As someone who did not know a lick about Prince before his passing last year, let me tell you something: it really wasn’t hard to change that. The late icon inspired brilliant reporting and think piece-ing long before his death and there’s no excuse to continue on without knowing at least a little something about the man. (Shame on me for waiting so long!)
Whether you’re a “Controversy” connoisseur or you need a “Purple Rain” playbook in your life, read on for some amazing pieces on the “Beautiful One,” Prince Rogers Nelson.
1 On Prince’s Complicated Relationship with the LGBT Community: Prince is probably best known for his flamboyant style, sexually provocative lyrics and gender-bending tendencies. Even though his sexuality and gender identity were constantly in question, he did make a comment on his feelings about gay marriage in a 2008 interview withThe New Yorker where he pointed to his Bible and reportedly said, “God came to Earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.'” Many outlets such as Bustle and The Washington Post used this quote to question Prince’s impact and stance on the LGBTQ+ community.
But as Chelsea Reynolds points out in her article, “I’m a Gender and Sexuality Scholar. Here’s How the Media Blew it on Prince,” for Vox, sexuality and gender identities are fluid AF and always changing as we move through our lived experiences. “Despite being an idol, The Artist was still a person, a person whose experiences rendered him not only a symbol of Black queerness, but a product of the social and political realities he lived every day,” she argued. “Prince’s politics (and the panics surrounding them) have catalyzed our abilities not to need to adhere to steadfast identities.”
2 On Prince’s Influence on Music — Past, Present and Future: Prince’s beats made an influence on some of the genres and artists we admire and hold closest today. Hip Hop wouldn’t have the bravery to be soft. R&B wouldn’t have the same soul.
Check out Alex Denney’s DAZED essay, “How Prince Influenced a Generation of Musicians”, which details how artists such as Erykah Badu and Kendrick Lamar took notes from the Purple One. “Questlove Remembers Prince: In This Life, You’re on Your Own” is a beautiful reflection from The Roots’ bandleader on their personal connection and artistic bond.
3 On Prince’s Impact on Pop Culture: From his classic 1984 movie Purple Rain to his sensational music videos on MTV in the early 80s, Prince’s influences are more present than you may realize.
In “Prince’s Pop Culture Impact Included TV and Movies”, Kristi Turnquist takes a comprehensive look back at both his notable guest appearances and comedic parodies of his out-of-this-world persona. Game, blouses.
4 On Prince’s Powerful Blackness: One may argue that the late icon resided at the intersections of gender and sexuality, but there was no blurring of lines when it comes to his racial politics.
In “On Prince, Blackness and Sexuality” for Fusion, Dodai Stewart examines how he refused to be relegated to the stereotypical, narrow ‘Black man’s place’ in music and sexuality, instead transcending traditional beliefs about identity. “But wait. Black men don’t wear makeup. Straight Black men don’t wear makeup. And women aren’t attracted to a straight Black man in makeup,” she wrote. “But he did. They were.”
5 On Prince’s Footprint in Fashion: Purple velvet. Paisley. Metallic suits: from his closet to the runways from New York to Milan–now that’s impact.
In “Beyond the Purple: Prince’s Influence on the Fashion World”, Vogue.com Editor Steff Yotka took note of all of the trends that have been obviously inspired by the legacy himself.
6 On HIMSELF: Even I have always know how private Prince was about his personal life. So when he wrote a lengthy, vulnerable letter to his fans in 1996, it was a pretty big deal.
In the piece, which was posted to Medium last year by Anil Dash, you can read Prince in his own words on why he once changed his name to “Love Symbol #2,” his stormy relationship with his former record label and the importance of having agency in his music.
“My songs are my children. I feel them. I watch them grow and I nurture them to maturity,” he said. “I deliver them to my record company, and suddenly, they are no longer mine. The process is painful. I have been long ready for a new program. The time is now.”