April 21, 2016

The Afro-ization of Prince

From the wall-to-wall coverage of Prince's death today, you'd think he was Tupac Shakur or the Notorious B.I.G.

Only black commentators are speaking on the cable news channels, and several are bringing up his support for Black Lives Matter. Only the occasional white fan is heard from. In the afternoon CNN brought in Don Lemon, who is usually on at night, because it would be wrong to have only non-black anchors leading the discussion.

These non-black anchors are paining themselves to give off that defensive vibe of "I know I'm just a goofy non-black person who can't dance, but I too really liked his music. I mean, I'm not trying to culturally appropriate an African-American icon, I'm just sayin' -- I mean, say-inggg, I'm not trying to culturally appropriate your speech either..."

MTV, for perhaps the first time in two decades, is actually playing non-stop music, but they're mostly playing his videos from the mid-'90s onward, which happen to only have black people in them, and are more R&B / soul. As I finish that sentence, they've put on an old Fresh Prince video, "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" (possibly an error by some intern who didn't know the difference), as though Prince had more in common with Will Smith's goofy rap act than '80s rock. Why not play "Manic Monday," which Prince actually wrote? Oh yeah -- performed by white people. Can't stain his memory with any whiteness.

There's nothing more ridiculous and embarrassing about the state of our popular culture than this Afro-ization of Prince -- a new wave / synth-pop / rock legend from the race-free 1980s. If anything, his persona during his peak was how racially ambiguous he was, and that he was working the ambiguous angle just for the sake of teasing the audience -- not out of any ideology or commitment to identity politics. It wasn't something you were supposed to dwell on or "get," just another little piece of provocation in his stage act.

Here's an earlier post about the lack of "policing the racial boundaries" of musical genres back in the '80s, looking at white hipster groups putting out funky dance classics -- not ironically, and not by qualifying it with "Hey, I know we're white and everything, but..."

During that socially outgoing climate, people felt free to mingle with folks from other groups just because they were all out and about. It wasn't deliberate or ideological -- trying to unite the races, overcome our differences, bla bla bla. It was simply, "We're out playing music, you're out playing music, let's see if we can jam together. If it works out, it works out, if it doesn't, it doesn't." That non-ideological mingling had already begun with disco, but it became taken for granted during the '80s.

Once the cocooning period set in during the '90s, though, the races withdrew into their own little bubbles. Now rock is exclusively white, and (so-called) funky dance music is exclusively black. It's similar to the fate of jazz during the cocooning Midcentury -- what began as racially mixed (without any deliberate ideology driving it) during the outgoing Jazz Age, became separated into strictly black jazz (bebop) and strictly white crooner type music (Sinatra).

When the cocooning phase gives way to another outgoing period, we can all stop walking on eggshells about whose group owns the exclusive territorial rights to which cultural styles. These battles have gone from annoying to silly to ridiculous, so it's only a matter of time before they're no longer taken seriously and we can all go back to normal.


  1. LOL, Drudge in all-purple font.

  2. There was a Blind Item a while back about a black celebrity who was having serious health complications from AIDS. Some of the people suggested Prince. No clue if this is plausible, I barely know anything about Prince. From what I've seen he does come across a bit gay.

  3. Blind Gossip says they're in the process of updating that item, so it is Prince, as people were guessing.

    Not surprising that he's gay or at least was a deviant who fooled around with trannies. Nor that a black man was taken in by the witchcraft thinking of Jehovahs Witnesses who said God had cured him, prompting him to stop taking medication.

  4. Us white folk will never quite be on the same sexual wavelength as blacks. They're horny as hell and far more uninhibited. The down low thing is unheard of among whites. No wonder blacks have higher rates of AIDS.

    We've now seen 3 black icons of the 70's/80's exposed as decadent weirdos (M.J. and Cosby). Cosby, a Silent, appears to be strictly hetero and yeah he's a sleazy rapist but he must've exercised some restraint since he's still with us. M.J. and Prince on the other hand were basically flaky Boomers who couldn't outrun the consequences of hedonism and narcissism.

