Andre Cymone Talks About ‘1969,’ Growing Up Black in Minneapolis and the One Thing I Wanted to Know about Prince (Part 2)

Andre Cymone Talks About ‘1969,’ Growing Up Black in Minneapolis and the One Thing I Wanted to Know about Prince (Part 2)
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
Image courtesy Dan Monick via Wax Poetics

In Part 1 of my interview with Andre Cymone, we talked about some of the challenges of growing up Black in Minneapolis and the lessons from his youth that found their way into his music. In Part 2, we delve even deeper into some of the specific influences that shaped his art, what it means to be a Black artist in this current political climate and the responsibilities one has with such a vast platform, the early days on the road AND he answers the one question I had about Prince with a very funny story. Here’s Part 2 of my interview with Andre Cymone:

Aisha: So why did you name the album, 1969? Is it because it’s not the start of a new decade like 1970, but it’s kind of on that precipice of recognizing the significance of old, but looking to the hope and promise of the new in this year of transition?

Dre: Well yeah, you really just nailed it. I mean because it was the culmination of all of those things. All those things that happened, so many things--- so many tumultuous realities all happened and it just melted down into 1969. You had Hendrix, you had so many different artists writing about so many different places so many different things. It was like there were festivals, you had such a--- you had Sly & The Family Stone, you had so many people that were saying so many things like [Sly & The Family Stone’s] ‘Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey,’ [James Brown’s]Say It Loud, I’m Black and I'm Proud.’ Just so much stuff, you know, We People That are Darker Than Blue.’ I mean there was just so much richness and so much expression pushing itself out during that period of time.

In ‘69, I mean music was just all over the map. It was just everything that people were feeling, you know, and it was talking about all those different things. I just felt like, at the time, I loved music but I couldn't produce. I didn't even know what producing music was. I could only play bass because my father was a bass player and I learned how to play his upright bass. But I always would just sit there, mesmerized, listening to the lyrics and listening to his music; and I just wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to create that so when I got to this place where I could finally do whatever I wanted without record companies saying, ‘No you need to make this kind of record,’ or whatever, I just landed on this.

You know what? We're at that same time now and I wanna make those kind of albums because I feel like we're at the same place but in 2017.

Aisha: But your album is really a Rock ‘N Roll, R&B montage that is akin to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. A lot of different sounds with a message.

Dre: Mmmm. Okay, I can--- yeah, I see that.

Aisha: Yeah, it really is because you’re addressing things likefor Kendrick Lamar to have won that Grammy makes a big difference because he was saying things that white people, for the most part, are afraid to hear. And here you are, you’re saying things that, for the most part, white people are afraid to hear. I listened to Jesse Johnson's new album about a month ago and he’s saying things in that vein--- he had a professor reciting a poem over his playing, saying things that people do not want to hear. No one ever really thinks to look to Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Sound for that, which if you do you research Minneapolis Sound is basically like the ‘70s Motown Sound with that message.

Dre: Yeah.

Aisha: But more intricate with the instrumentation. People, politically, are now talking about real issues. People are now saying forget this garbage, this is the message and we’re putting it out there. Is that what you’re trying to do with this album?

Dre: Yeah, absolutely that’s what I’m trying to do with this album! In fact, it’s funny that you say that because the way that music is now, you have to keep hitting people over the head and I’m working on the new album. I was working on it right before I started speaking to you, I was working on one of the songs. It’s really trying to deal with this Superbowl thing--- because I have issues about being involved in corporate things of that nature because I’ve been talking about politics. People from the NFL and the NBA, the boxing community--- I’ve been talking to people like that, speaking on issues. Before Trayvon… back then really hardly anybody was saying anything about anything but I was saying it then. I was telling people to get out and vote for Obama’s re-election campaign, I wrote a song called Vote.

The Trayvon thing, I obviously wrote a song called Trayvon, just trying to get people involved and it’s just… to see what’s going on now is really beautiful because, again, we’re at this time where people gotta get involved and its great to hear about Jesse Johnson. With what’s going with my new album and what’s going on with the Super Bowl, in a lot of ways I’m always--- I’ve always been talking about issues with the record companies. Prince wrote the ‘Slave’ thing and did all that, I just quit making records because this was before all that. They wouldn’t allow me to express myself the way I wanted. I wanted to make a Rock ‘N’ Roll record back then and they just gave me the ‘Look, you got signed to the R&B department, you make Black records.’ I thought, ‘That’s insane I’m not going to’ make any records then. How about that?’ Then I went on ahead and did albums for a different label, and that’s when I made Jody’s album.

