[Black Music Month] Soul Artist/Musician Appreciation: Prince

 

 

He is the culture influence—multi-instrumentalist—award-winning—singer/songwriter Prince. He is the grandeur of music, and a downright funk specialist. He was born on June 7th, 1958 in Minneapolis, MN.


 

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Prince’s Musicality

 

Trying to figure out Prince’s genius is like trying to unlock Da Vinci Code. Completely from a musician’s perspective; you are taught to know your musical history. Prince was definitely a student of music, in terms of really understanding what makes a certain genre sound the way it does. When you finally connect the musical dots, then you realize that funk, blues/jazz, country, and gospel are all the same scales. That’s what Prince understood as a musician. His progression of sounds from the albums For You to Sign o’ The Times in terms of mastering the pop-ballad rock sound. It was significant to the artist he was trying to be. He purposefully pushed the envelope with 1999 in terms of the drum machine, and masterful visual art with the double album, Purple Rain. Those years was specific to the Prince we all loved. He was rebellious with the lyrical, and sexual image of a black man. This was unheard of, for that time until it became a trend. Then, just like any true rebel. He got bored, and wanted to change.

I look at the Prince era from 1989-1996, and honestly believe this was his revenge against the music industry. When you think back to that time period, you have to remember that hip hop was completely taking over mainstream TV/radio. Some music purists do not like mentioning Diamonds and Pearls and Love Symbol Album as his best albums. Prince was not only arrogant in his ability to play multiple instruments, he was also competitive. I look at those albums as his clear sarcastic humor shining through on each record. His attempt at hip hop seemed like he was saying, “I play every instrument, and can write. So, I can do this too with ease.”

 

It’s admirable that through the late 90’s, and early 2000’s he never stopped creating music. The constant evolution of his sound/lyrics remained. He still had the influence of the legends (James BrownStevie WonderEarth, Wind, & Fire, Sly and the Family Stone, Santana etc.) before him to keep his creative drive going. He was evoking some real social and spiritual messages with Musicology3121Lotusflower.

The fact he embraced so many gifted upcoming musicians, like bassist MonoNeon is worthy of mentioning. Young artists/musicians like Janelle Monae, Lianne La Havas, and Esperanza Spaulding, whom he also gave the creative nod to as well. He encouraged every artist to learn every aspect of music. It didn’t matter what genre you did, he liked the artist’s ability to play differently then how he would. When you think of artists/producers he helped in the beginning like the legends— The Time, The RevolutionSheila EJimmy Jam &  Terry Lewis, and Morris Day etc. He had the old-school discipline as a musician, and gave it to others.

 


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Prince’s Artistry

 

He was innovative with style, an ability to push his creativeness lyrically, and advancement with having creative control in the music business/technology.

In the beginning—he built his image off of this sort of mystique character. A man who wore feminine attire, wore heels, but still had an ability to have this overpowering masculinity both lyrically, and musically. Quite frankly— he found the image of the typical masculine man boring. In some households back in the day, Prince was not even allowed to be played. Some even mentioned that Michael Jackson was the safe one to play. Again, maybe that was the method to Prince’s madness. Maybe he didn’t want to be compared to his contemporaries. So, he pushed his creativeness lyrically with more raunchy lyrics in Dirty Mind. You have to really accept every part of who he was in his early days, as well as where he stood musically with his current music. His ability to blend lyrics about spirituality, and intimacy with the opposite sex is an act of brilliance. He conveyed some real deep messages, and forced you to think about what he was saying from more than a sexual space.

Prince was probably the first artist in the industry to fully benefit from the internet in the 90’s until present time. A lot of Prince fans (still) have an issue with his music not being automatically available online.

His thoughts on the internet, was the same as his thoughts of hip hop during the 90’s. It was becoming too simple, just like with the internet. He never had an issue with Youtube, or any other music streaming services. He just wanted musical fans to start buying albums. The time that there was controversy of his name changed to a symbol in the early 90’s, and wrote the word “slave” across his face was a powerful time. A lot of people deemed him crazy. If they would reflect now, they would see it was his refusal to give up who he was artistically. His integrity to uphold the quality of his work, by owning every master and business decision to his projects is remarkable. Prince is one of the most liberating black artist of our time, and the embodiment of soul music. Soul Savviness shows appreciation to the standard of music, the icon Prince.