Prince Was My Mentor And My Inspiration

Prince passed away yesterday.

My business shut down to honor what will become a holiday for Karasi Media Group. I went live on Periscope, put my feelings on camera for posterity and just captured a glimmer of what I felt in that moment.

And all of that grief yesterday made me wake up this morning to a phone call that I just knew was an emergency.

It wasn’t, I breathed a sigh of relief but I had forgotten for just a second, that one of my biggest influences had died. Until I remembered and it brought me down to earth again.prince-mentor

I don’t know how many of you loved Prince like I did and to be quite frank, it’s hard to even put in words what he meant because even after I went live in my Facebook group and on Periscope, there was still so much more to say that I didn’t think of and didn’t share. It’s hard to process the stages of grief quickly. It’s almost like telling your feelings they don’t have a right to be there because you didn’t know this man personally. But none of that makes sense to emotion. Logic and emotion clearly don’t reside on the same street, heck I doubt if they live in the same state.

Grief looks like going grocery shopping and almost crying in the checkout line. So much so, The Kid said, “Mommie, are you ok?” and I had to try pull myself together.

Grief looks like combing through your gazillion records to find some of his and flipping through a book of cds you had to go into the attic to find to get the rest of them. Grief looks like logging back into your daughter’s Tidal account just to take back all of the things you said about the latest album and try to love on every single track you hear his voice on.

Grief looks like a lesson in holding on even after someone else has let go.

I have had hard times since my mom passed away in 2006 but in that grocery store line – in that moment, all I could think is, “I want my mom,” and the fact that she too is inaccessible to me in corporeal form pulled me down a level. I had to be careful here because this was starting to be more than grief; it was the beginning of depression – and I know those signs all too well.

So we got back in the car and even though it was raining and a bit chilly out, I rolled our windows down [because tonight The Kid has no choice in being warm or having 60 degree winds blowing into her face ] and bumped “One Kiss At a Time” so my neighbors in suburbia would “…Know tahday” that my mentor was gone. I could care less about their quiet time or little Jimmy’s bedtime…they were gonna hear it like I was 18 again and this was 1996.

I don’t know if you remember the time that Prince came out…it was literally 1978, the year I was born. I was raised in New York before being forcibly removed and slave raised in South Carolina. In New York, in the 80s, we listened to everything. You’d walk down the street and hear latin music coming from the bodegas, you would hear rap from the boom boxes on people’s shoulders, on the bus, on the train and everyone was themselves. Lace covered gloves, knee high socks, short booty cutters on men and women, glitter, lace shirts…unisex and nothing off limits. Cyndi Lauper was my favorite artist back then because of “Girls just want to have fun”…heck, I was a girl and all I wanted to do was double dutch on the sidewalk all day. School was easy but it took up such a chunk of my day… I could be walking down the street and running my hands across the same chain link fence as Tina Turner in the What’s Love Got to Do With It video but naw, I was stuck at school.  Radio stations up north played EVERYTHING, there wasn’t such segregation in music genres. Music videos had just started becoming a thing and I had just seen Michael Jackson step on glowing cement. Being yourself in NY was and still is celebrated and I loved that. Want to prance around in a princess dress in NY and you have a full on beard, cool…he’s eclectic. Want to wear a leather mini-skirt in your 40s…hey whatevs. You could be you and no one stopped to make you feel bad about yourself for it.

But then we moved to the south.

Land of the Cover Up and Show People What they Want to See. Where there were negro spirituals and a suppression of spirit. I don’t know why it was so hard to hear diverse music in the south but all we heard were songs that came from a canned playlist of ‘good music’, talking about hard times and heart aches. I didn’t realize it then but it seemed like we were in a time warp. All we had were basic channels and I spent most of my time with an NBA lineup of cousins and aunts, uncles and grandparents. If an adult or your older cousin wanted to watch something on the 1 tv there was, then hey that’s what was on and that’s what happened. If you didn’t have a cassette player and some headphones then you were just watching what was on or listening to it in the background while you fought over crayons and coloring sheets.

We moved into our own trailer – hold the glory that was great. I would do my chores and have a bit of freedom with what was played in the house or what was being watched. There were two of us, me and my older brother and our mom was always at work. My brother, having spent the majority of HIS life in NY had friends who shared with him what was hot. HE was the one that helped me discover some good music…and I still have most of his records. One day I was in the kitchen, sweeping a floor no bigger than a postage stamp and the RADIO…yes, the RADIO that only played negro spirituals, the blues and slow R&B played, “Kiss.”

The opening lick of the guitar caught me and by the time he hit that “Unh!” I was captivated.

It was the first song I’d ever heard of Prince’s and it mesmerized me. I started dancing and didn’t even know what the words were. I had never seen the video and I slid across the floor at some point on my knees with the broom. I was 8 years old. Half of what he was saying didn’t make sense but the idea that a man wanted to be a fantasy to me was appealing and all he wanted was a kiss. Hey, he wasn’t asking much. Then he wanted to dance…why sure, don’t mind if I do. I even threw a modified Electric Slide into the mix.

When I finally got around to seeing the video, I couldn’t believe he’d hijacked some of my dance moves (and I am rhythmless so, you know that I had some real audacity thinking that, lol.) But by that time I’d recorded the song on my tape player and I knew all the words so while he pranced, I pranced and when he shimmied, I shimmied and I sang the words at the top of my lungs.

This was my first glimpse of Prince and I wasn’t really sure how to feel but I knew he was gorgeous. When I watched Purple Rain {one of four movies that I own} for the first time I was transcended beyond the music. Over the years, I’ve seen Graffitti Bridge and Under the Cherry Moon – movies he put out and the music – I listened to the music. I own about 14 albums. In Prince’s music, there was so much more depth than any other artist I’ve ever listened to; he made me feel [so many emotions] and I learned lessons.

