Black Artists Pay Tribute To Prince

By Sameer Rao Apr 22, 2016

We have to confess: we’re not over Prince’s passing. And neither are the legions of Black artists, across disciplines and generations, who felt his influence.

Colorlines’ Editorial Director Akiba Solomon said it well in our tribute yesterday (April 21):

He changed our ideas about what a man—a Black man—could be with his permed bouffant, lacy shirts, unitards and high heels. …When he changed his name to that symbol not found in any language to protest his record contract, and he came on "The Today Show," with "slave" written on his face, Prince sparked a transformational discussion about how record companies treat artists, especially Black ones.

Many of the Black artists—musicians, filmmakers, thespians and beyond—who live in the world Prince permanently changed paid their own tributes to The Purple One yesterday. Director Spike Lee‘s event—an open party at his offices that ultimately spilled out onto the street—was probably the most epic: 


Drummer and producer Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson has a long history with Prince, singing the legend’s praises in his 2013 memoir "Mo’ Meta Blues" and sharing a hilarious interaction with him in an Okayplayer animated video earlier this year. After tweeting "I can’t fucking breathe right now" yesterday, he shared details for a late-night all-Prince DJ set in Brooklyn, along with another crazy Prince story: 


Ok so around the time when all 7 or 8 shows were goin down MSG & Jersey, P was doing an after jawn at The D’arby on 14th I believe (could be 23rd) but NYCers that’s down knew it as Nell’s. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings were on the stage and I inched my way to the VIP section. Bout 3 songs in I heard that voice: that "Chili Sauce" Uptown pimp voice most of us thought was Morris on those records (because NO WAY Prince had a sense of humor right?)—-"Ohh laaaawdt! What?! Brotha is CLEEEAN! Brotha is cleannnnn!!!"—-mind you most of y’all used to lego hearts and bow ties and black jackets and shirts, but America wasn’t used to seeing me in a suit all that much. Much less Prince (not like I’d expect him to be watching Jimmy’s show to know I’d been rocking a suit for near 2 years now) but he was baffled at me in a suit (didn’t wanna be late for the show so I ran to concert in my show outfit) next thing I knew "man too sharp too sharp"—he gives m—sorry tipped me $50bucks. I laughed "huh what for?" He gave me dap and said "cause you clean!!!!!!!"—-part two of that story was 10 mins later, keyboardist for #NPG @CassyQtKeys (Cassandra O’Neal) came over long faced & was like "um Ahmir that was MY per diem can I please have my $50 bucks back?" I was like "Cass, he don’t do autographs, this is the closest thing to an autograph I can get! My hero just gave me dap for looking sharp! I can’t give this back to you but I tell you what"—ran outside to ATM & gave her 5 $20s for understanding & letting me keep that 50. That 50 will forever hang up above my studio drumset.

A photo posted by Questlove Gomez (@questlove) on


Erykah Badu shared her own recollections, including on about Prince playing rhythm guitar at a small hometown gig, in a Facebook post:

Even Frank Ocean broke his silence with a Tumblr post, saying that Prince "made me feel more comfortable with how I identify sexually simply by his display of freedom from and irreverence for obviously archaic ideas like gender conformity etc."

Besides them, myriad artists took to social media with their own memories and reflections:


A photo posted by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on


(H/t The Hollywood Reporter