We All Wanna Be Prince The Purple Ones Impact On Dance Music

We All Wanna Be Prince: Exploring The Purple One’s Impact on Dance Music

October 4, 2013
By Michaelangelo Matos

"Walk around like you're bigger than Prince," Curtis A. Jones mutters on his current club hit in his Green Velvet guise. At first "Bigger Than Prince" sounds like it's throwing shade, but it's actually advice – this is how you get past people talking smack about you on YouTube, or anyplace else that, as Jones puts it, "what they say is cra-zay." (That word choice is itself another Prince-related nod: "Crazay" was a 1986 single by former Time guitarist Jesse Johnson, featuring Sly Stone.)

The admonition is funny anyway. Partly that's because it's widely believed that Prince Rogers Nelson is only five feet two inches tall when he isn't wearing the heels in which he typically walks around. And partly it"s because the original track is a dead ringer for the Minneapolis auteur's iconic mid-'80s sound – a flat downbeat with swinging accents programmed on a LinnDrum, spooky synths that recall the spacier moments of 1999 and, at one point, near-directly quote Apollonia 6's "Sex Shooter."

Go ahead and call "Bigger Than Prince" mere dance-music retromania; it's certainly shameless enough. But it's hardly alone. There's Apollonia, the French label of Shonky, Dyed Soundorom and Dan Ghenacia, named for Prince's lover in the movie Purple Rain; its first issue in February 2012, by Shonky, was a EP called The Minneapolis Touch. Three years earlier, Chicagoan Felix Da Housecat issued a single whose title laid it out plainly: "We All Wanna Be Prince."

But moreover, this is all part of a longstanding tradition. Electronic dance music has been steeped in Prince since the beginning, and as the post-house/techno diaspora has spun out in all directions, his DNA has gone with it. In U.K. hardcore, an exhortatory "Let’s Go Crazy" sample ignites the fuel of Warp-style bleeps, dancehall vocals, and rattling breakbeats in Ragga Twins' "Hooligan 69" – produced by Shut Up and Dance, and one of the first fissions that led to drum & bass.

The iconic dubstep-and-beyond label Hyperdub kicked off in 2006 with "Sine of the Dub," Kode9's weed-drenched cover of "Sign 'O' the Times." Shortly down the same line, Bristol dubstep producer Joker dubbed his gleaming-neon synth sound "purple" – Prince's signature color. Appropriately, Joker & Ginz' lurching 2009 dubstep anthem "Purple City" featured linoleum-piercing keyboards that could have been swiped off the work tapes for "Jack U Off" or "D.M.S.R.." Whatever his position in the pop market at a given time, Prince has been a constant in dance culture from the beginning.

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