Recently I was thrilled to present at another Prince symposium organized by the incredible De Angela Duff and her team of Arthur Turnbull and Krysta Battersby. This was the second year that the symposium was virtual, and despite a few hiccups with the hosting platform, it was a smooth experience. The topics? Controversy at 40 years, Diamonds and Pearls at 30, and The Rainbow Children at 20. Thus: 1+1+1=3.
So these are three of my favorite Prince albums–ranking favorites is almost impossible; I can more easily tell you which Prince albums I dislike (hello, Chaos and Disorder)–but I went with a presentation on The Rainbow Children to push along my research about Prince’s evolving class consciousness. “Deconstruction: Work and Racial Capitalism in The Rainbow Children” situates the album in Prince’s critique of capitalism as uniquely exploitative of Black folks, indigenous folks, and other people of color. The “work” he talks about on the album (i.e., “The Work, Pt. 1”) must begin with the deconstruction of false media and its narratives–and I tried to show how this continued on his song “Avalanche” from the One Nite Alone album, which was recorded while TRC was being mastered.
De Angela has already uploaded my talk. You can watch it below. Please consider visiting her channel to watch some of the other presentations and roundtables, which were incredible.
Also, the always on-point Erica Thompson–who was one of the weekend’s presenters–has posted a great recap of 1+1+1=3 on her site. Check it out! She captures everything more comprehensively than I could, but let me also give praise to the panel with C. Liegh McInnis, Kamilah Cummings, Mark Anthony Neal–whose work on the contemporary traditions and evolutions of Black American music is must-read stuff–and Harold Pride, who blew away everyone with a crazy-good multimedia presentation on the influence of go-go music on Prince.
Also, I want to give credit where it’s due and point out that Zaheer Ali, a moderator this year, presented on the topic of Prince and racial capitalism way before I did, and here is the proof.
Lastly, I had a few things to say on Twitter about Prince scholarship and the passively antagonistic stance taken by the Prince Estate, which you can read by clicking on the tweet below. (I tried unroll the entire thread here but it doesn’t show up correctly.)