What Would Prince Do?

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My next blog was going to be about the rough patches in life, how they are necessary and how they shape us for our own personal victories but something else occurred and shook my world as an artist. The untimely death of Prince. So, I’m going to reserve the planned blog for another time and go where my heart is leading me.

Prince has been a huge part of my life, maybe even a bit more than Michael Jackson, as Prince’s musical genius has been with me throughout my artistic development. It is more apparent to me in his death than I had allowed myself to see. Isn’t it sad how we often realize people’s significance when they are gone? Despite that sad fact, I often, through my adult career, have covered his songs. If not in shows, than at home while working on vocal exploration. I owe the love of this man and his music to my cousin, Gena. My cousin was the ultimate Prince fan. So much so, that she owned more than one Purple Rain album. One that had been played so much that it skipped and another that was working. WE were not allowed to touch either one. It was a running joke in the family to run for the LPs, even the covers alone, in an attempt to touch them in front of her and then run for our lives as she chased us out of retaliation. She didn’t play with her Prince. She played that album religiously, and being the captain of her high school dance team, she would often do routines from the film in the living room or her troupe would dance on the porch and I would join in as we sang and danced our brains out! Often, when she was gone, I would sneak to the secret hiding places where she kept the albums and just stare in awe at the artwork, the colors, his expression and feel the power of holding it in my hand. I was no more than 6 or 7 so I was not really supposed to watch the movie, as I was too young to see the sexual gyrations and innuendo in the film, but I found my way around that as well. LOL

Those memories are so deeply etched in my mind that even now, at 33, I can be transported back to that living room with my cousin and those LPs. There were many other musical memories, of course, but none that stand out like those of Prince. I remember when I was old enough to purchase my own copy of Purple Rain on VHS, how I felt so empowered and as if I had somehow defied the Gods in being able to have my own copy. I still have that VHS tape, which I played last night in homage to one of my musical heroes.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, we are here to get through this thing called life. – Prince

It was not until I was 13 years old, that I started writing songs of my own. Prince has greatly influenced my ability to craft a song or stories put to music. His ability to create poetic and symbolic visuals of pain, love or sacrifice shaped my writing greatly. I have yet to hear any song that can be played in the club while still having religious undertones, other than Prince’s “I Would Die For You.” Do you know who rare that is?! Even my ability to be very straight forward in my sexuality lyrically were due to his influence. He had no boundaries, as his music was a reflection of the full human experience. Sex, love, joy, pain, fear, God, peace. He mirrored all these things.  When I went through times of writers’ block or depletion of faith in myself, I would go back and explore his music. I would relish in the beauty of his creativity, individuality and how he touched not only myself but the world. I always thought to myself, “God, I would love to write songs like that or meet him one day”. Instead of rocking out with him on stage, I would rock out on stage alone covering “I Would Die For You”, “Purple Rain”,  “The Beautiful Ones”, “I Wanna Be Your Lover ” and “How Come You Don’t Call Me?”. In 2014, I even found myself doing “I Wanna Be Your Lover” one night, unbeknownst to me, in front of Sheila E. She came up to me shortly after and said, “That was the best cover of that song I’ve heard yet and I heard many versions. Prince would be very proud.” I felt overcome with joy, accomplishment and pride that I had done justice to the works of one of my mentors; as if it was him giving me his approval.

I think the thing that I love most about him is that he is not merely being mourned for his music but everyone who knew him has nothing but good things to say about him. Think about that. How often does that happen? Damn near never! Typically, when someone of his status passes, if you are not hearing about their turbulent past with some kind of substance abuse, addiction, depression or scandal, you’re hearing about their music. Not with Prince. Person after person is coming out and paying homage to who he really was as a person: kind, there when you need him, an amazing cook, a regular jokester, a secret philanthropist and humanitarian and most importantly, someone who truly believed in artist’s rights and sharing his gifts. I found out from a very lucky gal pal of mine, who was personally invited, about his in home jam session for FREE on random late nights at his LA compound. He also would take to the streets of LA and go to random jam sessions with guitar in hand to listen and if he was moved, he would get up and play. And we can not forget how he put up 25 shows, in Inglewood, a part of LA were most can not afford to attend live shows, in a venue that was going to be destroyed. Most tickets were just $25.00. He did not believe that his fans should  go into debt just to see him. He sold out nearly every night, some people going to every show. I was lucky enough to be one of them. The night I attended, I was doubly lucky, as Chaka Khan, my other musical idol opened that night. I lost my shit; and my voice from screaming. After Prince gave the show of a lifetime, I mean hitting every hit song for at least an hour and a half, some of us stayed, chanting for an encore. He not only came back, but did another 45 min. set!!! It was incredible and a night I will never forget. I was so tickled at how sexy he was. Even at 5’2″ and with 7 inch light up platform boots on, he could still get it! His knowledge of self, confidence and peace in being unique, made any common style faux pas appealing and sexy. He was one of a kind.

Watching the news and seeing all these people who had the blessing of knowing him, made me want to be better. Made me want to continue to strive to be a good person, made me want my character to proceed my legacy, made me want to share with those close to me, give back to communities in need, not be afraid to stand up for something and never bite my tongue to sound politically correct or any way other than what the fuck I feel (not that I struggle with this at all. LOL). And more importantly, it makes me want to share my gifts with the world, allowing music to flow through me and submitting when creativity overcomes me as it pleases.