  5. Oh, and Prince sure could play the gee-tar. Outlier, I guess.

    As much as we love the late 70's and 80's, cripes was the pop/rock scene gay. Mercury, Halford, Elton John, Boy George, gay lover and borderline degenerate Madonna, George Micheal. These are the ones we know. And Bon Jovi evidently screws trannies now. His co-song writer Desmond Child is a homo too. Albeit one who has written for a lot of artists.

    It seems like the emphasis on creative talent and energy rather than fitting into any sort of norms really let loose the homos back then. Halford btw seems like the most well adjusted of the aforementioned people. He hasn't, as far as I know, been arrested or over dosed.

  6. Prince was a combination of Bowie and Mick Jagger. He might have had some love for Jimi Hendrix, too, but he was Bowie + Jagger first, although his music was a little more sugary (he did write Manic Monday, after all). And Bowie/Jagger were also willing to sleep with men for their careers. Prince was a dude who didn't see color--none of his big hits were about race or racism. His music appealed to girls of the time, but in a general way: he was synthy in the 80s and R&B in the 90s, but always Prince. The idea that he was a black icon is humorous.

    The record industry, like the movies/TV, has been run by gays for a long, long time. To get ahead in the pop-music-radio world you need to sell your ass (literally) to a queer to get pushed ahead. Jagger quit doing it in the early 80s and became a tour monkey, and Bowie basically did as well. Prince did so later, in the late 90s. I think all three really regret what they had to do to get airtime, and, now that Prince is AIDS-dead, Jagger is going to check his blood a little more often.

  7. During a two-hour tribute on CNN, it not only all black guests, it was the blackest guests they could find -- Stevie Wonder, George Clinton, Spike Lee, Van Jones, etc.

    Only non-black was a Jew from Rolling Stone (David Wild), and of course he threw in a comment about Prince's style "...inasmuch as I know anything about style". We get it, you're the token dopey white guy (can't be a goy, though).

    MTV was showing Purple Rain at the same time, and flipping back and forth during commercials was really eye-opening. There was nothing racial at all about the movie, his backing band is white, his rival singer is also a mulatto looking guy, and the audience at the shows are mostly white.

  8. Maybe you should do a post about why you (and the entire world) has done a post about Prince at all? Idolizing the guy (like Drudge has, like the alt-right has, apparently like the MSM has, though I don't watch the MSM to know) is simply bizarre. He was a very minor character in our culture. I was in college when Purple Rain came out, and it was a good movie, and I saw it, and promptly forgot about him. Prince was about the equivalent of any other 80's flash in the pan. A few good songs, perhaps a decent movie, and the next flash in the pan promptly replaced him 3-6 months later.

    Utterly bizarre. I read Steve Sailer, and he has a post about Prince. The 'minor celebritization' of our culture-even our alt-right counterculture- is really getting strange.


  9. Purple Rain is a cheesy movie, so shows what kind of taste you have. The album is the good part. (The movie does have some nice lighting in the interiors, fairly dim and chiaroscuro.)

    Re-read the post if you're dense.

    The topic is the media's treatment of Prince as an icon that only resonated with blacks, or who only blacks can talk about, despite the fact that during his peak his appeal was to everybody, everybody talked about him, and he worked with everybody on the creative side.

    As for other people writing other posts, why not? He was a great musician songwriter and performer, created an iconic persona, and was prolific in many styles. Like it or don't like it, but he wasn't a flash in the pan.

    (Or maybe you're the token dopey white guy who's numb to danceable music.)

  10. I say good riddance!

    Many fans boycotted him anyway, ever since his lawyers shut down almost every fan site a few years ago, as a prelude to then also sue 22 fans for $1 million each because of linking to live bootlegs, which were not even available to buy.

  11. excellent analysis. I was a teenager in the 80s and remember those times well. You are so correct bout Prince being racially ambiguous at his peak. He had some good pop hits and could rock out with his guitar. He seemed to have more white fans in the 80s, he was not seen as a black artist back then.