People wonder why I stopped--- that’s exactly why: because they wouldn’t let me off my contract to do the music I wanted to do. Then, they said I was incorrigible [laughs], which is probably true from time to time, but I just refused to do it. It comes back to now, though, you’re dealing with this now. There’s a lot of Black artists and but they’re [making records that are] not saying anything--- I shouldn’t say, ‘aren’t saying anything,’ because I’m trying to disparage anybody’s thing but…

Image courtesy of Katherine Copeland-Anderson

Aisha: No, you’re right about this, especially when it comes to Hip-Hop, nowadays.

Dre: I just think--- I love Chuck D. What’s so funny, when I talk about Hip-Hop and think about it, I used to get a lot of grief from a lot of people because I would try to get people to understand what Hip-Hop was all about. Coming from where I came from, people talked about it like it was just some sort of… just bullshit, and I was like, ‘No, no, no, no. They talked about it like it wasn’t art. I finally said, ‘Listen and I’m not gonna talk about who is, was but I was just like, ‘Let me just explain something to you. I said listen to this record,’ and I put on ‘Fight the Power’ and if you can tell me that ain’t art…

Now I get it, as a musician, ‘cause I can play every instrument and always could, if you can tell me that this isn’t art, you’re trippin because to be able to take little snippets from about 50 different records and make that record--- and make one song--- and then make it as funky as it [‘Fight The Power’] was, and then put that message on top of it...

That to me, that is an artistic monument--- just from that standpoint. I’m a fan of music and that’s one of the things that I always maintain, I’m the same fan of music now as I was at 12-13. You have to stay that way and I know a lot of artists feel that they have to stop being a fan of music and they have to start being this person that everybody is supposed to come to for all the answers and all the music, but that’s not who you were when you were trying to become who you are [now]. Basically, you lose the plot, people start saying stuff like, ‘I don’t listen to the radio anymore.’ No! I still listen to the radio. I still listen to everything and I still keep my ear to the ground. I think you have to do that or you will become irrelevant and I just really feel like that’s important. Not to take from what they’re doing musically or whatever they’re doing to get to the next level, but you always have to be able to relate to people’s artistic expression. You said we’re a generation apart. This [relating to people’s artistic expression] is the way two generations zero all that out. If can’t paint yourself in this corner of ‘I only listen to music from when I was a kid,’ then what?

I never understood that because I went back and was listening to stuff my parents used to listen to, like I was would never listen to Blues, hardly ever listened to Jazz. I went to listen and rediscovered that maybe some years or so ago and that just blew me away. You keep giving yourself another life, especially as an artist. There’s so much stuff out there that I just think you shortchange yourself by just painting yourself in any kind of corner. And I think Black culture does itself a disservice by painting itself in a Hip-Hop corner [only] and Black culture--- that’s the new song I’m working on is addressing that, ‘Am I Black Enough?’ It’s like, ‘How Black do I have to be to be accepted by Black people?

Really, it’s a concept, all of us individually are a concept. We, as a culture, are a concept. So, what is the concept of me? What is concept of you? And what is the concept of our culture? We have to figure that out.

Aisha: You know what, though? You make a very good point. Black music, SO diverse. You talk about going back to listening to your parents records which were the Blues, my [parent’s] records were James Brown, Philly Soul and Parliament Funkadelic. I always knew how badly I was in trouble and what degree of ass whooping I was gonna get depending on which version of ‘The Payback’ that my father played. If he played Part I [only] then it wasn’t gonna be that bad, but if he played Parts I & II, I--- I just didn’t want to go home [laughs].

Dre: [laughing] I’ve never heard anything like that before.

Aisha: That’s the truth [laughing]. So, when we talk about the diversity of Black music, I mean, that’s why I never understood--- and I was nine at the time going on ten--- and never understood why people said that you have to choose between Prince or Michael Jackson. I always viewed the two as being polar opposite ends of the Black music spectrum. Different artists, different styles.

