Five Song Guide to Weird Prince Music
Everybody loves Prince. I am not gonna waste full sentences telling you what makes 1999 or Purple Rain great. That is on you to figure out. One of the great things about Prince is how much crazy stuff he has out there and how darn good it is. All of the songs below are from albums far outside his “best album” discussion. All of these songs (in my eyes) are as good as any of his best work. He was an artist with a lot of dimension and I hope if you hear any of these for the first time it helps you get closer to how much of a unicorn this dude was.
Cherry, Cherry from Exodus
Exodus from 1995 is a big sloppy funk album by the New Power Generation that is not for everyone. It is definitely for me. Exodus is messier than other Prince albums, it is thick with horns and bass in the way peak Parliament is. Prince knew how to make his work digestible; to teach a funkless white audience how the genre worked. By doing that he spent a lot of time grooving at 70% of his powers. Exodus gives him the chance to concoct overpowering funk. Get Wild is loud and very Digital Underground. Cherry, Cherry is the masterpiece for me. It feels like it could have been on Purple Rain as a bonus cut but it’s him years later. This song is timeless in how it takes that glimmering preciousness adds finger snaps, basketball, and maintains the real feeling of starry eyed romantic connection.
Don’t Play Me from The Truth
You’ve heard the stories about how much of a talent Prince was with the playing of multiple instruments. He was such a good composer it’s hard to isolate his talent on any given instrument. Prince was too much of a mastermind to flex outside the needs of the song. Best place to really get in touch with the ability he had on lead is an acoustic guitar album called The Truth. It is one of my favorite Prince albums PERIOD. The warmth and precision of his guitar work is miraculous but just as fly and once a generation is the swagger he has along with that ability. He brags about being over 30 speaking proper English and not smoking weed. This song is about being grown and past foolish things. That moment when he says “Don’t play me I already do that in my car,” is the illest brag a pop star ever made. Most people do acoustic albums to spill their feelings. Prince is Prince no matter what the form. His formula is too perfect to change.
Black Sweat from 3121
Its criminal how the listening audience turned away from Prince in the mid to late 90’s and on. 3121 is an album from 2006 and It is one of his best. Black Sweat in particular is one of the top five nastiest funk songs he ever constructed. My face screws up every time it starts. The hook is incredible, the drums are next level. You should listen to this song but you should make sure you have nice headphones. If you don’t then take it to the car; trust me.
A Case Of U from One Nite Alone…
I might sound whiny about the left behind music hanging around one of music’s most important careers but I am not mad at anyone. Prince was so productive he buried treasure all over the map. I love Joni Mitchell A LOT. I don’t love her like Prince did. He pulls A Case Of U from Joni’s most pulverizing and vulnerable album Blue from 1971. Prince lets his voice tip toe through the emotional vulnerability and stand to declare strength the way she always did. He gets the mixture. Throughout One Night Alone… his piano work is staggering. His sense of time is exact on a mechanized level. You can listen to him play piano and guitar (on The Truth) so well you’d think he was an artificial intelligence robot sent from the future to teach us music. Add to that how intuitive his song selection musical vision and vocal tone is and it is an eye opening listen.
Paisley Park from Around The World In A Day
Prince loved Stevie Wonder but he loved Joni Mitchell just as much. He was very influenced by the psychedelic music of the 1960’s. Around The World In A Day is an exploration of the spirit brought on music by The Beatles and others. The reason it doesn’t get much love outside of Raspberry Beret is its placement as follow up album to Purple Rain. No one expected an exploration of psychedelia following a world dominating classic. Wouldn’t you just do that again?! You would. Prince wouldn’t. Outside of all that contextual jibber jabber Paisley Park is a hypnotic song. His vocals float above the hammering drum machine and the characters he etches go through sadness, forgiveness, and growth. He cares about everyone he mentions and paints them like Renoir watching dancing couples. All the colors are bright and lustrous.
Most of these songs and albums mentioned are on your basic streaming services but Exodus could be tough. Here is a youtube link for the album in case.
Song of The Year-Recognize by Bun-B featuring TI & Big K.R.I.T. produced by Big K.R.I.T.
I’ve made the argument that the pop sphere is larger than it has ever been due to the ability to find anything. The gatekeeper role of radio and upper level music executives isn’t anywhere near as important…but I’m willing to make the opposite argument now. I think it is possible that due to trending patterns on social media we have less pop music than we ever have before. What happens is a new album drops (maybe its Eminem maybe its Nicki Minaj) it is just the largest name that week and that album gets blogged about and all caps shouted at by the whole world. So that giant internet information space turns out to be a giant garage with one car parked in it.
