Among Prince’s long, brilliant musical career, one of the criticisms he got was for what was seen as an odd relationship with Hip Hop. But Questlove says that a deeper look reveals that the Purple one, who died last week at age 57, has a closer connection to Hip Hop than he gets credit for.
Musically, Questlove says that Prince’s drum programming on his lauded 1999 album, which was released in 1982, was just as innovative as the production from Rap legends like Bomb Squad, DJ Premier, Dr. Dre, A Tribe Called Quest and J Dilla. Prince’s manager also recently revealed that he asked him if he should learn how to rap.
Beyond the music itself, there was Prince’s rebellious attitude and his memorable style.
“Prince was an outlaw,” Questlove writes. “When he was giving interviews on the regular to Cynthia Horner in Right On! magazine, he was telling tall tales left and right. That was Hip Hop. He built a crew, a posse, around his look and his sense of style. That was Hip Hop. He had beef (with Rick James). He had his own vanity label (Paisley Park). He had parents up in arms over the content of his songs to the point where they had to invent the Parental Advisory warning. Hip Hop, Hip Hop, Hip Hop.”
The article also shares Questlove’s memories with Prince, from looking up to him from afar as a child to actually spending time with him once Questlove grew up and got into the music business.
He remembers buying vinyl of 1999 four times at age 11, with his parents taking away three of them (the other mysteriously vanished). He eventually got his friends to make cassettes, which he hid under the lids of his drums and listened to while practicing. He began to “pattern everything in my life” based on the superstar musician.
“I had older half-brothers, but Prince — unknown to me then, but not unseen or unheard, thanks to magazines, TV, radio, and my secret stash — was a guide to me in every way,” Questlove said. “I studied his fashion, I studied his affect. I studied his taste in women — carefully. And he began to mentor me in musical matters, too. I wouldn’t have started listening to Joni Mitchell without him. And that led me to Jaco Pastorius, who led me to Wayne Shorter, who led me to Miles Davis. I had a simple rule: if Prince listened to it, I listened to it.”
Questlove Says He Learned To Curse By Listening To Prince
Despite Questlove’s own accomplished musical career as an adult, he said he never looked at Prince as a peer, but as a fan. He shares a story of him slipping a curse word during a time when Prince, a Jehovah’s Witness, disallowed profanity. When he was told to put money in a cursing jar, he told Prince that he learned to curse from listening to his music. Questlove says that he thought he saw him wince as people were laughing at the joke.
“Maybe he actually felt bad that he had turned a generation of kids toward foul language and impure thoughts,” Questlove writes. “I hope not. I was just trying to get out of paying a fine that was justified, for cursing that was probably justified, learned from music that will forever be justified.”
Yesterday (April 25), The Game discussed how Prince turned down a potential collaboration with him because The Game cussed once on the proposed song.
For the rest of his essay, Questlove talks more about Prince’s legacy on and offstage. He says Prince was the “truest heir” of James Brown, and was inspired by the perceived nadir of Brown’s career instead of his most popular streak between 1965 and 1975. He wonders if Prince’s obsession with control was influenced on his loss of his mother, before ending the essay with a nod to Prince’s work ethic. He said that he woke up at 5 a.m. because he thought it would be the only way he could approach Prince’s genius – a task he admits is impossible.
“For the last twenty years, whenever I was up at five in the morning, I knew that Prince was up too, somewhere, in a sense sharing a workspace with me,” he wrote. “For the last few days, 5 a.m. has felt different. It’s just a lonely hour now, a cold time before the sun comes up.”
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