Queens-born rap artist Nakaya Stallings, who records and performs as Nakaya, spent last week putting the finishing touches on the video for his recent single “AYO.”
“This is the biggest thing I’ve done so far,” he said in a recent interview. “That’s why I don’t have any live performances scheduled right now. But we hope to drop the video in about a week.”
And attention to detail, as well as his craft, is the road he says can make the difference in a rap artist’s career.
“I write my own music and lyrics,” he said. “I’m encouraged because I think lyrics in rap are starting to bypass what I call ear worms — things that are repeated over and over until they’re in your head. I think you’re getting good music that is more substantive.”
Nakaya, 34, is a native of Queens, born and raised in Jamaica, and is billed as “The Prince of Queens.”
He is the son of John Stallings and the Rev. Brenda Stallings, a Jamaica pastor, and went to August Martin High School.
He first began performing at age 8 on a drum set his grandmother purchased and set up at their church.
He became serious about music in high school, performing in groups, mostly as opening acts for more-established names.
“AYO” is his first solo effort, and he admitted there were a few butterflies that came before and after making that decision.
“For most of my life I was in a group,” he said. “It eventually broke up, and the last two, two-and-a-half years I’ve been out on my own. I was confident in the fact of my talent, but I had been in a group for so long.”
One of his early influences was Lauryn Hill, the eight-time Grammy Award-winning performer who also went from a group and found acclaim as a solo artist.
“She was one of the first artists I remembered hearing who combined singing and rapping,” he said. “She made them mesh, and was so successful. She was definitely a heavy influence.”
Queens-born LL Cool J was another influence, musically and particularly with his outreach to the community in which he grew up.
He also took early note of the success of Russell Simmons and Jay-Z, not necessarily as performers but as talented, hardworking and no-nonsense businessmen — who in numerous instances have expanded beyond the entertainment field.
“They influenced me on the business aspect of music, which is an approach you need to keep in mind,” he said. “That’s the difference from just rapping on a street corner.”
Toward that end, Nakaya wears many hats when working with labels such as Atlantic Records.
“I’ve done some freelance writing ... rhythm and blues, hip-hop, gospel,” he said. “I’ve written for some established artists.”
For the moment his multifaceted approach to the business does not yet extend to the more technical aspects such as engineering in the studio.
He doesn’t rule it out in the future; for now he is content to leave that angle to the professionals.
“I have so much to do on so many things right now,” he said. “If I get into that, I’m not going to be able to give 100 percent to the necessary things.”
While his parents have southern roots, Nakaya said he considers Prince of Queens to be more than just a stage name or a marketing tool.
He would like to be able to emulate those performers from Queens who have given back to the communities that launched their careers.
“I was born and raised here, and I love Queens,” he said. “I want to make my borough proud of me.”