PRINCE: The Minneapolis Genius, With Afro Intact

2nd October 2017

Title: 94 East featuring Prince

Label: Charly

“I grew up on the borderline, I never grew upon one particular culture… Minneapolis is so far behind other major cities in the country, it forces you to create your own sound. There’s no point in copying other trends because, by the time they get here, they’re out of date.”

Such was the city for Prince, a place where black people formed only 5% of the population. Prince did his best to develop his musical talents, playing music and writing his own songs for a school band: even if they were not always welcome.

He was then asked to play guitar on a series of demos by Brooklyn musician, Pepé Willie. His first thoughts on seeing Prince? “Boy – he’s got a big afro!” Soon after, a group was formed, 94 East, consisting of Pepé and a host of local talent including Prince. Demos were recorded and a deal was eventually signed with Polydor. Which was abruptly cancelled much to everyone’s disappointment: this, despite two (still unreleased) songs being recorded by the label.

When Prince launched into his star-studded career, these early recordings were released as The Minneapolis Genius: 94 East in 1986 on the Hot Pink label. This compilation is not a retread of that release. As Pepé Willie said, “On Minneapolis Genius the original recordings had been updated with additional instrumental parts and remixed. But now we’ve added eight further songs in their original form with the vocals included and no added overdubs. They were all digitally remastered and removed to clean up miscellaneous surface noise.”

Hence, the standard LP version provides six tracks while a limited edition box set offers 17 tracks over three pieces of vinyl.

The sound is punchy, precise and exhibits a funk-filled impact but I’m impressed with the tonal balance here and the lack of any horrible peak limiting. A welcome historical testament to a glorious career, horribly cut short.