  12. "Only non-black was a Jew from Rolling Stone (David Wild), and of course he threw in a comment about Prince's style "...inasmuch as I know anything about style". We get it, you're the token dopey white guy (can't be a goy, though)."

    Hasn't Jew owner of Rolling Stone (Jann Wenner) been outed as a gay for a while now? Do we need motor mouth Jews angsting or pseudo intellectualizing about everything?

    God knows that Jews in particular are going to be full of shit about late 70's/80's culture, when having unpretentious fun was peaking and being preachy, nerdy or morose was not in fashion at all. The icons of that era's pop may have been heavily gay, but how many were Jewish? You're so right about Jews being heavily represented in the self-indulgent and schmaltzy side of the 60's and early 70's pop scene. As that faded from relevance we then saw the Jews mysteriously no-show in disco and then the more convivial side of New Wave.

    "MTV, for perhaps the first time in two decades, is actually playing non-stop music, but they're mostly playing his videos from the mid-'90s onward, which happen to only have black people in them, and are more R&B / soul."

    That's definitely weird, who cars if his 80's stuff has more melody or rock style arrangements, and strong guitar licks and solos. The 80's stuff is the best, duh. Maybe MTV is still desperately pushing 90's nostalgia which hasn't really taken off except, uh, a few teens wearing Nirvana shirts. Cobain's fucked up psyche and the ongoing disgrace of Courtney left a bitter taste in the mouth of most X-ers. The nineties in general left are like a festering wound that most of us would rather not gash open.

  13. Not much to comment on Prince specifically. I don't agree that dance music as a whole seems very Black these days. Not as Black as when I was growing up in the 90s anyway. House and EDM just aren't very Black at all; mostly seem White with a fair amount of Black vocalists. Rap, kind of still. Contempory "R&B" much more mixed than in was in the 90s for sure.

    Re: Euro EDM and R&B particularly, I get the impression that there is a trend, like from wikipedia's article on 2010s music (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010s_in_music#Electronic_music) says that "In 2012, a large number of songs by American artists featured quintessential Eurodance elements (especially synthesizer and strong beats during the chorus, mixed with rapping or vocals for verses). Examples are Chris Brown, Usher, Jennifer Lopez at others that traditionally attributed to more established American genres such as R&B, soul and pop."

    The kind of segregation of Black and White performers feels pretty unrecognizable from the British perspective, anyway. Seems more mixed than it was, and more White girls trying to sing like Black girls, in particular. But that's mainly because there's much more demographic change here since the 80s.

    I think for me a more plausible driver of the trend for splits in a lot of genres, today, that do exist, is just that Black genres have got more popular generally, and they tend to be better at them (just more connected to those scenes), and not to do Whiter genres as much to get crossover hits (and there's less money in music generally, except for the biggest performers). Particularly I think there are more cosmopolitan hipsters today, who are willing to pay to see Blacks do Black stuff, and they follow their comparative advantage. Not really like a nationalistic situation like the Midcentury where Whites were pretty self conscious of themselves as a nation and wouldn't want to pick up on Black stuff.

  14. One of the most ham-fisted examples of this http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/this-rare-clip-of-prince-michael-jackson-and-james-brown-onstage-is-amazing_us_57190e08e4b0d912d5fddc4b

  15. EDM isn't funky and you can't dance to it. Meaning, rhythmically moving your body at a level more complicated than jumping up and down. Dubstep is even worse because they keep shifting gears on the rhythm, preventing you from getting into the groove.

    And you certainly can't dance with another person to those kinds of music.

    Not like the black-based dance music today is any good, or that it's made for anything other than standing lapdance style dancing. But that's the outcome of white people retreating from dance music and letting blacks take it over.

    There was a little break in the cocooning period during the mid-2000s, and sure enough white bands put out some danceable disco-rock songs again -- "Take Me Out," "Paralyzer," etc.


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