Editor's Note: In honor of Thanksgiving, we asked each of our writers to pen a story about an artist, song, album or moment from 2016 that they're most thankful for.
Prince was not a man, in my eyes, for a very long time. He was no different than Bigfoot, aliens or mermaids―more of a myth, someone who hovered between reality and fantasy.
Then he died.
He did the one thing that we all will do. Someone who didn’t seem to live on this earth was no longer here in the physical. With his death came a deep dive into his art, into his music, and into the life that he lived. There was beauty, madness, and stories that only furthered convinced me that he was truly mythological.
After the grief of his passing came the celebration of his life, a life that I’m thankful for.
Artist is a word that I use often—my every day is spent writing about people who carry that title, but not every person truly defines what it means. When I think of someone who embodies the very definition of an artist, it’s Prince. He didn’t chase the charts, he didn’t thirst for fame; Prince was a creator, and music was his medium.
It's important to not be caught up in being married to a sound or stuck within a style but to always find ways to evolve within your craft. When Prince felt the desire to make a movie, he did just that. It wasn’t about making something timeless, but scratching a creative impulse. I needed a reminder that we aren’t always going to be the best, but as an artist, you should always dare to create.
Sometimes you make Purple Rain, sometimes you make Under the Cherry Moon, but make something. Being safe is for preachers and principles, not artists. Prince was never safe.
When I think of how Frank Ocean plotted a master plan against Def Jam, I see Prince in his shadow. As someone who Frank praises as an influence—as an idol—there's no surprise that he would follow Prince's path and take back his independence. Both Frank and Prince found ways to escape the chains of their contracts, escapists who beat the system from within. Prince and Frank are both symbols of why an artist should always feel in control.
I look at Lil Wayne and his current circumstance with Cash Money. Not only is he fighting for his art, he’s fighting for his right to control his artistry. When Prince finally escaped the clutches of Warner, he took absolute control of his career, control of his art, and never looked back. Independence is freedom, and freedom is something every artist needs. There’s no worse prison than the one made when you aren’t able to create how you wish.
All year, I've been entranced by his songs of purple rain, cherry moons, and April snowfall. I fell into these songs layered with captivating stories of women and men, love and lust, God and godliness—I swam through the very archives that made him such a polarizing figure.
Thank you to my friend Samantha and her TIDAL account, without her I wouldn't have the keys to explore his library. It took his death for me to finally hear Prince, but I hear him loud and clear now. It feels good to know that all you can do is leave art behind for them to explore when you finally move to the other side. If it survives the times, so will a little bit of your soul. Immortality through art is such a beautiful way of cheating death, it makes that one day in the future a bit less bleak. We will be singing about Prince for an eternity, and that is the ultimate victory.
I’m thankful for Prince—the man, the musician, and the myth. He has taught me, in death, many lessons to be applied while I still live. He has given me music that will make these days easy and these nights pleasant. We have grown close over these last few months, and I imagine we will remain close in the years to come. My appreciation might have come a bit late, but for me, it was right on time.
Thank you for showing me what a true artist looks like, and leaving footprints for me to follow.
By Yoh, AKA The Writer Forever Known As Yoh, aka @Yoh31.
Art Credit:Cameron Stewart