Prince was not an easy guy to approach. Flamboyant and uninhibited on stage, the Purple One could be shy, taciturn, and even quite dismissive when he wasn’t performing. He was a private person, so much so that he was known to throw parties at his Paisley Park home without ever even showing up. Instead, he would hole himself up in the studio, toiling away while the rest of the world kept on turning.
But when he heard Prince was coming to a party, Digital Underground leader Shock G knew what he had to do. “Back then the thinking was if you wanted to talk to Prince, you had to wait for him to talk to you because you might run him away, so you knew not to fuck with him,” G recalled in a wide-ranging interview with Vibe in 2010. There was only one problem: Shock G was decked out in his gonzo Humpty Hump persona.
“I brought a couple of girls with me and had a limo,” G explained. “I’m in the VIP area late into the party, and Prince comes walking through. He’s wearing the high heels and this crazy red suit that the Joker would have on!… I’m standing there as Humpty, so I have to talk like Humpty. I got Stevie Wonder cracking up. And Prince walks up, and he speaks to me!” G and Prince had actually worked on the same track, a remix of the song ‘Love Sign’ from 1998’s Crystal Ball. But Shock G was a bit fuzzy on the details.
“I thought I took too much ecstasy and acid because I couldn’t remember doing that song… But you know what it was? It was a remix that Prince’s Paisley Park label hired us to do with Nona Gaye. This was in 1993 and it was a song that Prince wrote for her. We muted Prince’s lead vocal tracks and added our tracks on there, and that was it. But when we sent the track back to Prince, it never came out. At that time, we just thought it was the closest we would ever get to Prince, like, ‘Wow, we touched the same tape that Prince touched.’ After six years, I forgot about that shit.”
But Prince didn’t, and The Artist asked for Shock G’s opinion on the album. “He asked me how I liked the album, and I was like, ‘Man, I loved that song ‘Don’t Play Me’ and ‘Dream Factory’ swings hard… it’s some of the hardest shit ever made.’ He was like, ‘Yeah… that was cool how the groove fit right in there.'” Despite the less than ideal circumstances, G remained elated years later: “I talked to Prince in the flesh!”
Prince was G’s main influence, and the Purple One helped shape G’s attitude towards his artistry. “I had one foot in hip-hop being a DJ and the other foot in P-Funk. I was a self-taught musician on piano… Playing instruments was something you didn’t see in hip-hop. And on top of that, I was a huge Prince fan. I loved that he did it all in the studio by himself. I figured the more MC’s you would see… the less the fans would figure out that I was the piano man and Humpty Hump and Shock G. At that time, if you seemed like you knew a lot about playing music you were considered less hip-hop. So I didn’t want to appear like I was Prince – like I was above it all or this god, which is how I looked at him.”