Questlove Remembers Prince & Says “He Was More Hip-Hop Than Anyone”
For decades, Questlove has unabashedly worn his fandom of Prince on his metaphorical purple sleeve. The Roots Crew drummer and music savant has referenced His Royal Badness countless times in interviews and, it was that shared mutual love that helped to forge a bond between Quest and D’Angelo. On the night of Prince’s death last week (April 21), though he was undoubtedly hurting like all other Prince fans, it was Quest who provided salve for a very fortunate few, with an hours-long Prince set of hits, deep cuts, rarities and favorites, at the Brooklyn Bowl. Now, the man born Ahmir Thompson turns to his pen for further catharsis.
Today (April 25), Quest released an essay about Prince, via Rolling Stone, that details his relationship with Prince’s music, and, to a lesser degree, the man, himself. One of the most poignant issues he addresses is Prince’s connection to Hip-Hop, saying that it ” has been the subject of much scrutiny, and more than a little mockery,” before boldly proclaiming that “at heart, he was more Hip-Hop than anyone.”
Quest explains his statement in great detail, using both specifics and metaphors. He starts with the album 1999, his introduction to Prince, saying “Think of 1999 again — or rather 1982. It was such a banner year for the use of drum machines, from Arthur Baker to Afrika Bambaataa. Prince’s programming work on 1999 was beyond anything I had ever heard, just as innovative as the best Hip-Hop producers in the years to come: the Bomb Squad, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Dr. Dre, A Tribe Called Quest, J Dilla.”
Later, Quest talks about Prince’s attitude and the commonalities it shared with the genre with which Ahmir is most closely associated, asserting “Prince was an outlaw. When he was giving interviews on the regular to Cynthia Horner in Right On! magazine, he was telling tall tales left and right. That was Hip-Hop.” He also lists several behaviors exhibited by Prince that exuded the essence of the culture. “He built a crew, a posse, around his look and his sense of style. That was Hip-Hop. He had beef (with Rick James). He had his own vanity label (Paisley Park). He had parents up in arms over the content of his songs to the point where they had to invent the Parental Advisory warning. Hip-Hop, Hip-Hop, Hip-Hop,” he writes.
In addition to painting his graffiti bridge between Prince and Hip-Hop, Quest shares some poignant and personal memories about how Prince shaped him as a man, citing Prince as the inspiration for his work ethic, as well as some anecdotes about his relationship with Prince. It is written from the perspective of both a fan and a Prince scholar. His full essay can be found at Rolling Stone.