Daily Prince 10/1/20: Xcogitate

ex•cog•i•tate verb
think out, plan, or devise

I wanted to get that out of the way first, because my first thought when “Xcogitate” showed up on the Daily Prince Song Randomizer today was, “What the hell does that mean?” In case you haven’t noticed in the past five months, my vocabulary isn’t the most Xtensive. It’s somewhere between Donald Trump’s vocabulary and the cats who write album reviews for Pitchfork that I don’t understand, nor do I want to. I try to mix in the occasional word to challenge the reader, but I’m not trying to write shit that people can’t comprehend without a dictionary. So, when Prince makes a song called “Xcogitate” and I have to write about it, the first thing I have to do is find the definition so I can excogitate this damned blog post. I figured I’d share it with you as well so we’re all on the same page.

“Xcogitate” is the second track from Prince’s 2003 album Xpectation. It’s also the first time in 160 Daily Prince blog posts that we’ve had the opportunity to analyze a song from the Xpectation album. So, let’s give a little background, first. Prince had a nice little run of albums in the early 2000’s that put focus back on instrumentation and live musicians, specifically with a background in jazz. It started with 2001’s The Rainbow Children, and in 2003-2004 over the course of 16 months he released three instrumental albums. The first of those albums was Xpectation, a surprise release on New Year’s Day 2003, only weeks after his previous releases, the live albums One Nite Alone…Live and One Nite Alone…The Aftershow: It Ain’t Over. Xpectation was Prince’s 26th album, but his first instrumental album. It was the first and only album with nine one-word song titles all starting with the letter X. That’s not important or significant, but it’s a fact I wanted to include somewhere in the post, so now you know. It was also his first never to be released on any physical format. Xpectation was only available as a download for members of his NPG Music Club until 2015 when it was made available on Tidal streaming service, and eventually, other major streaming services. If you Google this album you’ll see CDs out there, but they’re homemade CDRs. We’ll get in to this more in a minute.

In hindsight, I think it would’ve been cool to release this album under the band name The Prince Nelson Quintet to make it sound more like a jazz project. The album features Prince on keyboards and guitar, Rhonda Smith on bass, Candy Dulfer on sax, Vanessa Mae on violin, and John Blackwell on drums. The album certainly isn’t straightforward bebop or hard bop jazz like you’re probably envisioning when you think of the genre. It reminds me more of the jazz/funk/soul fusion work of people like Donald Byrd, Lou Donaldson, and Bobbi Humphrey in the early-1970’s. There are moments on the album when Prince is on the guitar and it has the same feel as one of Grant Green’s classic funk records (check out “Xogenous” and tell me Prince doesn’t sound like Grant Green or George Benson).

“Xcogitate” is the sultry slow jam on this album. It starts with a neo-soul feel like you’re listening to a D’Angelo or Maxwell record from that era, but instead of vocals it rotates from soloist to soloist. Prince on the Rhodes, Candy Dulfer on sax, and a stirring flute solo performed by someone anonymous. I can’t find credit for that flute solo anywhere. This song has as much smooth and chill as an instrumental quintet can pack in to 3:34.

Here’s my issue: this music doesn’t exist in physical form. I know this wouldn’t be the biggest selling reissue the Prince Estate could create, but near the top of my list of requests for future projects would be a three album set of Xpectation, N.E.W.S., and C-Note. Those are the three instrumental albums Prince released in 2003-2004. This music seems to have been dismissed as an experimental phase for Prince, but all three have a lot of enjoyable music and are perfect for vinyl. You can drop the needle on these albums and listen without the need to skip tracks. All solid from start to finish. I will, once again, push my idea for an all-Prince vinyl subscription service similar to my beloved Vinyl Me, Please. Between his 40+ albums, vault material, singles, and side projects, there would easily be enough music to keep my fellow Prince heads and me forking over our money for years.

As always, your feelings about a song like “Xcogitate” depend on your opinion of instrumental music. I’m sure there’s a large group of people who would wonder why a Prince album would even exist without his vocals on it. Are you forgetting Prince was also the greatest multi-instrumentalist and of our lifetime and a brilliant composer and songwriter? I wish Prince would’ve released more music like this. I’d listen to him jam for hours, days, weeks, months…you name it. Give Xpectation a listen and you’ll find something you like.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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