prince

SHUFFLER 0099: I AIN’T TRYNA GO OUT AT ALL

SHUFFLER 0099: I AIN’T TRYNA GO OUT AT ALL
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Chance the Rapper – “Chain Smoker” (2013 self-released)

Chance

Chance the Rapper might well be one of the most refreshing things to happen to hip-hop in a long time, which is maybe why the free mixtape that features this song has been downloaded over a million times. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to call it a reimagining of what hip-hop could sound like, or to suggest that perhaps we can hear echoes of Chance’s influences on subsequent releases that shade towards the more conceptual (I’m thinking of Kendrick Lamar and Toki Wright for starters, but that could just be me). Given that Chance was twenty when the mixtrape dropped, I’d say that’s pretty impressive.

Musically the landscape here is more Frank Ocean than Jay-Z (he references Ocean in a clever lyric about name-dropping). Still, even with that incredible R&B/neo soul influence, he’s Chance the Rapper, and it’s the blending of those two worlds that works so well here (incidentally, it’s heartening to hear a rapper who would become so mainstream as Chance claiming Ocean, who came out as gay the year before this mixtape dropped).

“Chain Smoker” begins with the smoothest atmospherics that an electric piano and some thoughtful production can provide (we can even hear Chance say “this sound like a Prince song”), crescendoing with each verse. The lyrics crescendo as well, into a requiem for Chicago’s fallen youth:

Rappin’ trappin’ trippin’ ‘cid
And sniffing glue and chewing Vicodin
Shoulda died — yelling YOLO was a lie
And you a liar wondering why you wanna die so young
You and I look just alike
And I’m afraid that this one right here
Might be [the] last time that I write a song

If it sounds like he’s passing judgement on the choices of his peers, it’s instructive to note that he refers to his own perspective as “an introspective drugged out standpoint.” In other words, to my white privileged eyes, he seems to be saying, look, all these drugs are scary and can bring a bad end, but on the other hand, can you even imagine what it’s like to live here and be young and black? 

And of course I can’t. I can think of what it’s like to go to a happy hour after a long and terrible day at work, though, and extrapolate from there, and I can be grateful for Chance and his truth-telling, and I can join him in feeling conflicted by everthing that I see around me: “The same shit that kills us / always tastes so right.” Indeed.

Oh, one more thing: I’m not sure what I really have to say about it one way or the other, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that Chance squawks in each song on this mixtape.

SHUFFLER 0071: 2 3 4 U

SHUFFLER 0071: 2 3 4 U
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Prince and the Revolution – “I Would Die 4 U” from Purple Rain (1984 Warner Bros.)

prince

After Bob Dylan (and somewhere before Better Off Airport) Prince is probably the Twin Cities’ most well-known musical export. Lyrically, though, Prince is no Bob Dylan, and that’s probably why people don’t often sit around dissecting the Purple Man’s lyrics (although occasionally some poor sap will have to negotiate his way around raunchy masturbation lyrics for his blog). Here’s the thing, though, it’s worth noting that people also don’t sit around talking about how goddamn funky Dylan is.

I would offer that, upon hearing the first note of “I Would Die 4 U” (a song that, in 1984, curiously predicted the sort of obnoxious shortcuts texting language would take two decades later), a plunk of the bass (or is it a guitar?) followed by a volley of high-hat and splasy synths, nobody cares what Prince is talking about — the medium is the message. Probably that’s why the song has been covered nine times that Wikipedia knows about.

For me what’s so interesting about this song, and about this album, for that matter, is how fresh it sounds, even today. We touched last time about Prince’s connection to the Minneapolis sound, and really it’s too tedious to get into here (what, is your Wikipedia broken?) but suffice it to say that it had everything to do with a new take on R&B that, among other things, subbed in a lot of synthesizers where maybe horns would have gone in the past. Prince was such a progenitor of that sound, influencing so many others, what fascinates me is the way his music holds up while so many others who followed his lead made music that, while interesting, sounds so dated today (Morris Day, I’m talking to you).

And who of us can’t relate to that feeling of teenage love that declares, maybe prematurely, sure, and maybe with weird abbreviations scrawled in purple pen a note that is folded in an overly complicated fashion, undying love and devotion? It almost never works out, but that’s not the point. This isn’t a song about pragmatic long-term plans, but rather a song about right now, a song that wants to “make u happy when you’re sad / make u good when u are bad.”

http://www.zapkolik.com/video/prince-i-would-die-4-u-571173

SHUFFLER 0032: OR MAYBE IT WAS MY BRAIN

SHUFFLER 0032: OR MAYBE IT WAS MY BRAIN
Monday, October 6, 2014
Prince – “Darling Nikki” from Purple Rain (1984 Warner Bros.)

2012-prince-australian-tour

His name is Prince, and he is freaky, and this song is all the evidence you need.

I grew up in Minneapolis in the eighties, and Prince was everywhere at the time. I remember hearing mainstream radio stations talking about “the Minneapolis sound,” and they weren’t talking about Soul Asylum, Hüsker Dü or the Replacements, they were talking about Prince, the Jets, Lipps Inc, and a bevy of acts associated with the production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. These songs were all over mainstream radio at the time.

Somehow I’ve never seen Purple Rain, and as I understand it I’m not missing much. If memory serves, the film’s rating went from PG to PG-13 upon its release, and my sister, not yet thirteen in 1984, when the film was released on her birthday, was prohibited from seeing it.

Or that’s how I remember it, anyway. The internet seems to suggest that the movie was rated R, and only that after cutting out some racier stuff.

Speaking of racier stuff, ratings boards, and the eighties, let’s talk about “Darling Nikki,” a super freaky song that raised the ire of Tipper Gore and the Parental Advisory Sticker people. The lyrics are basically about Prince’s dirty self hooking up with a freaky stranger (who seems like maybe she’s a pro) who shows him how to grind. 

Prince’s performances on Purple Rain really highlight how much he is steeped in the gospel and blues traditions, and so it stands to reason that, at that intersection, we might find a rock and roll song that is about sex and which has (back masked!) religious imagery at the end. Here Prince sings about a sexual revolution; it’s easy enough to see his influence on Ian Svenonius and his brand of revolutionary rock and roll, especially upon seeing the video.

I’m not sure the Minneapolis sound has endured (though it has recently been lovingly commemorated), but Prince has, and by all accounts he’s still freaky.

http://http://bingenow.com/video?vidid=1903