Daily Prince 5/27/20: Dead On It

My process for selecting these songs is 100% random.  When I sit down to type something I have no idea what’s coming up.  I have over 500 songs on my list.  So, you should understand that when I press my button that randomly selects a song, there’s less than 1 in 500 chance that a song will be selected.

Here’s why I say this: Nine days ago in my post about “2 N*gs United 4 West Compton” I said this when writing about The Black Album:

“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.”

For all I knew I wouldn’t have to address that song for at least a year.  I did not imagine that “someday” would come just nine days later, but here we are.  Ladies and gentlemen, my least favorite Prince song.  “Dead On It.”  When that title popped up on my Random Prince Song Generator just now a chill came over me.  It pains me to say this about anything Prince created, but this song is so wack.

I must be in the minority on this.  Maybe I’m missing something.  The comments on YouTube for this song are nearly all positive.  People seem to think it’s funny.  I’m pretty sure he wasn’t trying to be funny.  If someone is out there who knew Prince at that time can set me straight, please do.  In the meantime, here’s my take on this sonic tragedy:

Prince worked his ass off 24/7 from a young age to master multiple instruments.  Also could also sing as well as anyone we’ve ever heard in popular music.  He earned his seat on the throne.  Then hip hop exploded and a bunch of rappers and DJs who couldn’t play instruments and couldn’t sing were moving in on his territory.  He had no respect for rapping and I’m guessing even less for sampling.  He didn’t work his ass off for all those years to be knocked off of the mountaintop by a bunch of no-talent non-musicians.  “Dead On It” was his dis track, and it is painful.  The beat sounds like something from a McDonald’s commercial with advertising execs trying to capitalize on the hip fad of the day.  It sounds like rap music made by someone who has very little idea what rap music actually sounds like.  I half expect someone to start rapping about a Big Mac when the beat comes in.  It reeks of the same cluelessness about hip hop I hear every time Fox News tries to communicate their outrage over something Kendrick Lamar or JAY Z said.

Prince raps (?) on an off about some nonsense.  In the first 8 bars of lyrics he says, “The only good rapper is one that’s dead…on it.”  Ouch.  The rest of lyrics are equally cringeworthy.  Here’s what I don’t understand: If you’re trying to make the argument that rapping and making rap music don’t require talent, why wouldn’t you use your immense talents in other areas to prove it?  Why create a song that sounds like the worst possible version of what you’re trying to dis in the first place?  If you’re going to make the argument that hip hop doesn’t require talent, you better make something a lot stronger than “Dead On It” to prove your point.  A rare, awful misfire by Prince on this track.

Prince did grow to embrace hip hop in later years, even if it was reluctant.  Much of his early-90’s work with New Power Generation was influenced by hip hop and included work by NPG rapper Tony M.  Prince still seemed a step behind hip hop culture, though.  That’s my polite way of saying that Tony M was not Rakim.  Prince collaborated with some talented rappers later in the 90’s like Chuck D, Doug E. Fresh, Eve, and Q-Tip among others.  It always felt to me like he was begrudgingly doing it out of obligation and not because he wanted to, though.  Maybe because “Dead On It” is such a memorably bad hate letter to hip hop that I could never believe that Prince fully changed his mind.

I don’t consider myself a critic.  There’s enough negativity online.  My intention for the Daily Prince posts was to celebrate Prince’s music every day and hopefully introduce readers to music they hadn’t heard or appreciated before.  I’d rather not spend any more time criticizing Prince.  However, I can’t excuse this song, and I’m glad I’m done writing about it.  I give “Dead On It” 0 out of 5 stars and cannot move on from this song quickly enough.  There’s nowhere to go from here but up.

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