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He was wearing black leather gloves with his symbol on them. Convince them that they need to put everything behind me. Tell them I trust you. Or—you can just type it yourself. We left the club through the kitchen.

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An Audi S. Prince and I sat in the back in silence. I found I had nothing to say that was worth breaking it. Make the winner tell their own story. The car pulled into Crown Towers through a special entrance that snaked below the hotel to a bank of underground elevators. I told Prince that I liked the quiet of hotels at this hour.

There was something weirdly appealing about wandering their long carpeted corridors late at night. Prince gave a sly smile. What I thought would be a simple handoff became a two-hour conversation. There were a few packs of hairnets off to the side. I liked the idea of framing the memoir as a kind of handbook. You have to give back. My dad came to Minneapolis from Cotton Valley, Louisiana. He learned in the harshest conditions what it means to control wealth.

Prince wanted to teach readers about Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a wellspring of black entrepreneurship that flourished in the early twentieth century. After the Civil War, freed blacks flocked to the booming city and bought land. Segregation forced them to the Greenwood neighborhood, where their proprietorship and ingenuity created a thriving community. Soon, Greenwood boasted more than a hundred black-owned businesses, as well as nearly two dozen churches, several schools, and a public library. Prince loved reading about that amassing of wealth.

Hundreds died; about ten thousand lost their homes. Black Wall Street was decimated.

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Prince agreed, though he saw that the philosophy could be seductive. Supremacy is about everything flourishes, everything is nourished. It was more powerful to hear them from other people. He wanted to find some formal devices that would make the book a symbiosis of his words and mine. It had gone viral. Of course it had: his lips in a gentle pout, his eyeliner immaculate, every hair in his mustache trimmed to perfection, he seemed to be daring the customs officials of the world to give him a kiss instead of a stamp.

We need this to get weird. There was a process of elimination. You know a lot more words than I do. He stood and we walked to the door of his suite.


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Suddenly, my nose was in his hair. I spent the rest of the day catching whiffs of his perfume. At one point, he called Chris Jackson, his editor, at home, and asked if they could just publish the book without contracts or lawyers. Prince wanted to reserve the right to pull the book from shelves, permanently, at any time in the future, should he ever feel that it no longer reflected who he was.

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On a Friday, after a three- or four-day volley of offers and counteroffers, they settled on a figure, and Prince hopped on a plane. At p.

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By eight that evening, a hundred and fifty people had convened to hear the answer at Avenue, a narrow, dusky club on Tenth Avenue, in Chelsea. Prince, in effulgent gold and purple stripes, announced his memoir as he leaned on a Plexiglas barrier on a stairway high above the crowd. The next day, as news of the memoir caromed around the Internet, Johnson invited me to join him, Bekure, and Prince at the Groove, a night club in the West Village, at around midnight.

Prince had me scoot in beside him and cupped my ear. The artist should always be paid; the company should always be paying. Prince said it reminded him of a story of the one time they were supposed to work together. Second, no profanity. A while later, he nodded to Johnson that it was time to go. He shook my hand, gave me a quick side hug, and hustled out, holding his jacket over his head.


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A week went by, and then another, with no word. In early April, Johnson asked me if I could resend the typed pages with my notes. I did, and heard nothing. The silence began to worry me, especially after I read that Prince had postponed a show in Atlanta. A week later, TMZ reported that his plane had made an emergency landing after departing the city, and he was hospitalized in Moline, Illinois, supposedly to treat a resilient case of the flu.

On the evening of Sunday, April 17th, he called me. He meant the idea that our bodies can store memories, and that experience can therefore be hereditary. How is that possible without cellular memory? She liked spontaneity and excitement. The conflict of his parents lived within him. In their discord, he heard a strange harmony that inspired him to create.

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He paused for a moment. Funk music, which fused impulse to structure, was the living contradiction he embodied: his mother and his father in one. Late in the morning on April 21st, I was on a Metro-North train to Connecticut when the text messages began to come in. TMZ was reporting a fatality at Paisley Park. I kept refreshing the news sites. Soon, the headlines increased their point size. Prince was dead. Outside, spring had come, and through the train window I watched the landscape scroll by at a stately pace, acres of brown earth now mottled with green.

The following days brought news of addiction, first in the exclamations of tabloids and later in more sober reporting.

The source of the pills remains unknown. As I read more about his last months, it was hard to reconcile the sunny, puckish, solicitous man I met with the one described in news stories and police reports, who could be unyielding, furtive, and willfully opaque. All are welcome. Get in the know! Subscribe to our e-Newsletter! The MCBA e-News will arrive in your inbox roughly every two weeks, with a wide variety of upcoming events, classes, artist opportunities, items of interest and more.

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