2016: The Year in Charts

Prince Discussion Panel Featuring Spike Lee, Questlove & More to Launch Monday on Billboard.com

Pablo Frisk
Questlove photographed at the Prince Panel on April 29, 2016 at New York University. 

Spike Lee, Questlove, singers Anthony Hamilton and Kimbra, and journalists Toure, Alan Light and Carol Cooper gathered together Friday at New York University to speak on a special discussion panel about the life, career and music of Prince, who died April 21 at age 57. A special video presentation on the event will launch on Billboard.com on Monday. 

Moderated by Jason King, an associate professor and a director of Unversity’s The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, the discussion covered everything from each of the participants’ personal interactions with Prince, to his influences to the sexuality in his music to, in Questlove and Hamilton’s case, what it was like to perform and record with him. The conversation was filled with vivid personal anecdotes about the singer -- particularly showing how funny he was.

The discussion started off with each participant's most vivid personal memory of him. Questlove -- who is not only a superfan and collaborator, he actually taught a class at NYU about Prince's music -- talked about hearing Prince’s first-ever single, “Soft and Wet,” on the radio in 1978 during a moment of great tragedy for his family. 

Kimbra, on the other hand, talked about discovering Prince’s music as a teenager much later than Questlove -- with 2004’s Musicology -- and talked about receiving the record of the year Grammy in 2013 with Gotye for “Somebody That I Used to Know,” a moment that saw her and Gotye nearly spending more time talking about Prince than thanking people. (Prince said, “I love this song,” before announcing the winner.) “I just couldn’t get over the fact that my idol was standing next to me,” she said Friday. “And also, later, that he heard The Golden Echo, my last record, and my friend Janelle Monae reached out to let me know that his favorite song was ‘Carolina’ -- and he wanted me to know that.” 

Spike Lee recalled an anecdote when “we wanted [the 1992 film] Malcolm X to be three hours long, but those mother----ers at Warner Bros. [Pictures] said no.” So he reached out to many celebrities he knew for additional funding to finish the film -- Tracy Chapman, Janet Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby (“This was before we knew any of that, I’m not givin’ that money back!” Lee quipped), Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Prince. They announced the financial participation of those people, "and the next day Warner Bros. started funding the movie again.”

Remembering Prince: The Greatest Musical Talent of His Generation

Author and journalist Carol Cooper spoke about attending the opening dates of both the 1999 and Purple Rain tours, and how she hadn’t seen an audience adopt the look of an artist so much since Labelle in the early 1970s. Alan Light, writer of the excellent Purple Rain history Let’s Go Crazy, talked about meeting Prince before doing a Vibe cover interview with him. “I met him for the first time when he was soundchecking for a show in San Francisco. He brought me onstage -- and I’m trying not to lose my sanity -- and at one point, while he’s playing a solo, he comes over to me and says, ‘You see how hard it is when you can play anything you want to, when you can play anything you hear?’”

Anthony Hamilton talked about his first invitation to jam with Prince, when he was a backup singer for D’Angelo. But because Prince insisted on healthy food and no alcohol, "D’Angelo said 'F--- that,'” and Hamilton’s entrée came later, after an awards show. “We had this guy [Questlove] on drums, Stevie Wonder on keyboards, and Prince came up to me and said, ‘You wanna make some noise?’ YES!” Hamilton played with Prince “about eight times.” 

And finally, Toure told an amazing story about playing basketball with Prince that you will just have to wait to hear until Monday, when the video goes live with that story and many, many more.