Wow, we’re getting deep today. “S&M Groove” took a bit of a winding road to get to its ultimate release on Prince’s 2004 compliation, The Slaughterhouse.
“S&M Groove” was originally recorded in 1997. According to princevault.com it was likely intended for the New Power Generation’s 1998 album Newpower Soul but didn’t make the cut. In 1997 a snippet of the song was teased on an early Prince website under the name “Sado-Masochistic Groove.” The full version finally surfaced in 2001 as a standalone download for members of Prince’s online NPG Music Club. In March of 2004 Prince took the songs he’d released over the past few years on npgmusicclub.com and released them as two albums/compliations: The Chocolate Invasion (Trax from the NPG Music Club Volume 1) and The Slaughterhouse (Trax from the NPG Music Club Volume 2). He released a third album on the same day as well, this one a compliation of live performances called C-Note. These albums have never had an official release on any physical format. Strictly downloads. In fact, the release of those three compilations together came mere weeks before Musicology got a proper release on CD and they feel like the end of an era. It’s like he wanted to tie up loose ends before Musicology. In 2015 the NPG Music Club compilations were finally made avaialble to stream on Tidal, and now they’re avaialble on most (all?) music streaming services.
I’ve said it here before, but Prince doesn’t get the credit he deserves for seeing the demise of the old music industry well before it happened. He started selling his music in .mp3 format long before others. He cheered on Napster as they ushered in a new era in music consumption. Selling his music online through his own label allowed Prince to do what he’d been waiting for his entire career: get his music out to the masses as quickly as possible without needing a record label as a middle man. It’s common now, but I recall hearing about Prince selling music online in the late-90’s and even early-2000’s pre iPod and thinking he was crazy. I wouldn’t buy it because it wasn’t on a CD. Shortsighted like everyone else…except Prince.
So, how is the music? In the case of “S&M Groove” it’s a mixed bag. My initial reaction listening to the song without any research was, “There’s no way he recorded this song in 2003 or 2004.” He was well in to his Rainbow Children, Jehovah’s Witness, live music with jazz musicians phase by the time he put out the NPG compliations and there’s no way “S&M Groove” fit with the music had been releasing for the past two years. As I found out, he didn’t record it then. It was 6-7 years old by the time The Slaughterhouse was released. I’ll say this: The track is funky as hell. My immediate reaction when “S&M Groove” starts up is, “Holy shit, that’s funky.” I like the groove and bassline. The repeated line “freaks gonna bop to this” adds to the funk. Then the lyrics start and they’re…questionable. it’s always a roll of the dice when Prince raps. It’s mostly shit talking nonsense, but this song isn’t about the lyrics. This is a track you press play on, lay back, and just vibe for five minutes. The groove is nice even if the lyrics are absurd.
The NPG Music Club was so far ahead of its time, and I’m glad the compilation albums are out there for everyone to check out now. It certainly wasn’t Prince’s most creative period, but there’s still some enjoyable stuff on these albums and it’s good they didn’t vanish with the website. They remain as a reminder that Prince wasn’t just creative musically, but also a pioneer in the industry. I highly recommend “S&M Groove” if you’re just looking for some funky background music.