Friday, April 22, 2016

My Life As A Non-Conformist Began With A Prince Song

The immortal Prince in one of my favorite eras of his life.

Prince was the epitome of non-compliance and it was his music that inspired my non-compliant spirit starting at the age of 8. I used to sing "I Wanna Be Your Lover" at the top of lungs.  Most often signing with no recourse until my dad heard me one day and asked me if I knew what I was singing. At age 8, I clearly had no idea what "I wanna be the only one you come for, yeah" really meant.  My dad told me he did not want to hear me singing that "garbage" ever again, with little explanation why.  So I remember nodding and waiting until he went to work to scream the lyrics at the top of my lungs and dared our babysitter to stop me.  No matter what anyone said to me, I was listening to that song and all the others from that man with a one word name. And non-conformity has been a brand attribute of mine ever since. Here's the three reasons I will forever be grateful that Prince touched my life.

Rules As Suggestions

Prince was known to push the limits and saw rules and regulations as suggestions only. His life overall is a walking example of nonconformity but let's just focus on his music. Every time someone put a label on his music, he reinvented his sound. He even took the same music and made it cross every genre imaginable and some say he had his own genre altogether. Even the way he executed in the music business was unheard of. From being the youngest producer at Warner Bros at the age of 19 to changing his name to protect his copyrights to releasing music independently of a label long before the internet, Prince busted up every rule of the music industry and wrote his own. Clearly, there were some constraints thrust upon him throughout his music career but his ingenuity transcended each and every one.

His Own Brand Of Black

Prince is my perfect example of how to be Black. Stop for a minute and look at his style and the way he presented himself to the world. Seeing all the images of him the last 24 hours reminded me of how he literally lived his life as Black man like no other. At the time he entered the music scene, most Black artists had a look and sound that was familiar and  "trademarked Black." Enter this light skinned, petite bodied man from Minneapolis who busted the paradigm for what Black music was and what a Black artist could do. Then he elevated his story with his movie Purple Rain and told a different view of Black life that was not being told widely at that time. I cannot recall anyone ever questioning his Blackness. I mean, he began his 2007 Super Bowl performance in a do-rag.  But as a light skinned, gender bending, multiple genre rock star, he elevated what Black in America could be and pushed  and challenged traditional Black narratives daily. Until his death, he continued to drive issues that impacted Black lives all while living his own story of Blackness.

Clearly He Loved Himself

If there was ever a person who accepted himself fully, I have to believe it was Prince. The sheer courage to be who he was at all times was unprecedented. Again, the imagery we have witnessed across the almost 40 year career is a self-love display. Interview after interview, I've watched him talk about love as a centerpiece of life. His documented generosity to countless charities uplifting those without a voice. His political activism - both the subtle and outspoken - for decades against injustice. Love for others, especially marginalized people, only comes from a deep sense of acceptance and love of oneself. Prince lived his life fully and wholly accepting of who he was which made him a gracious and genuine lover of others.

As I reflect on my life- especially now during a particularly tough personal season - each and every one of those attributes of Prince have permeated my life as well. It only upon his passing that I realize how much he influenced those traits in me throughout my life. Prince lit the way for this non-compliant, fearless leader. Thank you. May you rest in Power.