As a loyal Prince fan for almost twenty years, and as someone who was devastated at the news of his death, I am reluctant to admit that the bulk of Prince's output in the past ten years or so hasn't really moved me that much. In my opinion, the last good Prince album was 2007's Planet Earth.
Strangely enough, a couple of months prior to Prince's passing, and for the first time in years, I got into a Prince groove and started listening to his albums in chronological order. I also managed to grab a copy of Ronin Ro's biography of him, titled Prince: Inside the Music and The Masks, which proved to be a fascinating read. By the time he died, I had reached 1996's Emancipation, and by then, I had remembered how awesome an artist Prince really was. My obsession with his music wasn't a nostalgia-addled trip down memory lane after all. Even older and wiser I still think Prince is a genius and a singular artist who was truly one of the greatest musical integrationists who ever lived.
Which leads me to Hit N Run: Phase Two (2015), Prince's last released album prior to his death. From the stunning and moving opener "Baltimore" about the 2015 Baltimore/Freddie Gray riots, to the original and joyful "Big City", these 12 tracks are some of Prince's funkiest, liveliest, most heartfelt tracks in almost a decade. There's great guitar playing, impressive songwriting, and some of the best horn arrangements you're likely to hear in a long while. This is Prince at his best, at his most mature. This is Prince ebullient. And with songs including riffs from "Take me With U" and "Kiss", this is Prince coming full circle.
I still believe that Prince's best work was in the 80's and 90's, but Hit N Run: Phase Two proves that even in death, Prince went out on top, with an album that truly honors his legacy.
Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2016.