Never had pancakes, but Prince was a baller
How working with Prince influenced my life forever
Billboard magazine just did a piece on “Basketball and the The Daisy Chain,” a Prince song I was featured on with Kip Blackshire. We shot a music video where we’re playing basketball at Paisley with Prince. The video is a rare one, possibly the only video of him actually playing. I haven’t opened up about these times in a post before. Some of my friends know this story, some don’t. There’s been a lot of reminiscing lately about Prince, so now I want to share some positive memories from that time. Dude was a true Musical Prodigy, Innovator, Artist Rights Advocate, Humanitarian, Fashion Icon, Pro Level Smack Talker, oh yea don’t forget Basketball :-) All this happened at a difficult time in my life, I grew up a lot during and after this experience. I’m grateful I’ll always have these memories.
In 1999, I was 19 years old living in Minneapolis working on developing my sound. My songs/style weren’t “there” yet, but I had been writing songs since I was 11 and at that time was relentless with writing, performing and designing. I dropped out of art school after about a year. My family moved away and I was out on my own. I didn’t want a regular day job. I just wanted to spend all of my time creating and not waste it working. I would crash on couches or with a girlfriend. Once I was given the keys to an abandoned house declared to be condemned where I stayed for about a month or two until I came home one night and everything I had was stolen. Although rare, sometimes I’d just sleep in my car and shower at the gym. It didn’t phase me because I had freedom to create constantly. I designed album covers and flyers for food and gas. Eventually I was referred to Prince’s keyboardist Morris Hayes who hired me to design artwork for a demo CD project for Bria Valente and I was very grateful for the work. I had been to over 20 studios in Minneapolis and no one’s personal set up was quite like Morris’s studio. It was like walking into a hidden speakeasy or Bruce Wayne’s Batcave, amazing. At Morris’s place I met Kip Blackshire, who had just started playing keyboard and singing backgrounds for Prince. We became great friends and began making music. Something clicked for both of us, we were working on new material like 20 hours a day sometimes. Kip would advise me with my writing, and I would help him with the music. A true collaboration. Those songs we made and the chemistry we developed would eventually lead me on the path to meet The Great Purple One. These are just a few great memories from that time.
Prince used to throw parties at Paisley Park and DJ Dudley D would spin; sometimes P would do a couple songs or just play a solo. Sometimes he’d come on stage at 1am when everyone is about to leave and play for a few hours. You just never knew what was gonna happen. I went out to Paisley with Kip during the day for a Prince tour rehearsal and they said I could come hang and watch. I sat in the back of the room, they ran through a few songs then P waved me up towards the stage and pointed to the microphone. My stomach fell out onto my shoes, that walk up to the mic felt like it took an eternity. I was so nervous that I only rapped on like one song then went for a walk outside and disappeared. I didn’t want to mess anything up so I played it conservative. The next day the exact same thing happened — I came out and watched and he waved me up again. But this time something changed. I wasn’t nervous and he wasn’t practicing the show rehearsal anymore; he was just jamming with the band. I must have been on stage for over an hour, we did dozens of songs, some were things I’d written and some were freestyles. I just jumped in certain areas where it felt right or he gave me the go ahead look again. He started playing Bob Marley’s “Waiting In Vain.” He was singing the chorus, and I remember saying a couple lines in between his and Prince was busting up laughing. I felt so out of body like “how is this even happening?” After the jam was over I was sitting on the curb in the parking lot and Morris came outside and said something like, “well, dude wants you to start coming out more and wants to work on some things.” That moment I will never forget.
Basketball and The Daisy Chain
In 2000, Prince recorded a song and a music video called The Daisy Chain featuring me, David Schwartz — DVS (rap verse & chorus chant) and Kip Blackshire (Vocals). I remember holding that official CD in my hand for the first time, so excited P had my name printed on the disc (Feat. DVS) my first official disc. The video was shot at Paisley Park in 2000 and only aired on Prince’s NPG website. Also in the video is Kirk Johnson, Morris Hayes, Geneva and the legendary Larry Graham. The single was pressed up and sold in the arenas on tour. The song was put on Prince’s album Slaughterhouse now available on TIDAL. At the end of the video there are a few clips of Prince playing basketball with Kip and me; we must have played over a hundred games within those years, Mostly 21 but some horse, 1 on 1 and 2 on 2. At the very end Prince gets swatted by Kip and you can actually hear Prince laugh at the last second before the video fades out. He really could hoop! He had all kinds of tactics for distracting me when I was shooting, getting really low to the floor and tapping on the ground by my feet or running around me or under my legs. He would use his height and quickness to his advantage. You can’t leave him open, he’ll hit every shot and constantly try to steal the ball. He was good in the paint too because he was fast. We never had pancakes, and there were no blouses that was definitely a different era. Look closely and you can see curtains on the walls to help soundproof the court from the studio. Kip and P won a lot of games, but I took a few :-)
Basketball scenes pop up around the 5:37 mark then play through the end, but we’re holding basketballs throughout the video.
Video can be viewed here
The night we recorded Daisy Chain really sticks out to me. Prince asked me to listen to a song one night. After I did, he looked right at me and said,
“I want you to rap on this.”
