Opinion: Part 2 of theGrio’s four-part series on Prince examines the complexities of reactions to hip-hop and rap during the iconic artist’s career.
Editor’s Note: The following article is an editorial and the views expressed are those of the author.read more opinion at Griot.
When we think of Prince, we tend to think of musical maestros who were able to speak fluently dialects of the various genres and subgenres that make up the musical language. When you think of Prince, do you think of hip-hop? Unlikely.
Prince’s androgynous nature was the exact opposite of hip-hop’s outward masculinity. In fact, Prince and hip-hop culture had more in common than you might think. Not only did Prince maintain a confident sense of masculinity and masculinity, but he approached music in the same way that hip-hop folks do.
Prince himself said he didn’t want to get into hip-hop at first. But as history shows, it was a relationship he could neither fully accept nor completely ignore.
In 1983 Russell Simmons was in a recording studio with Run-DMC and producer Larry Smith recording a song called “Sucker MCs”. Simmons said the song was made with just a drum beat and no melody accompaniment. The following year, Prince was in the studio recording “When Doves Cry.” After hearing back, he removed the bass. Two of his pivotal moments in music history emerged from the same sense of creative rebellion against black musical traditions.
Perhaps Prince, unwittingly, had the intangibles associated with hip-hop: rebellion, ingenuity, and cocky confidence. Aside from these elements, his production style was in line with the direction rap music and hip-hop were headed.
Prince dabbled in hip-hop in the early 1980s. Perhaps he decided it was appropriate to challenge himself a bit while noticing the underground phenomenon of rap, or maybe he just wanted to try something new for the lark. He rapped on 1983’s B-side, “Irresistible Bitch,” and produced Sheila E’s “Holly Rock,” which featured her rapping throughout the song.
Aside from the rap element, Prince’s expertise in drum programming on the Lynn LM-1 drum machine ushered in rap production in the second half of the decade. The repetitive programming of “When Doves Cry” certainly conveyed what a producer like Marley Marl would do in his late 1980s. Meanwhile, the whimsical hi-hats and heavy bass drums on songs like “Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)” and The Time’s “777-9311” are what 2000s trap music would sound like. was to predict
The simultaneous development of Prince and hip-hop music has shown that both beings have followed similar paths, albeit primarily spiritually. However, shortly after the release of his critically acclaimed 1987 double-album Sign O The Times, Prince began to ditch hip-hop as he realized that trends in popular music were changing.
By 1987, rap music had penetrated mainstream music. While the likes of Run-DMC, Eric B., Rakim and LL Cool J were all lauded for their innovation, Prince, who had been experimenting with rap only a few years earlier, vehemently denied it. Later that year, he planned to release The Black Album as a sequel to Sign O The Times. The album was shelved at the last minute but became a bootleg classic, revealing a diss to hip-hop.
“When I was riding the Thunderbird on the highway,
I turned on the radio to hear the music playing
Instead it’s a stupid rapper talking stupid
And the only good rappers are dead rappers…on top of that. ”
L. Rondell McMillan, Prince’s former attorney and estate administrator, explained that Prince’s competitive nature has fueled his distaste for rap and hip-hop production as the genre has grown in popularity.
“Prince is very competitive,” McMillan told Griot. “He’s a musician’s musician, and much of hip-hop was originally born of turntables, digital technology and technical production rather than instruments.”
Soon Prince will be back again through his entourage. Tony M, Prince’s dance and choreographer in the early 1990s, played Digital Underground’s “The Humpty Dance” during rehearsals and rapped it word for word whenever Prince appeared. rice field. Something about the song piqued Prince’s interest. Soon after, Tony M became a featured rapper in Prince’s band New Power Generation.
Prince’s take on the culture and aesthetics of rap and hip-hop blossomed on his 1992 album, Love Symbol. He went all out to make raps on songs like “My Name Is Prince,” “Sexy MF,” and “Pope,” which were included on the 1993 compilation His Set The Hits. He also experimented with sampling, using parts of his own “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and “My Name is Prince” and “Pope” from Bernie Mac’s “Def Comedy Jam” routine, respectively. rice field.
Wearing a hat with a chain link to cover his face and rhyming into a pistol-shaped microphone might have been seen as peculiar to the hip-hop community, but Tony M. Provided background at Park’s Celebration 2023. He said Prince advised him to do so. Tony is from upstate Minneapolis, so avoid copying New York or West Coast rap. Prince instructed him to find his own identity, giving more meaningful context to his and Prince’s unconventional rhythms on “Willing and Able,” “My Name is Prince,” and “Sexy MF.” .
Speaking about his relationship with Prince at Celebration 2023 on Friday, Chuck D said the lyrics to his single “Sign O The Times” were inspired by Public Enemy’s classic album It Takes a Nation of America. Millions”, which he said influenced his rhyming approach in producing “Millions”. “To Hold Us Back” and “Fear of a Black Planet”.
“A sister killed her baby,
She couldn’t afford to feed her, so
Yet we are sending people to the moon.
In September my cousin tried reefer for the first time.
Now he is doing horses. It’s June. ”
The Public Enemy frontman said that the lyrics to “Sign O The Times” “brought out my fullest intention” when composing the song. Soon, Chuck D and Prince meet and become friends.
Chuck D explained that Prince would ask him about rap and why it had such an impact on the public. Chuck taught Prince that “hip-hop is an umbrella for creativity,” shattering rap’s mere element of a larger art form.
“Prince had a very unique relationship with hip-hop,” McMillan said. “He wasn’t very receptive to it at first, but later he became more supportive of the art form in culture.”
As Chuck D, and later Doug E. Fresh, helped Prince to more fully understand elements of hip-hop culture, he was able to adapt and adapt music more organically. rice field. Chuck rapped on his 1999 album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, and Prince sampled Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear” on the album’s lead single, “The Greatest Romance Ever Sold.”
Prince included a remix of his own “Love Sign” by Digital Underground frontman Shock G on his 1998 album Crystal Ball. It was a moment that came full circle many years ago when Tony M performed “The Humpty Dance” for Prince.
Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, Prince tacitly continued to compare live musicianship and singing to hip-hop. In interviews, he criticized rappers and R&B singers who relied heavily on lip-syncing and sampling. So despite being educated by the cultural pillars, Prince still resisted the genre.
Despite Prince’s public comments on the subject, he is still greatly admired by hip-hop artists such as Chuck D, Doug E. Fresh and Nas, who said Prince owns his own master. He said he taught me the importance of doing
“They loved him and supported him,” McMillan said. “Not only because of his music and how special his music was, but also because of what he stands for culturally, what hip-hop has always stood for: rebellious, innovative and free. ”
Prince’s relationship with hip-hop may not have been fully resolved at the time of his death. In any case, incorporating elements of hip-hop and rap into his music during a key transitional period in his career showed that he was still open-minded when exploring all aspects of music.
Matthew Allen is theGrio’s music and culture entertainment writer. He is an award-winning music journalist, television producer, and director based in Brooklyn, New York. He has interviewed Quincy Jones, Jill His Scott, Smokey Robinson, and more for publications such as Ebony, Jet, The Root, Village Voice, Wax Poetics, Revive Music, OKplayer, and Soulhead. His video work can be seen on PBS/All Arts, Brooklyn Free Speech TV and BRIC TV.
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Post-Prince and Hip-Hop: A Complicated Relationship first appeared on The Grio.