It is well known that Prince liked to keep his cards close to his chest. In fact, they remained hidden up his sleeve throughout his iconic career. Rather than conceding every intrinsic detail of his life made available for public consumption, Prince worked on his privacy, a factor which meant that there was always an air of mystique that loomed over him. The Purple One never allowed the media get too close but, on one occasion, he did let the mask slip and, during one of his final ever interviews, the musician discussed a handful of artists that held in the highest regard.
The musician, speaking openly about the type of music that helped inspire his creative vision, allowed us into the real life of Prince, something he tried to avoid at all costs. Still, occasionally, he let the persona have a day off. That said, Prince did provide the infrequent nugget about his record collection when he felt like it, providing a real glimpse into who Prince Rogers Nelson was behind the comfortable facade.
In the press run for 2015 record Hit n Run Phase One, he spoke poetically about his love for Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, dotingly stating to Medium: “He just has something to say. It’s pure. And with Thundercat on the album? Come on. You’re not taking ‘Alright’ off my playlist.” Prince also revealed that he was a fan of Kanye West’s ‘Gold Digger,’ which samples Ray Charles’ iconic track ‘I Got A Woman’. “The way he made something new with that sample was perfect,” Prince said.
He then added: “We have to make sure that young people also get to understand the masters,” he said. “It’s like when I played Sly Stone to Lianne La Havas…she had not ever heard him yet. Then she listened and was totally inspired.”
Following Prince’s death in 2016, Kendrick Lamar opened up about how he and Prince tried to work together on the track ‘Complexion (A Zulu Love)’ which appeared on the seminal, To Pimp A Butterfly. Speaking to the Grammy Awards, Lamar revealed: “Prince heard the record, loved the record and the concept of the record got us to talking. We got to a point where we were just talking in the studio and the more time that passed we realized we weren’t recording anything. We just ran out of time, it’s as simple as that.”
Prince was more dismissive when he gave his thoughts on acts such as Tame Impala and The Weeknd, artists who previously praised Prince for helping shape their sound. “There might be music that sounds like me, but what good is that?” he asked. “You’re essentially in the feedback loop. It’s a bad time for music in general. There’s not a lot of pop music in the mainstream that makes you feel scared, that makes you wonder what’s happening.”
The sheer fact that The Purple One was hesitant about the music his sound helped mould said everything about his character and how the only thing he looks for in music is pure unadulterated originality. He wanted to hear music that didn’t remind him of anything else. Whilst many artists attempted to replicate facets of Prince’s sound, there wasn’t much in common between his music and Kendrick Lamar or Kanye West. Still, both men brought something utterly fresh to the table which connected with The Purple One on a visceral level.