On September 7 2015, Prince teamed up with Jay-Z’s streaming service and released the follow-up to 2014’s “Art Official Age.” It is now the 11th day of that month (quite an historical date) and right now, I am just going to get straight into it and say a few words on each track, only four days after hearing it all for the very first time:
Million Dollar Show (Feat. Judith Hill): Clearly Prince was trying to create some hype with the opening of this song, which features grabs from his back catalogue, beginning with “For You,” moving onto “1999” and ending with “Let’s Go Crazy,” which then segues into the sounds of an audience cheering. The beat eventually kicks in and Judith Hill steps to the mic, to welcome us all to the million dollar show. It’s almost reminiscent of “Compassion” from the “20Ten” CD, but it has more of a modern twist with plenty of slapped and popped bass lines. You can imagine him playing this one live, which was evidently the intention here.
Shut This Down: Much more of an aggressive type of song with yelled, raspy vocals from Prince. Eventually it dawns on you that this is “My Name Is Prince” for 2015, even some of the musical elements are a bit similar. The only difference is that he’s bragging about being such a great performer, to the point where he’s coming to tear the venue that he’s in to pieces, or “shut this down” as he says. Again the bass solo on this one will have your jaw on the floor. Funky as all get out. The song ends with Prince assuming the role of an old man scolding a young buck to sit his ass down, but of course he has chosen to stop himself from using the alternative word for donkey.
Ain’t About To Stop (Feat. Rita Ora): “If your life is the B Side my dream is the A.” Prince is still all about that vinyl, which is great to see. Again there’s quite an aggressive beat here with keyboard riffs that are on some other ish all together. Prince kicks off the song with some falsetto vocals but then he eventually moves into his deeper register. And hey, if anybody is going to experiment with this type of genre, it may as well be Mr Nelson, along with George Clinton he was the pioneer of slowed down and sped up vocals, of which there are plenty of all over this cut. Certainly quite an edgy song. He stops himself from saying ass… again. Yet at two minutes and seventeen seconds, he and Rita Ora can be heard repeatedly shouting out the word BLOOD CLAAT which is a very offensive Jamaican expletive.
Like A Mack (Feat. Curly Fryz): Even though this song has a mostly very modern type of sound going for it, there are still a lot of elements that make you go: “Yep, that’s Prince.” And it’s not just the references to pimp dresses or the fact that this girl is “looking like a mack,” it’s the funky guitar riffs and the horns, which are straight out of Prince land. No doubt. On another note it’s been quite a while since Prince sang the word “brasserie.” It definitely stands out when he says that for some reason.
This Could B Us: Initially described as an industrial version of the song that originally appeared on “Art Official Age” in late 2014. Exactly what this listener was expecting it to sound like, although the lyrics have mostly been kept to a minimum, featuring mostly lines from the second and third verses along with the “you know you want me like a new pair of shoes” line that begun the original song. Prince also comes in and adds a guitar solo and some bass for your face, so you just know this is going to blow your socks off.
Fall In Love Tonight: Originally featured in an episode of the American sitcom “New Girl” in 2014 with guest vocals from actress Zooey Deschanel. Thankfully she has been eliminated for this version. Prince was always experimenting with house music, what we have here is definitely no exception. Basically this is new millennium Camille coming at cha from the heart of Minnesota. It’s actually listed as “Fallinlove2nite,” but let’s be adults here. Please.
X’s Face: Prince put this one out for free in May 2015. To be honest, it was initially disheartening to hear this song for the first time, as it was obviously based upon the old War song “Low Rider.” Kind of felt like old Princey Nelson was running out of ideas, so he had to resort to sampling old school classics. Hearing it within the context of this album it flows very naturally with what we’ve heard so far. Aside from that there are sounds of dogs barking, Prince is imitating a monkey at one stage and telling that monkey to get back in its cage and take its banana with it. This is madness as usual from Mr Nelson.
Hard Rock Lover: Prince released this as a single not too long before the album came out. It was another one of those songs that, as a long time fan made me say, “Ugh, heard it all before,” as it featured Prince shredding his guitar and talking about making a woman scream. In short it was about sex, so it was really nothing new from him by any means. Again within the context of this album it feels natural to hear this, so we’ll let that woman scream. Oh hell yeah, that bad ass Prince is still around, here’s proof.
Mr. Nelson (Feat. Lianna La Havas): Just a short interlude featuring samples of the song “Clouds” from “Art Official Age.” Starts off real mellow but then eventually moves off into a much more uptempo number with a thumping house beat. Sounds like Prince fell back in love with his bass guitar when he made this album, cuz again he’s thumping on it Larry Graham style. Towards the end he breaks out a very Santana influenced guitar solo. Killer.
A Thousand Hugs And Kisses: Probably the oldest song on the album, which was originally recorded back in 1992 on the “Diamonds & Pearls” tour in Sydney. Later reworked with Marvin Gaye’s daughter Nona on lead vocals, reworked once again in 2015 and finally available on the “Hit N Run” album. Quite a smooth R&B ballad which features Mr Nelson blurring the lines between love and kinky sex. Funny how he has no problems singing about tying his girlfriend up in lace all gagged and bound (nice reference to “Sexy MF”) but he has to edit himself saying bitch. He’s a funny little fellow isn’t he?
June: As an Aussie Italian, it was certainly quite strange to hear Prince singing about pasta simmering on the stove in that breathy falsetto of his. Getting past that it’s obvious that he’s in a somber and reflective type of mood, perhaps even a lonely one at that. With lines like, “Why did you come to this planet?,” “I should have been born on the Woodstock stage” and “Somebody famous had a birthday today, but all I saw was another full moon,” it seems that this song was penned on June 7th: Prince’s birthday. Is he now sad and regretful that he no longer celebrates this occasion? You never know. Just as he did on “Art Official Age,” he’s left us all with something to think about…… perhaps another mystery to try and solve. A very big question mark hovers over this song. Indeed.
Verdict: Looking back on Prince’s back catalogue, especially on the earlier albums, it’s clear that while most artists copied themselves, Prince would most often take what he did on the previous album and he’d build on it in order to create something new. What he’s done on “Hit N Run” is certainly no different. Given that the songs released were not exactly hitting me over the head at first, I was expecting to be let down, however I was proven incredibly wrong. Overall this is a brilliant album that needs to be listened to from beginning to end.