Prince often graced my mother’s car radio as she took me to school every morning during my elementary, middle, and high school years. He was also played on the way home from school. For the months that any given Prince cd resided in the stereo, you better believed I started to memorize the words to songs like “When Doves Cry,” “1999,” “Musicology,” and other jams by Prince. Yep, my mother loved Prince and a love for him fostered within me. When I started Georgetown University, I continued the tradition of intertwining the presence of Prince with my education. I definitely listened to my Prince playlist on Spotify (before he removed all of his songs) as I cranked out papers for midterms and finals. I even listened to Prince a few times here in Cape Town because it reminded me of those car rides to school, scents of my mother’s perfume, and the years that have gone by.
Needless to say, my heart dropped when I found out the news of his passing. Ever since then, I have been reading articles about his life and watching countless videos of his performances. He defied sexist and racist gender expectations placed on Black male bodies. Heteronormativity could not touch him, his music, his hair, or his timeless threads. In an interview, Prince said that his father used to play the piano and would not let him play that piano because his father believed that younger Prince was not as good as him. However, after his father left, 9-year-old Prince played that piano and taught himself how to “play music.” How many 9-years-olds can say that? Later down the road in the 80s, he produced one album per year. How many musicians can top that? He definitely showed the world what hard work and consistency looks like. He represented the grind that if any of us tapped into, we could all reach our own level of genius, like Prince.
Sidenote: to call him the “King of Shade” is only to touch on one aspect of the man. He was much more than his facial expressions. He honored us with his music and in return we should honor this artist, who mastered all of the instruments in his band, who wrote all of the songs he sang, and who self-produced while producing other artists’ music. I honestly do not think there will be another musician like him.
His death reminds me of the quote:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. We are all meant to shine, as children do. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.” – Marianne Williamson.
This quote, like Prince, is timeless. If anything, Prince taught us not to die mediocre.
Thank you Prince, for your music, your life, and your international legacy, which highlights your genius that my words cannot encompass. Thank you for being unapologetically Black and rocking your afro, for always melanizing on stage during every performance, for the time you wrote “slave” on your face, and for the track “Baltimore.” I needed the healing you placed in that song.