It’s one thing to be a Prince fan. It’s a whole other thing to be a Prince friend, contemporary or a student. When you talk to people who knew and worked with His Purple Highness, you begin to see why he will be missed for much more than his music.
“He taught me so much and asked nothing in return,” reveals Anita Baker, who is the same age as Prince and came up in the industry alongside him. “He was ahead of his time and could see beyond all barriers and false boundaries. He saw a place where art could support the artist who created it via ownership and licensing. I call him my sensei.”
Others, such as Kid Capri, actually worked for Prince at various nightclubs. Capri used to spin at Prince’s club in Las Vegas. He also mix-mastered for Prince in Minneapolis.
“He did things for people that he didn’t want anyone to know about,” offers up Capri, who remembers Prince sitting in the deejay booth for an entire set, just observing before finally telling Capri that he learned something by watching. “Such a big loss. I remember spinning for him where Purple Rain was made … He would pay for people’s [recording] sessions, for those artists who didn’t have.He would pay their rent. If you were not doing well, he would reach out and nobody would know. As big as he was in real life, he was a regular dude when you saw him.”
Students of Prince learned from him a way to monetize and own their work, as discussed by DJ M.O.S., a high-profile deejay who has worked with all sorts of celebs, including Donald Trump before the presidential run.
“He paved that way for people for artists to own their own music and that’s what Beyoncé and Drake are doing now,” explains M.O.S., born Masud Semple. “This year is gonna go down in history as one of the darkest years for music.”
The pain hits harder when viewed in conjunction with the other stars who have recently passed on as well. Phife Dawg. George Duke. Glenn Frye. Maurice White. David Bowie. Natalie Cole. Baker doesn’t belabor this point, her only statement a quiet one, punctuating the heavy musical losses.
“Too much,” Baker says. “Too much.”
Adrienne Samuels Gibbs is a Chicago-based writer. Follow her @adriennewrites.