Dre: Yeah, thank you, that’s absolutely the way you should look at it. But see, we live in a society--- again, it’s kind of sad and I don’t know if we’ve done it to ourselves or we’ve been manipulated into choosing by marketing. As Americans, we’re SO influenced by television culture, film culture, you have ‘Menace II Society,Boys ‘N the Hood,’ ‘Set it Off,’ there’s so many films that glorify this--- the Wesley Snipes and John Singleton [films].

Aisha: Especially [the depiction of] West Coast gang culture.

Dre: Yeah, when you talk about the culture and the generation that you grew up in, and in a lot of ways it was so bad, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. But, it affected them so negatively that those were their heroes. My nephew got shot and stabbed and it goes on and on because they were trying to live out what they saw in the movies. I can’t say anything, because I grew up with Super Fly and Shaft, so it wasn’t a whole lot different, but when you think about it...

My brother--- I swear they saw my brother and wrote Super Fly after my brother because that’s who my brother was. That was in my mom’s house, upstairs. Me and Prince, everyday we’d see him come in with three or four girls and I’m telling you, people have no idea about the reality of the environment that I was living in, my family was living in. Obviously, I didn’t go live with Prince, he came to live with me and so he came and got exposed to a lifestyle that very few people even knew existed. To come in right into the lion’s den of that reality is enough to change anybody. I think he [Prince] faired a lot better than I did because my mom had to look out for him in a different way than she did for me; I think that wound up being a good thing for him.

Aisha: Let me ask you this: You mentioned you were signed to a label and they relegated you to the R&B department. But people are forgetting now or have forgotten or even don’t know, young people, don’t know that back in the day there were different departments and race was a major factor and here were also A&R [executives]. Labels don’t really have A&R now, but [then] Black artists were getting put into this caste system of music. For example, Rihanna and Beyonce [now] would have no concept of this because they don’t have to be put into that and one thing. I do see that a lot of Hip-Hop artists get put into that and don’t know it. I have been trying, racking my brain to understand why this song ‘Bodak Yellow’ by Cardi B is a phenomenon. I listened to it--- the song is just--- I don’t know, to me, but I support her because this is a Black woman who did something that Queen Latifah and MC Lyte couldn't do [in their time]. I still don’t get it, but what do you think now, since artists like Cardi B have the benefit of the internet but doesn't have to be... stuck in an R&B department, but you and so many other Black artists for whom there was no opportunity for advancement like that?

Dre: It's such a different, different, different--- I don’t know how many differents I can add to this--- but, it's a different reality, a different record business. It’s not even record business anymore, now, than it’s an ‘Apple telecommunications phone plan.’ That's what music is now. It's no longer, record companies; they sold out, they sold artists out and so it's no longer. It's really it's almost you know... just business. I mean calling it a business is not even, it's just---- it's a different kind of a business and it's really kind of sad because now it’s all about quick turnaround. It’s about who’s next, who’s next. You talk about Cardi B, it's just about if it catches on, YouTube hits, or if they do something and it goes viral, then somebody’s gonna pick ‘em up. That's how they find artists now. And then they exploit them; they exploit that little window that they have of that song and then they try get them, again, to make that same song over and over again. If the artist has some ability to be able to reinvent themselves or create something outside of that, good for them and good for the company because that's the only way they're gonna to see any kind of…

I don’t even wanna call it longevity, but just a little bit more time before they’re dropped because it gets insane right now.

You think of it like it’s just a telephone plan. That's it, it's completely just relegated to a different kind kind of thing. It's like new music and artists are just marginalized. It's like a fast food plan. It's like McDonald's, like that’s how we got the president we got. We got a fast food president! It's kind of the same mentality because people, just the apathy. I'm hoping, you know, because I'm seeing signs that people are starting to wake up and it's going to happen. I just think there's a sleeping giant that's going on and I have to believe that; maybe that's me being optimistic, but I just think there’s a sleeping giant. I think where we are now we have this--- as a black person--- when you have to call 911 to get somebody to come out because the police are brutalizing you, when you gotta call the police on the police, it's time for an alternative police force.

