Chances are, you've heard Prince Charlez's words many times. The Cali bred singer/songwriter has penned tracks for the legendary likes of Beyoncé, Usher, and Rihanna. But now it's time to hear his songs. As the veteran songwriter and newcomer recording artist readies his debut mixtape Black And Gold, it's time to welcome the new era of Pop/R&B royalty.

It's no coincidence that Charlez was born on Valentine's Day. The 25-year-old has made a name for being able to convey real feelings into music. “I’ve been known to get quite emotional,” the artist admits. “On the creative side of things I’m not afraid to be expressive.” Raised in Compton, California during the gangster rap boom of the ‘90s, Charlez witnessed music’s response to the drugs and police brutality happening in the streets. At home he was an introverted preteen, sitting in his closet writing songs and harmonizing alongside some of his favorite songs from artists he would later work with. “It’s crazy because all of my favorite artists I’ve written songs for,” he says. “Maybe I just put that into the universe as a young kid.” His voice carried to high school talent shows, and through a friend’s uncle in the music business, Prince Charlez found himself singing demos. There was a caveat, though. “At that age I really thought these were my songs,” he says with a laugh. “After a while I got upset and thought that I should start writing my own songs so no one could take them away unless I wanted them to.”

At only 16, Charlez got his major break meeting then upstart producer Red One through a mutual friend. He impressed the future superproducer by freestyling an entire song during an impromptu studio session. That left a lasting impression, as Red One would eventually be attached to one of the most iconic names in Pop music. “He was working with an artist at the time by the name of Lady Gaga,” Charlez says of Red One. “He would tell me, ‘She’s going to be the biggest artist in the world.’ Three months later, she was all over world.” Charlez cut his teeth in the songwriting big leagues through one lucky coincidence. “Red One called me one day and said, ‘All of my songwriters are in Sweden right now, and I need someone to help me write songs. He remembered that studio session where I freestyled.” Their first session yielded the song “More” by Usher. “That was my first break as a professional songwriter,” Charlez says. From there came Beyoncé’s “Ring Off,” Rihanna’s “Needed Me,” and many other noteworthy hits. As his passion and experience grew, so did Charlez’s desire to bring his own sound to the forefront. “I’ve always wanted to do it, but I wanted to do it on the right platform,” he says of starting his recording career after a decade of songwriting hits. “I could have done it a long time ago, but I wanted it done properly.” After inking a deal with Republic Records, Charlez began the genesis of Black And Gold.

“It’s just really me…talking a lot of shit,” he jokes. The mixtape arguably falls under the umbrella of the newly minted Trap Soul, and Charlez took it to that creative level thanks to the hands of superproducer Drumma Boy. The two came up with the heart of the project in Drumma Boy’s Atlanta studio, where champagne arrived by the cases and Charlez freestyled over Drumma Boy’s interchanging production of orchestral sounds with a trap bounce. Charlez adapted his delivery to the beats. “It’s the intersection of singing and rapping,” he says. Cuts like the lead single “Bitty” take infectious rhythms and pair them with underlying lyrics, as the word “bitty” is a double entendre of the phrase “bet he” and the slang term for a girl. “People can bump their heads to it, but my writing is personal to me and has a deeper meaning,” he expresses. Other songs like the high-energy “Stamina” are designed for club play but also house the underlying notion that it takes stamina to weather any storm. “I’ve had a hard time growing up in the music business,” Charlez admits. “I’ve heard so many ‘No’s’ and doors closed in my face; ‘Stamina’ reminds me of a time when I really felt hopeless.” As an avid runner, Charlez found serenity in his endorphins and now penned a track for others to get inspired to. “Life Matters” continues that sentiment along with project’s intro and outro titled “The Prayer” and “Help,” respectively.

Black And Gold serves as a fun precursor to what Prince Charlez has in store for 2017, which will be a broader more global take on music. “This is just the beginning of what I want to be, which is a full-fledged world artist,” he adds.

Ten years in the game and Prince Charlez is just getting started. After helping to shape the creative vision of the world’s most celebrated acts, the time has come for the new prince to join their ranks. He’s earned it. “They say if you put in 10,000 hours into anything you’ll get it right,” he says. “I’m on about 25,000.”