There is a something on Raphael Saadiq’s CD “Instant Vintage” that, for me, takes it from being a really good piece of work to being one the best 10 CD’s since start of the millenium. Not even a song, a skit. Raphael is back on his old block in Oakland see’s his friend, they kind of challenge him on his change in musical style. Then his friends start asking him who he knows and who he can introduce them to. One guy asks if he could introduce him to Janet Jackson, Raphael gives no reply. The other guy says “you know who I want to meet, I want to meet Prince”. Then on the slick Raphael says “yeah, he’s a cool nigga”. Then tells the guys if they see someone they all know to let him know Raphael is looking for him.
That Prince statement and that there is a song on ‘Instant Vintage’ with a tuba solo. How many Tuba solo’s have you heard in your life, if you have never listened to that CD the answer is none and stop trying to remember if you have you haven’t. This has nothing to do with anything else I am talking about, but I always figured the guy playing the tuba didn’t believe Saadiq was actually going to let him have a solo until he actually heard his solo on a copy of ‘Instant Vintage’ that someone else purchased. Either way tuba players in every band in the country should have a t-shirt with his picture on it. Let me help you out, his name is Kelvin Wooten and here is the picture to put on your t-shirt and wear it to Band Camp proudly.
It has never been the coolest thing on the block for a brother as a Prince fan, even though every thug has a favorite Prince song and it is understood in the Black community if a woman is over a man’s place and he plays Adore while she is there she is now obligated to give up the ass. Of all love songs in the last 40 years there is not better deal closer than Adore. I grew up in Gary, Indiana, no Michael Jackson comments please, which made it less cool being a Prince fan.
‘Thriller’ was cool, not as cool as ‘Off The Wall’, but in my relentless quest to be a ‘different kind of brother’ Prince appealed to me. My mom even played a part in it, early on in Prince’s career before he was household name my mom was playing his second album ‘Prince’ she looked at me and said “if you could ever sing like this boy, then you can really sing”. Once I found out he had a 4 octaves range, I had to be able to have some range too. In college choir I was a baritone, our sopranos were a little weak, our choir director asked me and one other baritone to sing with the second sopranos. It had to be kind of funny to see a guy 6’3″ standing with the guys but singing the women parts as well. At least I did not walk out on stage in a trench coat, bikini shorts, and heels.
Before biddy basketball games I needed to listen to “Delirious”, girl problems “Strange Relationship”, went psycho over a girl “Anotherloverholenyohead” (which I admit was kind of creepy). Hell I did artwork based on Prince songs, my painting “Mountains” was actually displayed in my school hallway. Thankfully, Public Enemy came along at the same time I read the Biography of Malcolm X or you could forget about walking on stage, I would have been walking into the principal’s office wearing a trench coat, bikini shorts, and heels.
It was cool to see artists like D’Angelo, Saadiq, Maxwell, Van Hunt, and others coming out that were obviously influenced by Prince. Every time I heard them for the first time it was confirmation that I wasn’t the only brother in the country tracking down Prince bootlegs. Difference is those cats picked up a guitar or sat down at keyboard and tried to figure them out. Prince was so good I was afraid to play anything he did out of fear I would kick myself in the ass for not being as good as him. Well that was stupid, I have come to realize I kick myself in the ass for everything anyway and everyone I know seems to get a nice amount of kicking me in the ass.
There were moments when I had to publicly back away from Prince. When he showed up on the MTV Awards to sing Get Off and he was literally ass-out. Coming to the American Music Awards with ‘SLAVE’ written on his face. I screamed at the TV “Dude, we giving you a pass on the eye-liner but you can’t start spelling shit on your face with it!” Then there was, I guess you call it a name change. By this time I was so connected to Prince in my circle of friends I was called upon to defend his actions. Do you have any idea how hard it is to explain a ‘symbol’ as a name?
Then the music became questionable, The Vault was supposed to be the Holy Grail for Prince fans. We all heard about this vault that was in his studio with all the unreleased songs, the midnight recording sessions with Miles Davis, the songs he made with random girlfriends just to get them hot… then you listened to it and thought “well there is a reason why they were never released, they weren’t even good enough to be on Grafitti Bridge”. He dropped “Crystal Ball” 4 CD’s not all good, but the acoustic one was sweet and deep deep Prince fans finally had a clean copy of “Movie Star” (Environmental records DOUBLE CHECK).
But as the years moved on you got to see that Prince was making a power move and setting himself up to do what he was comfortable doing. He pulled power moves on major labels. It is one thing for Jay-Z or 50 Cent to make power moves, but no major label boss can feel good after signing off on a deal where a 5’2″ light skin Black man in high heel shoes is getting 75% of the cut. I can see Clive Davis after that meeting in 2005 looking at his secretary saying “I think I just got ass raped by Webster”.
It was cool holding tight while Prince figured out what he wanted to do. I found some other musicians that share his want to respect the past while making a new sound. Unfortunately, I will never hear him sing some of his most risqué songs again as he has put them to rest for his religious beliefs. I got to see him live once, drove to Moline, IL to see him had seats on the side of the stage raised, so pretty much front row. In classic Prince form he climbed on top of the speaker in front of me and pointed in my direction. My cousin (also a huge Prince fan was with me), started screaming “HE’S POINTING AT YOU HE’S POINTING AT YOU!!!” and as feminine and sassy as I have ever been and never been again with complete attitude looked at my cousin Brandy and said “Heffa I know”.
I had to deal with that moment of complete punking out for years. Then a friend of mine who is a comic told me a story about when he performed on the Tonight Show. He is going on soon, Denzel Washington is on that night, comes in to say hello to him. They are talking along with another comic that is hanging out and the prettiest woman he has ever seen in life walks into the room… and it was Prince.