When people like me start saying stuff like that, about the NBA and the NFL speaking out about Trayvon, then eventually it started happening. It always makes a ground level whether it’s me or somebody else talking about stuff like this before it starts to permeate because the NFL and the NBA--- I mean they grew up in the same kind of communities that you did and that I did and they have power when they wake up; [they have to] realize just how much power they really have. To say, ‘If we just stop playing now, we got enough money, we could start our own unions, our own football teams and start working outside,’ if they started talking stuff like that--- things are going to change because it's just not the 60s anymore; it's different.

And people, they want you to think that somehow or another you’re still beholden to some kind of 60s mentality, but you’re not. It's like, ‘Nope.’ When you start thinking about the reality that back in those days, in the 60s it was like--- it was like with draft and blacks, at first, couldn't even get in the army. So naturally, you were on some other kind of thing. Now the majority of people that are fighting and that are on the front lines, they know how to use weaponry and know how to go through all of this stuff and have tactical training, they're mostly Blacks, Hispanics and people that are of color. And if there really was a revolution...

It's just a different reality now. And I just think where they had a certain kind of mentality back in the 60s when it came to that kind of stuff, it's a different whether people realize it or not because not very many people are saying anything about that. But that is what's going on.

Aisha: Okay, so here’s my last serious question then I have three silly and frivolous questions I want to ask just because I'm silly and frivolous sometimes. And one of those three is actually directly Prince-related and this is talking about early the last serious question: What people don't realize is how important to the history of Black music the original version of The Revolution was where you had three Black men standing on the stage upfront and center--- you, Prince, Dez. People think, okay, ‘Purple Rain Revolution’ is the definitive, but people don't really see that the first--- the power in that first band where you were opening up for people like Rick James and you have three black men playing Rock ‘N’ Roll. Did you realize at the time how significant that was?

Dre: Well yeah, because it was a very deliberate kind of approach. Obviously me and Prince were in a band together, we started off together and we did shows and concerts and all that kind of stuff. We used to look at it from the side of the stage and do a breakdown like, ‘You handle that side of the stage, you make sure you keep all the girls going crazy over there playing guitar solos, and all that and that’ll be great. I’ll hold down this side of the girls and I'll keep them going crazy over here with all my bass tricks, and you know playing my bass sideways and all of the silly stuff I used to do.’

That was our approach back then in our early band. Then we thought, ‘Well okay, we're about to do a major tour,’ so what we had to find somebody and we auditioned people and we finally found Dez because he had his own group--- he was a front man and we're like, ‘Damn, if we can have him, if he can cover that side, you can cover the middle and I can cover this side, ohhh man, we gon’ kill ‘em.’ And that was the concept at the time.

Obviously when we started doing shows with Rick James and you're right we we're opening for Rick James--- Punk Funk--- and you didn't get much Blacker than Rick James. Those are the groups that we’re opening for and playing on. And I'm telling you, when we first went out, I was wearing clear pants at the time and Prince hadn't gone into his whole thing yet until people really started giving me a lot of grief about the clear pants and then they said, ‘Well, you know, Prince, you need to change up a little bit,’ and he started getting into the whole bikini thing and then it was just he was doing bikinis, I was doing you know clear pants and then Dez was doing his spandex, Rock ‘N’ Roll.

I mean, literally, when we would first go out people would boo and call us names for about the first two or three songs... it was brutal. But, about that third or fourth song… all of a sudden people was a very, very visceral change. You could just see people changing and people [women] would go from like all this anger to like, ‘Wait a minute, they ain’t all these things that I thought they were ‘cause dude right there is looking at me like he wants to do crazy things to me and I think I might want him to do it because it was like this… it wasn’t like we were looking at dudes we were looking at the women.

<p>(l-r: Andre Cymone, Prince, Dez Dickerson) </p>

(l-r: Andre Cymone, Prince, Dez Dickerson)

Image courtesy of ABC News

Aisha: [laughs] And the girls that were front and center at Rick James concerts. I’ll tell you I was in third grade, I think that you all were on that tour with Rick James and you came to the New Haven Coliseum, which is no longer there, but you came to the New Haven Coliseum and I was so mad because I couldn’t go, I really wanted to go to the Rick James concert but I was 7 or 8 and I just remember the next day all the kids who had older siblings were telling me how freaky that show was from opening act to the end of Rick James show, start to finish. And that was really my first dalliance into hearing about sex in music, it was in school.