So while people were coming up to me saying “What do you think about this Eminem?!” I was shrugging and asking them if they had heard Bun-B’s new album Return of The Trill to blank stares. Firstly, I thought all the hip kids were pro-UGK now…shouldn’t we be supporting? Second, all the criticisms of Eminem’s Kamikaze are resolved within Return of The Trill. Bun asserts himself without discounting the younger generation.
Production wise Bun linked with his greatest musical partner post-Pimp, Big K.R.I.T. The Mississippi mastermind produces half of the fourteen songs on Return of The Trill. In movies, TV, books whenever the South is portrayed it is either an authentic take or reeks of artificiality. You can tell when you press play if no one involved in making it actually knows or cares about the South. K.R.I.T. makes beats that are deeply southern with gospel flair (see Traphandz) and the same kind of speaker shaking movement peak UGK brought to the speaker.
These beats fit Bun like the perfect coat. On his best lyrical performance (Recognize) he steps up to the microphone and says “My wordplay is intricate influence significant motherf**kin’ magnificence and my influence is integral charismatic and sensual f**king up your centrifugal. With trill pumping all through my ventricles gladiators and sentinals peep you through the peripherals. I see you p**sy n___as out the optical catch yo ass when its optimal…” The song is one of the year’s best moments and while the album might get a firm friendly handshake critically it won’t get to be POP and you can justify that in lots of ways. You could say that pop music should be this or that and Bun doesn’t fit those parameters. Whatever. Return of The Trill isn’t the best album of the year but it’s better than the junk we spend so much time yapping about.
After you watch the video up top check out Bun breaking down the bars
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Tagged Big K.R.I.T., Bun-B, Eminem, hip hop, Kamikaze, Nicki Minaj, pop music, Return of The Trill, Texas hip hop, TI, trending, UGK, underground hip hop
Mixtape Review-Produce vol. 1 by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
One of the uncomfortable conversations I will be forced to have with my son is how our generation turned Pop Music into a negative term for simple elitist gains. We snickered at chart topping hits and re-classified the ones we liked into other genres. Whoomp There It Is was pop music but surely Smells Like Teen Spirit wasn’t even though both were overexposed. As we got older the questions became too much. Was Buddy Holly Pop Music? If I hate Pop so much how come I know the lyrics to every Queen song? Any re-examination turned our group pretension into a fun-house mirror of distinction leaving one real apparent truth. Bottom line-we need our pop music.
Life is full of terrible things: uncomfortable talks on public transportation, dental appointments, embarrassing public school moments, interaction with comically ineffective authority figures that change the course of your life and you need happy music for some of that. When Dale Jr. Jr. decided to put out a mixtape following what I thought of as the best album of 2013(The Speed of Things) it threw some for a loop but made perfect sense to me. Listening to Jr. Jr. is like Tommy James and the Shondells laid lush pop classics over Gangstarr era Primo beats. As smooth and buoyant as their music is it always bangs with a hip hop car stereo flavor. The sixteen tracks that Produce Vol. 1 consists of are full of surprises however.
What sinks a lot of rockers hip hop mixtapes is trying to utilize it as an opportunity to assert some sort of toughness they don’t normally get to highlight. It ends up coming off like a mockery of the medium. Dale Jr. Jr. see it purely as a way to have fun in different ways like putting Biggie lyrics over the Beach Boys song I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times and getting sublime results(Beach Boy Biggie). The rappers pulled in for guest verses are expertly selected including names like King Chip, Chuck Inglish, Murs, and Asher Roth. Murs does an amazing job with his tale of love turned racial violence in Lover Lover Lover but the songs I love the most are the outlandishly danceable ones like the War Zone Goldenboyz remix or Jean Jacket Girl. It can be dismissed as cute but cute is valuable and if done properly can be brilliant.
Right from the first song (Old Friend From The Radio) Produce Vol. 1 aims for one goal-to be as fun as possible and it hits that target. With a beat that Pun would have loved Asher Roth spits crazy references(on Curtain Call) and you forget all the pre-text about his career and whether he sucks or not. The vocals are brilliantly sung over a background of clatter that shakes with countless elements jingling together in a kind of Muppet-like happy madness. It’s not supposed to be a cohesive artistic statement just a fun way to explore their style fully while showing datpiff kids who hadn’t heard of them what they bring to the table. It’s also great for waiting at the Dentists office.
Stream of Download Produce Vol. 1 below:
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Tagged Asher Roth, Biggie Smalls, Chuck Inglish, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., datpiff, King Chip, mixtape reviews, Murs, pop music, Produce Vol. 1, rock music, The Beach Boys