Is it fair to call Prince's output of the 80s/early-90s his 'golden era'? (if such a thing exists).
Questlove said:When I first got Prince's 1999 album, it was 1982. I was 11, newly in charge of my own record-buying habits. And I couldn't resist the cover, with its purple field of stars, Prince's name, the numbers, and all the hidden-meaning illustrations (is that a football or a smile? How phallic was that "1," anyway?). My parents didn't agree. They were born-again Christians at that point, and Prince — with his overt sexuality and profanity — was a bridge too far. Plus, when you turned the album cover upside down, the 999 went to 666, the mark of the beast.
Questlove said:Think of 1999 again — or rather 1982. It was such a banner year for the use of drum machines, from Arthur Baker to Afrika Bambaataa. Prince's programming work on 1999 was beyond anything I had ever heard, just as innovative as the best hip-hop producers in the years to come: the Bomb Squad, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Dr. Dre, A Tribe Called Quest, J Dilla.
I have always felt that the true mark of a genius is to look beyond the hits on their records to what people uncharitably call "the filler." 1999, like Thriller, was all killer, no filler, but it was on the second side where the album really took wing. A song like "Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)" told me that Prince was not a regular person, or a regular musician. He had removed the bass from the original demo (at the time forbidden in black music, an innovation that would pay off even more powerfully on "When Doves Cry"), added a dizzying snare/hi-hat combination and delivered his vocals in a kind of ice-cold, almost robotic manner. It wasn't just one new idea — it was several, all together; you knew from that song and the album tracks around it ("Automatic," "Lady Cab Driver") that he was going to be the new breed leader.
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