Pop Life

In this July 2004 story Prince, the "poet laureate of Pop Life," sounds off about record companies, music education, life in Minnesota, and more.

Mpls.St.Paul Magazine 2004 Prince Cover
Photos by Caitlin Abrams

There are people around the world speaking a multitude of languages who know of a place called Minneapolis—because they know the music created by a man named Prince. This singer, songwriter, musician, composer, producer, and performer from Minneapolis has forever left his mark on the history of music—and his high-heeled boot print on popular culture. We couldn’t publish an issue dedicated to Twin Cities pop culture without a royal nod, more like a bow, to Prince.

When we approached the purple palace to ask if we could get a photo for our cover, we received a fairly quick “Yes,” as well as a “Would you also like an interview?” Now, we can appreciate that Prince is a pretty private guy, so we weren’t that surprised when our interview was actually an e-mail interview—but, hey, we’ll take it. Of the eight questions we asked, he chose to answer four. (His shorthand answers are below.) Some things will just have to remain a mystery—such as “What should we expect from Prince next?” or “What keeps you here?”—though we did learn that he still calls Minneapolis home and, despite C.J. rumors, has no plan to move. We also will have to keep wondering what he does with his free time, if he has favorite drives, burger joints, or places he likes to show visiting friends. (Could have made some good “Best Of” material come December.)

And apparently the answer to our urban-legend question—“Is there any nugget of truth to the tale that after a day in the studio you would hop in your car and drive a particular route along a stretch of Lake Minnetonka and, if the music from that day’s recording didn’t sound the way you wanted by that stretch, you’d toss the tape into the drink?”—will remain an urban legend.

Q: As a fan I agree, “You’re not back”—you’ve always been here and have continued to make great music. It seems it’s more that the general public is back as fans, and so is the buzz. The Grammys, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame awards, Musicology, the tour, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone . . . How are you feeling about all of this?

A: The people getting hip 2 r sounds now r either brand new or bored with the overproduced lip-synchers the gatekeepers keep shoving down their throats. People want real music again. The pendulum has come full-circle. Hopefully, we r on the brink of another golden age.  

Q: I recently heard Jimmy Jam speak at a breakfast for MacPhail Center for Music, and he talked about the importance of music education. He also referenced the opportunities kids like him—and he mentioned you specifically—had because there was music in the Minneapolis public schools when you were both kids. He told how the two of you met through these programs. How would kids’ lives be different if more music was available in schools? And do you have any of your own initiatives in this area?

A: Schools across the nation could all use a massive overhaul as far as music education is concerned. Education should b fun, and music is one of the ways 2 accomplish this. The classics should b studied and discussed. When we say classics, we mean not only Mozart but MOTOWN . . . not only Beethoven but Ellington . . . Stravinsky AND Stevie—Wonder, that is!

Q: We once were known nationally for the Minneapolis Sound. Are you paying attention to what’s happening here? Is anything happening? What needs to happen to cultivate a strong local music scene?

A: Very good question. Glad u asked. Nothing is happening here at the moment because radio and television r not local anymore. Playlists come from programmers who work 4 Clear Channel or one of the other national companies. We haven’t had a top-ten record in Minneapolis in ten years because we have chose the independent route instead of being owned by a “major.” Give radio and television back 2 the people and let them decide what is popular instead of breast-feeding them and u will have a music scene again. Ah . . . feel so much better now.

Q: Are there any concerns you have about the current status of our cities?

A: Sooner or later, every society will have 2 ask of its citizens what it means 2 b nationalistic or patriotic. What xactly does Minnesota stand 4? How did it get so divided on so many issues and will it ever b the land of one people with one agenda? The current system leaves much 2 b desired. While some folks prosper, the majority r left 2 wander aimlessly without ever realizing what it means 2 b free, self-employed and spiritually fulfilled. The sooner we address these issues 2gether as a community, the sooner we c the result—2gether.