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_BIOGRAPHY OF SOUND_______
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_By_______________________
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_Rashad Shabazz___________
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Prince’s life was not simply his musical genius, controversy, bottomless musical production, style, eccentricity, and enigma; it was not just a “pop life.” His life tells the story of one of the least understood and understudied cities in the country and the music it produced, which dominated popular music in the 1980s and 1990s. To understand Minneapolis and its music, one must understand the social and musical geography of Prince’s life. Musical geography not only traces the social and spatial evolution of sound, but also sheds light on the cultural, political, racial, and economic development of a place. The musical geography of Minneapolis that I am working on examines the national and international social forces that laid the groundwork for the city’s music scene. Prince figures prominently in this study and his life can serve as a historical guide.
The Minneapolis Sound – the fusion of R&B, funk, rock, and new wave in a pop music format – may be synonymous with Prince, but it was produced by greater societal forces. Migrations to the Upper Midwest in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by Europeans and Black Americans, the mandatory incorporation of music education into the public school curriculum, innovations in Black music that resulted from mixing Black and white musical styles, the politics of racial tolerance, and a stable economy together laid the social and sonic groundwork for Minneapolis Sound to emerge: a musically-literate community of economically-stable Black and white musicians, who were able to blend genres and create new music. These factors opened up possibilities for a kid born to musical parents, with otherworldly talent, who could play anything he heard, and who would – in a moment of social and cultural transition – develop into one of the best musicians the world has ever seen. It was Minneapolis (though, of course, not only Minneapolis) that gave Prince the sonic tools to create songs that changed popular music forever and put Minneapolis on the map.

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