467: Dead On It

The Black Album (1987)
A problematic song for Prince and one often thrown back at him when he later embraced hip-hop. It’s a diss track. Not on any particular rapper, but on ALL of them. He derided their lack of musical ability which is best summed up in the lines “the rapper’s problem usually stem from being tone deaf” and “what does that have to do with the funk?”. Deep down I don’t think he ever changed his position on this – understandable from such a musical polymath – but he later excused the track saying it was only ever aimed at rappers of that period having nothing to say, with Public Enemy and NWA since changing the landscape. It’s true that he went on to work with Chuck D and Ice Cube but he also went on to release the lyrically vacuous Jughead so that argument has thin legs. Where Dead On It fails as a diss track is that Prince’s own rap suffers from the kind of cadence that blighted a lot of 80s hip-hop (and certainly on pastiches of it). It should make my critical ear cringe but, like Blondie’s Rapture or even Alphabet Street, it has an outsider charm. And as for the music – the beats are hewn from the finest Schoolly D stone and Prince’s guitar-licks funk with the power of a hundred James Brown samples. It’s just unfortunate that by the time The Black Album was officially released seven years later hip-hop had its first golden age under its belt and Prince and the NPG were playing catch-up, making the message an embarrassing albatross for him.