“What time is it?”
Since the ‘80s, that’s been the rallying cry of Morris Day, lead singer of The Time. Chief progenitors of the Minneapolis sound alongside friend/mentor Prince, the soul/funk/rock band churned out a string of hits between 1981-1990. Among them: “Cool,” “777-9311,” “Jungle Love,” “Ice Cream Castles,” “The Bird” and “Jerk Out,” the latter the group’s biggest single on both the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 9) and the Hot R&B Songs chart (No. 1). Also known as the Original 7ven, The Time boasted such pioneering musicians, producers and personalities as Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jesse Johnson and Day’s equally suave, mirror-carrying associate Jerome Benton.
Now, according to Day, it’s time to release his fifth — and final — solo album. The aptly titled Last Call (Bungalo Records/Universal Music Group) will arrive on Nov. 11. “We liked those numbers,” says Day of the 11-11-22 rollout. Preceded by lead single “Grown Man” featuring Big Daddy Kane, the album’s second single, “Use to Be the Playa” with Snoop Dogg, is due later in September. Also making guest appearances on the set are ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Trinidad James, Tech N9ne and Flo Rida. Dates for Day’s Last Call tour will be announced in 2023.
“We cover the gamut from up- and mid-tempo to ballads,” says Day of the album. “A bunch of great music for an outro that’s going to be an event for me. You know, with the last call, a guy’s got to have it all, right?”
After three albums with The Time, the singer-songwriter launched his solo career in 1985 with Color of Success followed by Daydreaming in 1987. Both reached No. 7 on the top R&B albums chart. Next came 1992’s Guaranteed and 2004’s It’s About Time.
“It’s not just about where I’ve been and what I’ve done,” says Day. “It’s about where I’m going.”
Does this final solo album also mean you’re completely retiring?
By no stretch am I retiring. If the fellas — meaning the original [Time] members — want to get back together… there’s always something there. But the solo thing? I’m chillin’ with that. It’s time to do other things.
What’s the message you want fans to take away from your latest single “Grown Man?”
It’s a coming-of-age song. A grown man to me is more than someone who’s just reached drinking age or 30 years old. I don’t think you really reach that plateau until you’re 45 and up. I also wanted to do something for the steppers community, so the song hits that [dance] tempo. And while we entertained other guest feature possibilities, Big Daddy Kane just made sense. We actually worked together on my Guaranteed album and, for some time, my business associate-manager Courtney Benson had wanted us to work together again. So we sent the song to Kane and he really ripped it, bringing it all together like super glue.
But overall, “Grown Man” is simply a shout-out to all the grown-ass people out there. They know what time it is and what it takes to be grown. We don’t roll like the kids no more. But we’ve still got it and know how to use it. [Laughs.]
How would you define your musical legacy?
As part of Time and beyond, I’ve been involved in so many genres: R&B, pop, funk, dance, rock and even elements of country. There’s a song on Last Call that I did with Billy Gibbons that’s amazing. I don’t know where in the hell it came from. [Laughs.] And there’s been other things as well, like the blockbuster film Purple Rain. It’s really been a blessing to have been a part of so many moments.
Growing up in Minneapolis, all we heard was pop and rock music when we turned on the radio. If you wanted to hear the latest Parliament-Funkadelic — my idols back in the day, who I’ve gotten to work with — you had to be on standby at the local mom-and-pop record store. We also listened to a lot of jazz and fusion. So I guess I’m basically saying my legacy is a whole potpourri of things.
The court battle over Prince’s $156 million estate was finally settled in August. What’s your favorite memory of working with him and The Time?
My fondest memories are from when we were kids [going to school together]. Prince wasn’t a fake. He was an avant-garde, introverted person. But once you got past that surface, he was a really fun and funny dude to be around. We had a lot of good times as we jammed nonstop. Sometimes I’d be in the grocery store on what I thought would be a night off. And he’d run into me there, saying he wanted to go in and cut a record. He loved music so much. I’ve never met anybody who cared about the craft as much as he did. Then there are the early days of rehearsing with Time and the camaraderie that developed; all the little janky clubs and hole-in-the-wall joints that we had to play to make it.
How do you think he’d react to Last Call?
I think he’d be happy with some of the songs, and proud to know that I’m still in the game. That’s the hardest part, you know. Him not being around, and wondering what he, as mega-talented musician and songwriter, would think about projects I’m working on.
What other projects does your firm Morris Day Entertainment have penciled on its slate?
I like to say it’s in the book [On Time: A Princely Life in Funk, his 2019 bio with David Ritz]. But we are working on some film and television situations as well as other entertainment-based projects. I’m also developing a watch line. Yeah, what time is it? … I’m just trying to enjoy life.