You know I love it when I learn a good lesson.

He didn’t do a lot of interviews but every time I saw one, his intelligence and understanding of the world was so evident in the way he spoke and what he chose to speak about.

He showed me what it was to spark a revolution.

A revolution of self and changing the world around you.

He showed me what it meant to have a tribe of people who have your back no matter what decision you make as long as they can be in the presence of your brilliance.

He showed me it was ok to be my artsy fartsy, eclectic, self.

  • Even if that means going to school on a teacher’s workday in a DIY crafted T-shirt  in preparation for an American Idol audition only to look at your reflection in the mirror moments before getting into the car to go two exits up and realize you look 10 shades of crazy and you would never want that to be immortalized on tv.
  • Even if that means you go through a spoken word poet phase to get through the feelings of inadequacy and pain of your sexual abuse.
  • Even if that means you write out words of grief in your childhood bedroom the day you finally awaken to the fact that your mother is dying in the next room and by nightfall of the next day she has ascended to heaven.
  • Even if….that means your family doesn’t understand you.

He Taught Me to Never Apologize for My Gifts…and Never to Waste Them.

Never Apologize for the Artistry that is You.

Never Whisper When You Want to Wail.

Never Take a Trip Down to the Holy River in your Talks with God and Refuse to Be Baptized.

And it all started when I saw him gyrating to Kiss on my screen to stumbling on to his first recorded performance ever, to seeing him scribble “SLAVE” on the side of his face and perform out the end of his contract with Warner Brothers… to the Love Symbol name change… to the socially charged lyrics that made you also nod your head with his world view.

His lyrics are timeless.

“What’s wrong with the world today? Things just got to get better….Show me what the leaders say, maybe we should write a letter. Dear Mr. Man…Matthew 5:5 says ‘the meek shall inherit the earth’…aint nothing fair about welfare, aint no assistance in AIDs…we want to end this letter with three words, ‘we tired a’yall’ ” – Lyrics from Dear Mr. Man, Musicology by Prince in 2005

Tell me that’s not how you feel RIGHT NOW about this ensuing presidential election? Where are the truly viable candidates that won’t rape and pillage from America?

He was a forward thinking artist, think “1999” in 1982.

He was “woke” and I loved being a part of the crew of people who enjoyed what he gave of himself to us. So many artists have fans but I never strayed from who I was a fan of – I may like an artist’s music but there was only one male favorite that I’ve held since I knew what a kiss was.

And the elegant thing is, he seemed to take his responsibility of being an influencer seriously.

I don’t want to know about your home life if you’re an artist. I just want to know about your art life, thanks. Too many artists get out here and give us an over-share and I’m not here for it. Let me find out that you were a wife beater or a giant coke head after we see the movie {none of this is a reference to Prince, by the way}.

I don’t want your real life to taint the genius I believe you are while I’m trying to enjoy the music { see Ceelo Green, R. Kelly, Erykah Badu, Chris Brown, etc. } Hide it in the music. Let me be mad at a song rather than disgusted with the real life you. Take a cue here from Prince, celebrity folks, and delete your Twitter and Instagram accounts, thanks. We knew NOTHING Prince didn’t want us to know. He must have had the non-disclosure agreement from heck when you start working for him. His music was DELETED from the INTeRNet for goodness sake…even from fan sites… the man was a tour-de-force.

He played SO MANY instruments, wrote songs, produced himself, made other stars. He was amazing and I got the privilege of growing up watching and listening to him. He played the hell out of his music and gave you way more than you paid for – he was a humanitarian and you knew nothing until the day his lids closed for the last time. Wow.

I’m in awe.

And let’s not mention (of course I’d mention it, I’d be remiss to not do so) the fact that after his legendary split from Warner Brothers, he PIONEERED on the interwebs. He started his own music group and sold his music (WITHOUT MAJOR DISTRIBUTION) in that music group for a good bit before shutting it down, doing it again and shutting that down, too. He was INDEFREAKINGPENDENT because he was Prince.

  • And guess who got their rights back to all of their music? Prince.
  • Guess who was the FIRST artist to ever have a number 1 single AND movie simultaneously on the charts? Prince.
  • Guess who INSTIGATED the need for a parental advisory sticker on music? Prince.
  • Guess who was WRITING SONGS in text shorthand LONG before we had texting or pager abilities? Prince.
  • Guess who was the first artist to bundle his cd with his concert ticket sales? Anyone? Yep, Prince.

Prince wrote:

  • Round and Round (sung by Tevin Campbell)
  • Manic Monday (sung by the Bangles)
  • I Feel For You (sung by Chaka Khan)
  • Co-Wrote Love Song (sung by Madonna)
  • With this Tear (Celine Dion)
  • Nothing Compares to You (Sinead O’Connor)
  • When You Were Mine (Cyndi Lauper)
  • Sugar Walls (Sheena Easton)
  • And sooooo many more

Guess who Raspberry Berets all over your favorite icon? Prince.

Yep…that pretty much sums it up.

Yesterday I mourned Prince and I’m still grieving in my spirit but today I’m celebrating him. We often see death as a loss for those of us that are left behind, it really is but it’s also a celebration. He has transcended to a better place (that’s what The Kid said yesterday when she came home to find me in a fetal ball on the couch crying) and I now have to honor that. I’m grateful that God blessed him so abundantly to carry out the mission of his calling and that we were the souls who got to be soothed and prodded into action by his words, his ideas, his humanitarian efforts for social justice and his musicianship.