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Prince is arguably the greatest musical artist of all time. Although he is widely heralded for his genius as a musician, composer, producer, and performer, one aspect of his incomparable talent that is often overlooked is his lyric writing. However, Prince was a wordsmith, a skilled storyteller who employed various literary genres and devices to arouse the imaginations and challenge the thinking of his listeners. As his career progressed, he increasingly integrated a black literary aesthetic into his songs to assert his beliefs and effect social change while affirming his identity as a member of the black community. The presentation will examine the song “Don’t Play Me” as an exemplar of Prince’s use of a black literary aesthetic.
Kamilah Cummings is a writer, editor, and visiting senior lecturer at DePaul University in Chicago. She has presented on Prince at Purple Reign, the first academic Prince conference (University of Salford, UK), and at Polished Solid Prince symposia at New York University, Spelman College, and online. She has also presented on Prince at The 2021 Pop Convergence (PopCon). Her work on Prince has been published in the Howard Journal of Communications special issue Prince in/as Blackness . . . and Prince and Popular Music: Critical Perspectives on an Interdisciplinary Life (Bloomsbury). She has also created the course, Prince: A New Breed Leader. A House music researcher as well, she created the course The House Chicago Built, has presented on House music at Black Portraiture[s] IV (Harvard University), and appears in the documentary The Woodstock of House. She is passionate about exploring the intersections of race and identity in media and pop culture, with a particular focus on centering blackness in the narratives of black people.