We all know that Prince is responsible for creating an outrageous music legacy for himself. By producing, arranging, and composing the majority of his own songs throughout his career (a right he secured and negotiated through the terms of a deal with Warner Brothers at age 17), Prince managed to release songs and albums that were truly reflective of the artist he desired to be. What few people realize is that besides ensuring creative control of his own recordings, “Prince also insisted on a clause in his major-label contract that would enable him to recruit and produce other artists for the label.” (http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/94060-the-minneapolis-sound/). Prince essentially became an artist, producer, and A&R representative all at once. As a result, elements of Prince’s act (his sound and his look) always seemed to be transferred to the artists with which he worked. Prince was responsible for sparking a sonic movement in the late 70’s – The Minneapolis Sound – and it was characterized by the successful mixture of new technologies with the more familiar elements of the funk, rock, New Wave, and pop genres.
What did Prince do that was so groundbreaking? Most notably, Prince took advantage of the new technology that was available and recorded each part of the song (and each instrument) himself for each track. Synths replaced horn sections, and the bass lines in his tunes were not as heavy as they traditionally are in funk songs.
Prince pioneered this type of sped-up, manufactured rhythm (often made with the Roland TR-808 drum machine); these songs also typically had some type of rock-guitar solo during the bridge. That was “The Prince” type of song, and he wrote variations of this formula for artists such as Cherrelle, Vanity 6 (6 referring to the number of breasts there were in the group, i.e., two for each woman), The Time, Sheila E., Andre Cymone, and others (http://www.allmusic.com/explore/essay/the-minneapolis-sound-t2161).
One of the first groups Prince helped establish was The Time with his high school buddy Morris Day. The story goes that Prince made Morris the lead singer of The Time because Morris had previously written a song for Prince, “Partyup”, that appeared on Prince’s album Dirty Mind (http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/94060-the-minneapolis-sound/). Although Prince wrote most of the songs for The Time over the course of a few albums, it is important to note that Morris Day wrote “777-9311” – which ended up being one of the group’s first hit singles (and is also the song sampled on Tupac’s “What’s Ya Phone Number”).
And then there was Purple Rain, which propelled The Minneapolis Sound even further into popularity. Groups that were not even from Minneapolis, like Ready For The World and The Jets, started borrowing a little bit of Minnesota for their singles. After Prince fired Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis from The Time, the duo took the synth sound to a little gal named Janet – Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty – and the rest is history. Janet did quite a few songs in the Minneapolis style; you can even hear J.J. scream “Minneapolis!” during the bridge of her song “Escapade”.
Check out some of the hits made in the style of The Minneapolis Sound and see if you can hear the similarities between the tracks. You certainly cannot miss the physical similarities of the artists Prince worked with…. For he made them in his image.
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