When I was having a rough time overcoming fear recently, I spoke with a very accomplished friend, who happens to be in the business, and he said to me, ” It’s a crime for you not to share your gifts with the world. Do you know how many times I watch the video of you singing in my house?! The world must see that, otherwise you are doing God a disservice.” At the time, I heard him when he said it but I did not absorb the full meaning. I am not nor have I ever been an artist that must sing everywhere. I do not need a crowd’s applause and praise to validate myself or my gifts, or to make me feel some kind of way. I firmly believe in just supporting other artists or simply spectating at times. However, there is something that speaks to my soul when someone emails me and says that a song I wrote got them through whatever an that was the mission of this great man. In the aftermath of this lost, I will ask myself more often, when pondering such things,

“What Would Prince Do?”

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Believing in The Believers.

LA is full of slash people. It is not very uncommon to go out and meet someone who answers when asked “What do you do?”, with a series of things or activities. Diversifying your gifts is the norm here in LALA Land and although it seems normal here, we slashers, are often faced with much adversity when trying to obtain or keep gainful employment while pursuing other passions.

Now ever since I was little I have been a slasher. If you asked me when I was five what I was going to be when I grew up you’d get, “I’m gonna be a judge/firefighter/dancer and a singer”. After some deliberation after all the “grown ups” kept asking me how I’d do all of this, I’d say, “I’ll be a judge during the day and a firefighter on the weekends and sing and dance at night” with a look that simply says “DUH”. True story. After being told I was too fat and not graceful enough to be a ballerina, I 86’ed that idea, and when I realized I could die in a fire, like for real, I decided that was another good one to cut. And hey, maybe I was being too ambitious. So, I narrowed it down to a judge and a singer. It was not until I was 12 that I would simply say “I want to be a singer”. Ironically, now that I am older, I am back to my good ole slashing ways. Maybe its just in my nature but I am actually good at more than one thing and although I do not think all my energy should or can equally be distributed to said things, I do think that you can enjoy doing more than one thing for a living. The problem is trying to explain that to folks who do not and are not capable of living this type of life. I recently found myself in a “meeting” which I thought would be constructive or beneficial for both sides but only ended up reminding why I do not entertain such conversations.

Now, although I am a “Starving Artist” I use the term starving poetically and in the most figurative way possible. There is nothing sexy to me about being starving. I am also a foodie by nature. Like my first sentence was “Mommy I’m hungry”, so me and starving should never be in the same room. Starving for that big opportunity to get a check for simply being and expressing in a moment that will hopefully touch or resonate with another, YES. Literally being hungry and sleeping on someone’s couch, HELL TO DA NAW. I am a grown ass woman and although my main career path has led me into the unknown, having major leaps and valleys, stability is very much my homie. Actually, I find it very hard to be creative when I am not stable. So, me working a “day job” helps to fuel my craft.

Long story short, my new company wants me “all in” and I ‘m good where I’m at. Despite the fact that I do go above and beyond for them, when I can, more so prior to this meeting than now, that was not enough. Although, I was very clear about my schedule and what I need prior to being hired, they want what they want. At the end of the day that’s all that matters, to them. I won’t go blow for blow on the ridiculousness that was said but I was pretty much told that at 33, I do not really know what I want for my life and that my idea of “Quality of Life” is in fact an incorrect one. I blacked out somewhere after that to prevent myself from poppin’ off in the office and becoming that black chick in the office. Which in this case, I am also the only, so that’s a double negative. You know what I’m saying. But as their voices morphed into what sounded like Charlie Brown’s mom, I felt completely disrespected, offended and outraged that I needed to even explain what the fuck I do on my free time to these people. Like, really?!

I wanted to, and still might say, “If you have a problem with my work ethic or the job performance then maybe we can discuss how my outside life is effecting my time here. But since you don’t have a problem with it, obviously, since you’re trying to promote me yet again, maybe you should mind your motherf*ckin business biiitt*hhh (in my Kevin Hart voice)!”.

Ok, Dasha….breathe.

I’m saying all this to say, that once an employer learns you have additional interest, especially if they are creative, its like you are suddenly on trial in this city. Which I think should be illegal. I mean, you can sue for all other types of discrimination, why not careerism?! As soon as you mention you sing or act or dance in this town they immediately think you are the most irresponsible, unreliable person on the planet despite your current job performance. And I often have to withhold this information until I prove myself because of this.

These are things us working musicians/actors face everyday. Riding the fine line of adulthood while retaining our childlike belief in our creative abilities, while allowing ourselves to be quietly labeled “not normal” to the rest of the world. We creatives, often sacrifice many things that others probably take for granted. Things like a stable income, health benefits, a savings with a balance worth printing the record at the ATM just because, a 401K; things that just come along with working a decent 9 to 5. And although we may be the best worker a company may have, we will still face interrogations and ridicule for asking for the flexibility to live we see fit. Now, I don’t expect all companies to be flexible but I work in an industry that typically is. Also, I make that VERY clear when starting any job. NO surprises here people. So when I started with this new company, they knew what it was and agreed to it. Although my previous job stressed me out to the max, at least I knew that they knew I was not some irresponsible free loading kid who would neglect my work at the drop of a downbeat. They knew I had more than one gift. One benefited them, the other benefited me- an so they let be. It might be the fact that the President and COO were both retired musicians as well, but you know what I’m saying.

My 9 to 5 friends often comment about how they wish they could have my life. Have the flexibility to travel and get paid to party with people or be on TV, but they do not know that this life comes with much sacrifice. While your peers are getting married and having babies, you are probably somewhere alone; writing, learning, crying, looking for your next gig or working towards your craft while watch your friends post pictures of their husbands and babies on Facebook. When your friends want to take a vacation to Africa you have to pass, because you only made Palm Springs money last month. When your girl just bought her first home, you’re just grateful you made rent this month without overdrawing your account. You have to learn to deal with being uncomfortable for as long as it takes ,or for as long as you can stand it. You have to know that despite public opinion, you are just fine, there is nothing wrong with you and if others do not like it, that fine as well. They don’t have to. They just need to respect it.

 

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