Musicology: Remembering Prince Through Hip-Hop.

Multifaceted, Revolutionary, Iconic,and  TIMELESS are just a few words that come to mind when remembering THE late, great, and LEGENDARY Prince. News of his passing ripped open my heart like an intense electric guitar riff on “Let’s Go Crazy.” It struck my soul deep like the bassline on “Call My Name.” It hurts knowing he’s no longer with us and hurts even more to know that there will never be another.

His musical talent was unmatched, almost unfathomable, and more importantly, unforgettable. Prince left a heavy imprint on the music industry  from being completely multi talented. Prince’s range in musical gifts stretched longer than his vocal range from baritone to falsetto. There wasn’t anything Prince couldn’t do as a vocalist, and as an artist. He wore many hats as a songwriter, producer, and instrumentalist. Prince was a musical chameleon that couldn’t be subjected to just ONE single genre, from funk to R&B to rock and more. He not only honed his own sound with these genres, but influenced them throughout the course of his career as a pioneer. He truly lived up to his name and is considered music royalty.

With millions of albums sold worldwide, he reached the hearts of fans everywhere, including my family and I. Prince was so prevalent in my household that I eventually developed my own personal relationship with Prince. Prince and I bonded through his distinct, soulful vocals over funky guitar chords, captivating melodies, and pulsating percussion beats. But what influenced my love for Prince didn’t come from hitting the electric slide in the living room to “Kiss” with my aunts or hearing my grandmother sing along to “Purple Rain” while she cleaned the house, hip-hop is what shaped my love for Prince the most and keep it alive and well.

As a Jay-Z superfan,  I’ve been able to appreciate so much of his work over the years, with some my favorite songs involving Prince samples. Hov exploded and shined on “Welcome to the Jungle” with Prince’s guitar strumming loud and proud as a sample in the background throughout the track. Prince also provided the original beat to “Excuse Me Miss” from the song “Walk Don’t Walk” and most likely influenced Pharrell’s vocals as well. If it wasn’t for Jay-Z’s “03 Bonnie and Clyde,” I wouldn’t have been introduced to one of my most loved Prince songs. Beyonce gave a brief rendition of “If I Was Your Girl Friend” on the bridge and helped spark my interest for different Prince songs.

As I became more familiar with Prince outside of popular songs heard on the radio, such as “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and “When Doves Cry,” I began to recognize Prince songs in everything. When I heard Lil Wayne reference Prince in “Get High Rule the World” for the first time on Da Drought 3, it made me respect his artistry more and thought it was cool how he connected one of Prince’s original lyrics as a punchline. Also, hearing Wayne remake the beat to “Diamonds and Pearls” and freestyle over it made me so excited. It combined my love for Lil Wayne’s interesting lyrical wit and an old school sample that nourished my old soul.

Prince’s music will stand the test of time simply for being amazing and for also helping influence other legends. Fellow artists who have gone and passed, yet still left their mark forever in hip-hop have sampled Prince as well. Rap legends 2Pac and Biggie carried Prince along with their legacies in their songs, such as Pac’s “I Get Around” and Biggie’s “Would You Die For Me” off of the “Born Again” tribute album.

Gone, but not possibly forgotten, Prince’s reign lives on forever in music, especially in rap. From MC Lyte’s “Paper Thin” to Kweli’s “Hot Thing” to Kanye West’s “Big Brother” hip-hop pays tribute to his art and will continue for years ahead. The artist ETERNALLY known as Prince truly is “an idol in my eyes, a God of the game.” His creativity and music genius has reached out to his fans while also including hip-hop listeners across the world, we could never forget his lasting impact.

Kagan McLeod for National Post


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