“I’ll be back in 30, and when I get back I wanna hear it. If I like it I’ll give you (X dollars).” Which was a ton of money for a broke kid. I went through my 4–5 notebooks of material and tried to pull a few lines I really liked that went with the subject. When he got back he said to hop in the booth — “We’re gonna record” — without even hearing it first! We’re at the Studio, I step in the mic room, easing up to his gold microphone, and Prince is engineering at the console with Kip kicking back on the purple couches. He clicks in, “Ready? If you hit it perfect the first time, I’ll give you another extra double (X dollars).” No pressure…. Man, my heart was pumping. He pushes play and gives me a smug look like “good luck.” I get about 8 bars into my 16 when he stops the music and falls to the floor laughing. Completely busting up. I said, “wasup?” And before I could even realize how nervous I was, he said, “I wasn’t recording. I didn’t think you’d hit it the first time.” Unbelievable. So he hits Play; I hit it perfect the second time, and he honored the bet.
Why buy you if he could just lease you
Why iron you if he could just crease you
Why try you if he wouldn’t preview
Why drive through if he won’t eat you
Why VIP you when he could nose bleed you
Ok… stop cryin, sorry I’ll leave you… Bye
Passing Your Name
He would later suggest that Kip and I join The Fonky Bald Heads and open up for him on the 2001 USA Hit N Run Tour. Prince would come out every night and sing the chorus on our song “Passing Your Name.” The band was all amazing musicians, mostly consisting of Prince’s NPG members Kirk KAJ Johnson (Drums), Mike Scott (Guitar), Kip Blackshire (Vocals), Kevin Kato Walker (Bass), Michael Fish Herring (Guitar), Dustin DJ Dudley D Meyer (Prince’s DJ) and Myself.
Before we did the Bald Head version Kip and I made the first recording. I wrote the song, and Kip produced the music and helped with some rewrites. I still remember that day we took it out to Paisley to let Prince hear it. I thought it was my best work yet, but I was still nervous to share it with him. He was eating when we arrived so we said “we’ll come back” but he said, “no it’s okay pop it in.” There was a stereo in the kitchen lounge area. Goes to show how he was always in music mode. We played it through all the way to the end or near the end I think; then he asked to play it again. I was surprised he sat through the first time without stopping. When it finished the second time, he asked to play it a third time. I remember thinking I can’t even imagine what’s going through his mind. At last, he spoke. He asked what we wanted to do with it, I said there could be more raps about love and relationships and maybe I could be a voice for that. I was really digging Common’s The Light at the time, in fact some of my first performances at Paisley Parties was Kip singing that hook and I would rap a song about my mom passing away when I was young. I remember Prince said something like “You know everything you could write about has already been written, it’s the way you do it, putting yourself into it is what makes it unique.” He said we should remake “Passing Your Name” and later asked if I’d be interested in taking it on the road. I said yes immediately, but he said “no take some time and think about it.” So I did, but — are you F$%# kidding? Taking my song on the road with Prince? — of course, I didn’t need to think about it. That was the dream.
From Music to Design
The first night on tour in Atlanta, Prince came in the dressing room. Totally serious. “We have a problem.” I thought, “Oh great what did I do now? I’m gonna get kicked off the tour before it even starts.” (I was kind of a crazy 20 year old kid.) He said, “I saw the Bald Heads transparent CD packaging out front, and I can’t have your CDs shinin’ like that next to mine… so will you come up with a packaging design for mine?” Um, of course I was thrilled he would even ask me to design for him. His album wasn’t finished yet, he was only selling singles on tour. The album cover was to be for an album titled HIGH. The cover was being designed by Sam Jennings, Photo by Steve Parke and I was working on some packaging concepts. I had printed art on a transparent sticker to be the actual cover outside of the cd case so the art on the disc would be see-through and merge as part of the cover art. The album was eventually broken up and put on the Slaughterhouse and Chocolate Invasion albums. We shot a music video for the main title track HIGH, and Kip and I were featured on some parts of the song. In the video we were standing on top of a purple tour bus in the Paisley parking lot but Prince stuck that video in the famous vault along with some others, not sure if it was even edited.
Design was a big part of my life also, by him showing an interest in my design work it gave me a confidence that I could really be designing anything. I was heartbroken his HIGH album didn’t come out. I still design album covers sometimes, I moved to Atlanta in 2002 and started a company designing albums for hundreds of artists over the years. I’ve designed covers for Akon, Paris Hilton, Mint Condition, Chad Smith from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gucci Mane’s first few albums, 2 Chainz (Tity Boi back then) and many more. I currently live in Los Angeles and work as a Senior Art Director on campaigns for films, TV shows and brands. I love design but still miss recording and performing. I hadn’t spoken to Prince in a while but those years at Paisley and being on the road with him and the NPG family was like no other experience I’ve ever had — and my life changed forever. I’m eternally grateful to Kirk, Morris and Kip for bringing me in. I’m blessed to have been a part of anything he did. It’s nice to see so many new positive stories coming out about how he was there for so many people and causes. He pushed me and helped me at a difficult time in my life. Gone way too soon and greatly missed.
“Life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last.” –P