154: P Control

The Gold Experience (1995) / Crystal Ball (1998)
I first heard this song half my lifetime ago. Since then, with the majority of my cells replaced, I’ve become on a molecular level a whole different person. But the thoughts and emotions I experienced then will forever be part of my make-up. Adolescence and early adulthood is such a rich time for the universe to shape your soul. It’s when we are pushed out into the adult world to fend for ourselves and need to be armed with as much information about this strange terrain as possible. We become rabid consumers of music, film and literature, and are at our most susceptible to art penetrating our defences and leaving its mark. Life will never be as vibrant and illuminating again. If I came across P Control for the first time today I’d file it as one of Prince’s lesser-successful club hip hop experiments. His first release under his new symbol but a continuation of what his birth name had done for two albums already. But back then I was at the start of my journey of hoovering up everything he ever put out. I was playing catch-up. I borrowed The Gold Experience CD from the local library and played it for the first time, having no detailed context for how this fitted into his oeuvre. My entire Prince collection consisted of two recently bought 80s albums – 1999 and Purple Rain – and this was my first dive into something more contemporary. The opening track started with Emerson, Lake & Palmer synths announcing a Fanfare for the Expectant Fan. A snippet of a guitar riff and a foreign tongue kept me guessing which direction it would take and then BOOM! The beat starts and I’m being spoken to in a familiar language. A Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics rap that immediately connected and told me Prince was still relevant. I didn’t need repeated listens to acquire the apparatus to digest this. It was instant nutrition. The raw thrill of that first encounter still lingers with me. Twitter storms and broadsheet thinkpieces can debate whether the lyrics are empowering or demeaning (the word pussy may have once had enough of a wink to crop up in pre-watershed sitcom catchphrases and Bond films, yet the track isn’t that old) but my early exposure means I’ll still scream along with every single word.