March 28, 2012

Questlove’s 33 Reasons Why Prince is Hip-Hop

I wholeheartedly agree. Dare I say he was a hip-hop pioneer? Yes. That Prince. Without even trying, he did things that those in the hip-hop generation wouldn’t even think to do some years later in their careers. So in celebration of Prince reaching Jesus status (thirty-three years in the game), I’d like to argue thirty-three reasons why sucker MCs should call him sire.

33. “2 Live, 2 Live is what we are.”

In 1988, Prince poses stark naked on his tenth album cover, Lovesexy.

32 & 31. “So either join the crew or get beat down.”

With Hammer as America’s newly discovered go-to guy, Prince reverses his Sir Nose D’VoidoRAP position of the past (more on that later) and full-on puts his career survival ahead of his personal creativity. Backtracking a hard stance, of course, would be the norm come 1997 with the all-integrity no-sell-out hip-hop. Of course, with the formation of the NPG and its kickoff album, 1991’s Diamonds and Pearls, with samples and rap breaks over a band soundtrack (I’ll just sneak in #31 here) and the occasional “nigga” sprinkled for effect (let’s not forget the mic gun either), Prince was actually onto something that was years ahead of my own entry in the game.

30. “I got it from my pops, where there’s a man in the house and all the bullshit stops.”

Genius starts with the act of defiance, achieving something when you are told that you can’t achieve. Prince’s father told him flat out, “Don’t touch my piano.” So, naturally, Prince takes that to mean, “Please help yourself, then help me some twenty years later by taking care of me with the fruits of your labor.” I don’t know if the Joseph/Tito thing went down, but I do know that he taught himself to play the theme to Batman (See? The man is a visionary!) and soon he got more intricate—that is, until he got kicked out the house and shuffled around to various relatives until running away at the age of twelve.

29. “Check it, fifteen of us in a three-bedroom apartment.

Roaches everywhere, cousins and aunts was there.

Four in a bed, two at the foot, two at the head.”

The Anderson family basement. P’s BFF André Anderson (aka Cymone) asks his mom, Bernadette, to take in “Skipper” as her seventh child. She does so, and also puts up with all the noise, knowing it’s better to be inconvenienced than those two to be running out in the streets.

28. “Shakespeare couldn’t tell a story that well.”

Prince’s bio stretched the truth quite a bit. Shaved his age a little bit to grab teen market. Embellished his ability. (Don’t get me wrong, he can play anything he wants to, but if you list over twenty instruments, and fifteen of those instruments are keyboard related, then, yeah, it’s impressive to someone who don’t know any better; but in my head, you play three instruments: drums, bass, and guitar. Okay, I’ll be fair and say four—and keyboards. Not: (1) Organ—no organ on his first seven records! (2) Rhodes (3) Clavinet (4) Synth. (5) Piano… Come on, now.) Now, the previously mentioned coulda been record-label politics. But in early interviews (especially with Right On! teen mag), Prince too was having some fun making up his bio on the spot to get some hood cred. My favorite being how he was so poor, he’d steal Bubble Yum and stand in front of a McDonald’s just to pretend he was eating a meal.

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