The first third of 2016 has been a bittersweet symphony for music lovers from within and outside the Hip Hop community, having left several beacons of musical genius deceased within the blink of an eye. Since January, the untimely losses of David Bowie, Phife Dawg, Maurice White of Earth, Wind, and Fire, and Prince have made Hip Hop lovers celebrate their music by playing their favorite tunes from these artists.
For those who consider themselves Hip Hop purists, the open handed slaps of funk grooves and transcendence of rock and R&B from Prince have imminently influenced their record collections. The musicality of these artists was integral for the development of our favorite artists and deejays, and legendary radio personalities such as Kool DJ Red Alert.
The Harlem-born Universal Zulu Nation pioneer and Native Tongue patriarch has fond experiences of the aforementioned artists that he holds close to him like we all do when we learn of the departed. In an exclusive interview with HipHopDX, Uncle Red takes us back to Hip Hop culture’s formative years when party deejays and Hip Hop radio jocks in New York City broadened the scope of their music predilections to Prince.
“When you heard Prince, he brought a whole different pattern compared to the norm. I remember in the beginning stages of Hip Hop, you were willing to listen to something new, edgy, and interesting. Yes we were digging through our elders record collection, but we still kept our ears open to the next thing that was coming along. So even If you have collected some of the early Prince songs that he made, and going into late seventies with “I Wanna Be Your Lover” to later in the early 80s with “Pop Life” and the [Purple Rain] movie, we in the Hip Hop culture were not captivated by the movie really, but we were captivated by the sound. With what he was doing, we tapped into that.”
'In my opinion, between me, [Universal Zulu Nation DJs] Afrika Islam, and Jazzy Jay, we loved the beginning of Prince’s “Hot Thing” [from his Sign O’ The Times album]. “Hot Thing” was a song in the beginning where it had the first eight to sixteen bars, that drive you had to keep cutting it up over and over. A lot of people who tuned into my mixshows and parties we spun didn’t even know it was a Prince song because we cut it up so much. Another song later on in the years that people used to look at me like I was crazy for singing “You sexy motherfucker.” But they didn’t figure out that I was really singing Prince’s song.'
'He had a knack for doing things and making music in a way that grabbed your attention. Instead of listening to his obvious hits, we deejays and Hip Hop lovers made you want to listen to the other stuff he made. And in the early 90s, “Seven” was another song I played a lot on my mixshow. My program director at the time used to ask me “Yo, why you playing that?” I would tell him, “Yo, that’s the shit!” Even though it may not have fit their format, whenever Prince came to New York and the radio station was promoting one of their concerts, me playing that song helped them lead to selling it out. That’s my job to deliver what I believe in.'