The illustrious, ever-loving, multi-talented icon; the beautiful soul that we know as Prince Rogers Nelson has passed away. However, he didn't go without leaving his fans with a gargantuan amount of music in his vault (co-owned by Warner Brothers). Prince also did not go without leaving us with breathtaking memories of him performing so in tune with the crowd that even someone in the highest balcony seat could feel his presence and be adorned by his vibe at that moment. You could play his first hit single "I Wanna Be Your Lover" (released in 1979) on the radio today, and it would still have the same effect it did when it first came out.
There's a running joke that he was feared to take any man's girlfriend or wife, sleep with her, and wear her clothes the next day, better than she did. Charlie Murphy told Dave Chapelle about a time Prince beat him in basketball, and Prince himself confirmed the story. Prince was a man that did many things.
He could play over 25 instruments, all the instruments needed to make all the hit records he released, which he wrote as well. He'd perform so well that the audience would call him back for encore after encore. This man led by example always, even after his reckless days. He continued to cultivate his fan base in every organic way possible. Standing side by side with all other greats like James Brown, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Stevie Wonder, whenever his name is mentioned music-wise, it's only with the level of God-tier music.
As an artist at the age of 14, when he took his first steps into the life of music, he knew he wanted to produce his own sound and not be categorized and boxed in by a label.
Later on, after becoming a successful artist trying to break free from his Warner Brothers contract, Prince went all out on his record label and their injustices toward his creative control. He was not able to own his own music that he worked tirelessly to establish and produce; he was pissed. Prince stood up for musicians everywhere when he spoke out about the truth of record label contracts, writing “SLAVE”(as seen below) on his face in big bold letters, disowning his name, calling himself "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince," and using his symbol (seen at the end) as his new identity. What he thought about the contract that was given to him was clear.
Prince broke modes and standards built to contain creativity. Dancing in heels in his prime, doing the splits in those same heels, jumping on top of his equipment, he did whatever he could to express himself and he excelled exponentially.
Prince didn't fear death, “Maybe it's cause', we're all gonna die” (from Let's Go Crazy video above); it seems he didn't fear anything. The lyrics of every song gave a message, whether it was crystal clear to an average listener or just plain ol' funky to dance to. For instance, from "Money Don't Matter 2 Night," "just when you think you got more than enough is when it all up and flies away... that's when you're better off making sure your soul's alright, 'cause money didn't matter yesterday and it sure don't matter tonight." Prince's catalog is full of meaningful inspiration for anyone that listens.
The optimism of this man could fill the hearts of all the brokenhearted with hope. He believed in people as people should believe in themselves. One fan (sadly I cannot remember his name) expressed his experience as a “Super fan” of Prince's, saying that in the early 2000s, Prince had an online site for his fans, and he'd send them music every day. He'd invite them hear him jam out during the after-party of a gig. He'd go above and beyond just to show his gratitude to his fans.
His fan base exceeds the norm, not simply because of his music, but because of the value he held for his fans. Even when his heart was torn like raw meat to a lion, he'd produce music to his utmost ability. He knew people of every creed and color needed music, not wanted, but needed. He took that responsibility very seriously; 39 studio albums later of his work speaks for itself.
All artists, whether visual, music, stage, or otherwise, need to take a few lessons from Prince. Prince had the money he needed for himself. What he was concerned about was the well-being of others. It's not enough of a compliment to call him a humanitarian. Prince funded and raised money for causes that he knew mattered, as he said “Like books and Black lives, albums matter." His music spoke volumes, but his actions are what make him such a role model, donating and supporting the following, just to list a few (full list here):
City of Hope
Edith Couey Memorial Scholarship Trust Fund
Jazz Foundation of America
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Prince supported as many causes as he could, from AIDS & HIV, to abuse, to hunger and cancer, to donating millions of dollars to schools that need the financial support.
Do not take Prince for granted or give him a title that he's not, he's black. He did love people of all colors, but do not forget his blackness. Do not look over his background, his ethnicity, his humanity. The stories in his songs were real; marriages that were ended, relationships that faded. His biological children that he had so much hope to live for had died before he had a chance to love them the way he wanted. Yet no matter what, he came out on top in our eyes; in the eyes of the world he could do no wrong, even when his world was crumbling. Prince understood the world that we live in as people, and that to be Black is living with a target on your back, so he made the target purple and danced around stereotypes.
I thought I wanted to be a king when I was younger, but when I heard the song "My Name is Prince" (video shown above) my perspective was changed. Ever since then, I saw the fulfillment in mastering myself, no one else.
He was known for being the "Shade King" (as my friends like to call him) for his infamous side eye, his fearlessness, and his attitude toward life. "I ain't afraid of shit!" When Prince said that, he meant that to its fullest extent. Do you know how powerful that is? For a Black man, 5'2" tall, to tell the world that there's nothing they can do to destroy him is powerful. All of the greats have a grip on fear's neck. Bernie Mac, once throughout a whole set on Def Comedy Jam, would say in between jokes "I ain't scared of you muthafuckas!" Just another example of a great man that all men should aspire to be like.
The example Prince has set should be a necessity for all artists of all genres, for all people. Looking up, praying, talking to to the stars above, the now truly ageless Prince mingles with the meteors and does solos for the constellations. Those who loved him to the core of their existence like myself will miss and honor Prince at the same time, in all we do, by being us, by loving our people, supporting our people and ourselves and taking care of ourselves. Like an angel of biblical folklore, he went where he was needed and left without saying goodbye... just see you later.