hear yall lazy ass excuses!”

“People say that the internet’s here and it opens up a whole new zone,” Harvey says, “but besides internet access, you need computer access. The first thing is, do you have access to a computer?”

It’s an issue that a venue where Harvey recently performed is trying to fix. Art “collaboratory” Powrplnt is trying to bridge the digital divide by making art available to everyone via computer access and lessons, so people don’t have to rely on the kindness of Apple store workers to have access to something that so many of us take for granted.

Prince Harvey’s album drops today. Download PHATASS via his website here. Follow him on Twitter here and Facebook here.