There are two different versions of this song, the one recorded for 1988’s famously aborted The Black Album, and the live version that appeared on 2002’s One Nite Alone…The Aftershow: It Ain’t Over.
First, let’s address The Black Album. It’s 1988. Prince is turning 30. He’s not The Kid anymore. He’s coming off a run of albums nearly every year with a level of popularity, critical acclaim, and quality that’s only been matched by The Beatles. Think I’m exaggerating? Check the list:
1980: Dirty Mind
1984: Purple Rain
1985: Around the World in a Day
1987: Sign O’ the Times
Let’s add writing and recording a few albums by The Time, Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, The Family, and Sheila E. (who am I missing?) under various aliases and he easily sold over 20 million albums in eight years. Never mind two movies and penning hits for other artists. I’m saying the guy was on a roll. Next on the agenda – only nine months after the release of Sign O’ the Times – was The Black Album. This album was also referred to as The Funk Bible, which might be the all-time coolest name for an album. Weeks before its release Prince decided it was too dark. Too negative. He shelved it. Vinyl pressing plants had already made copies of the album and Prince demanded they all be destroyed. A precious few were not and to this day the legendary original copies of The Black Album demand a pretty penny online. You can get a copy on Discogs right now for $38,000.00 (plus $4.00 for shipping) if you’re interested. What’s funnier than asking for $4 shipping on a $38,000 album?
Instead Prince went to work on Lovesexy and released it in early-1988. The video for Lovesexy’s first single “Alphabet St.” actually contains the message “Don’t buy The Black Album. I’m sorry,” floating in the background at one point. Fantastic song, terrible video, for what it’s worth.
Now The Black Album understandably has a mystique like few other albums. I have a copy. Not the $38,000 version. It’s a bootleg. How is it? Not to disappoint anyone, but I’d call it just OK by Prince’s standards, especially at that time. It doesn’t clear the high bar he set for himself in the 80’s, that’s for sure. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some really cool work on this album. There’s also my least favorite Prince song. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m not going to here. Someday it’ll come up on the Daily Prince list and I’ll deal with it then.
Today’s song is “2 N*gs United 4 West Compton.” The song opens with a lot of random talk about nothing over the “Housequake” beat. Every time I hear it I expect Prince’s voice to bust in and say, “Shut up already, damn!” Instead a couple voices say, “two n*gs united for West Compton,” and the song blasts out of the gate. An insanely high-energy 6+ minutes of Prince instrumental work. The best info I can gather is that Prince plays all instruments except the drums. Sheila E. expertly drums the shit out of this track.
If this track truly is all Prince (why wouldn’t it be?) it’s a good opportunity to address the forgotten greatness of Prince on the bass guitar. He was known as a master of several instruments, but this is the rare track where he gets to show his bass chops. He plucks his way through a blistering bass solo mid-song. My only complaint on this track is that some of the sounds on it are very 1980’s. Some of the drum and keyboard stuff sounds electronic. If Prince were here today and could re-record this song note for note with what’s available in 2020 this song would be even better. You could say that about a lot of 80’s music, though.
In fact, you could say Prince already tried exactly what I’m talking about in 2002 on the One Nite Alone… The Aftershow: It Ain’t Over! album. That’s a clunky album title, BTW. This album contains a live version of “2 N*gs United 4 West Compton” with the New Power Generation. If he didn’t shout out the title in the middle I wouldn’t know it was supposed to be the same song. The feeling is even better. 6+ minutes of scorching live funk that makes me wish I had seen Prince live more than one time. Prince proclaiming, “I wanna sing but it’s too funky,” is one of the more badass things I’ve ever heard. Shout out to NPG for killing it on this song.
The question on this song is whether or not you enjoy instrumentals. If you do, this song is the shit. If you don’t, you’ll probably pass it by. I love instrumentals. I’ll listen to music without lyrics like this all day if it’s funky enough. I give the original studio version 3 out of 5 stars, but bump it up to 3.5 for the live version. An underrated addition to the Prince catalog.