BROOKLYN, NY — A Brooklyn rapper with a knack for making viral videos has thrown his hat — or rather his silver tinsel wig — into the ring for New York’s 7th Congressional District.
Paperboy Prince, who also goes by “Paperboy Prince of the Suburbs” on stage, has launched a campaign to unseat longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Nydia Valazquez, who has held a seat in congress since 1993. Registered as a Democrat, he will take on Valezquez in the 2020 primary.
The race will be the first time the 26-year-old rapper will run for office, but not his first swing at a political campaign.
Prince is maybe best known for his viral “Yang Gang” videos about presidential candidate Andrew Yang, a meme-friendly strategy he hopes he can also use to take himself to 2020 Election Day.
“Talking to more people, the sentiment around my peers is that they don’t feel inspired…and then they are disinterested in the [political] process,” Prince said. “I have the power to get people interested and excited — that’s literally what I do for a living. I’m speaking the people’s language.”
Prince is already trying out that strategy by holding voter drives at his shows and releasing songs about the primary issues of his campaign, like his support for a universal basic income, which Yang has made a benchmark of his platform.
The rapper, who also works as a web developer, said his approach is to bring to politics what he sees is lacking in career politicians like Valazquez.
Namely, an embrace of technology, a direct connection to constituents and what he calls “spreading the love.” Love, Prince said, is literally his middle name (his name is Paperboy Love Prince on his Federal Election Commission forms).
“Everybody talks about the hate [President] Donald Trump spews, but nobody talks about the love they want to bring,” he said. “I feel like there needs to be more love in our congress, in our country and in our government.”
The rapper, known for his eclectic fashion choices, said connecting to his constituents will partly be about looking and speaking in a way that resonates with people.
“I don’t want to look like these politicians,” he said. “Art and youthfulness and creativity and fashion are at the center of the district…so I’m going to embody that when I represent our district to the rest of the country.”
The 7th District includes a large swath of Brooklyn, including Prince’s native Bed-Stuy, and a small part of Queens and Lower Manhattan. Prince is joined by Republican Avery Pereira in the race.
The issues that are most important to him, Prince said, are climate change, immigration reform, transportation and dealing with the city’s housing crisis.
High rent prices and gentrification have made it so Prince himself “bounced around” different neighborhoods in Brooklyn. He currently lives in Bushwick.
Prince said he first understood how politics could help change these issues when he worked as an intern on Capitol Hill and in the Supreme Court in high school. He got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and has also taken classes at New York University and Howard University.
But if he is elected, Prince said the issues he focuses on will depend directly on his constituents’ interests. He is working on setting up an app that will let constituents vote on what issues their representative should spend time working on each day.
“There needs to be more communication between the representative and the people,” he said. “Right now, they’re acting like a king or a queen and not like one of the people. When I get in there I’m going to be on my hands and knees serving the people.”