Dre: Yeah, I know, it was scary because we had a very, very deliberate concept; definitely me and Prince, but Dez did a different kind of thing because he was a different kind of dude, but me and Prince were just, literally, we were together 24/7 for about eight years. So it's like we were on the same page. You know we were always going after the same thing. I mean whenever we played, it was always us clowning around to try to see if we could do different things and get different results but we really got into the weeds, you know, trying to elicit a certain response from girls at different shows.

Aisha: That's what guys do when they kick it with their homies, they try to figure out how to impress women.

Dre: Yeah, yeah, but we did it ON stage! But absolutely, yes!

Aisha: Okay, so here are my three frivolous questions. My first is you can play any instrument you want, you’re just as multi-instrumental or just as proficient as Prince, but people know you as a bass player. My favorite player is James Jamerson, who's yours?

Dre: Oh James Jamerson, he did all that with the Motown stuff. Mine, I think Sonny Thompson is my favorite bass player.

Aisha: Really?

Dre: I mean, I wouldn't say…’cause my favorite bass player used to be, I guess, Larry Graham, I just never… When I was a kid, I was extremely cocky so I didn't buy into any of that kind of stuff. I wasn't a ‘fan’ of anybody. I was always... I was very--- maybe because of my father--- I was used to being very original. My whole concept behind playing bass was I learned sax solos and trumpet solos and anything other than bass solos because I didn’t want to be like anybody else. My whole thing was, I want to be original. I want to be as original as I can and that was always my thrust.

I played using my thumb and I plucked and I knew Larry Graham did. So I was doing that around the neighborhood and I had no idea Larry Graham played with his thumb or anything like that and so when I found out I was like, ‘Oh this is somebody who plays like me.’ Then he wound up quitting [Sly & The Family Stone] and got replaced by some guy named Rusty Allen--- and that dude--- he might be one of my favorite bass players, Rusty Allen. Yeah, I think that might be my favorite player and a lot of people might not know much about that guy.

He played for that band after Larry and he was amazing and Stanley Clark. I used to think nobody could mess with me back then, when I was like 15 years old. I thought I could take all of ‘em. But then Stanley Clark came out, it was like, ‘Okay, time to start practicing a little more on that guitar,’ because he was whooping everybody’s behind on the bass. I mean, I could still play that stuff, like fast and stuff, but when you find somebody that so good at it--- it’s like, I’m not trying to compete on that level, because I play guitar pretty well, pretty good on drums, pretty good on bass and pretty good on keys, but I don’t know, I just look at it as creation and it’s all fun. But my favorites are probably Sonny T and Rusty Allen.

<p>Andre Cymone at the 2017 Paisley Park Celebration</p>

Andre Cymone at the 2017 Paisley Park Celebration

Image courtesy of Zimbio

Aisha: And you know people don’t--- some people’s minds aren’t wired to be attuned to instruments that way, I think. I played the flute--- badly--- and the drums. But you really can tell the difference between somebody who thumbs the bass and does slap bass versus someone like James Jamerson who used to pick with his index finger.

Dre: Oh, okay, yeah, he sure did.

Aisha: You can tell the difference, that’s why I like it. So here’s my next question: One of my mantras, when it comes to how I write and how I think about words and music is, ‘I think in beats and rhymes, everything else is just noise,’ what’s yours?

Dre: My mantra when I think about music?

Aisha: Yeah, about music and songwriting. If someone were to say, ‘What do you want people to remember or one line about you when it comes to your music and artistry?’

Dre: That’s a good question. I think the same philosophy I have about life, and my thing is basically--- I do have a philosophy when it comes to all that--- God is your conscience, let your conscience be your guide. And everything kind of stems from that. I think that when I create music, writing or any of that kind of stuff, I picture a giant tree. It’s in the middle of a field and the wind is blowing and it’s blowing the leaves and they’re going every direction and you’re the tree. That’s the concept, you’re that tree, your creativity should be just as free as the wind blowing the leaves around. So when I sit down and create something, I don’t create it to be any kind of way, I just let it flow, let the wind blow and let the thoughts fly and let them go where they may. And, if ends up being rock, then its rock; if it winds up being funky, then it’s funky. If it winds up being Calypso or whatever--- I just love music and I refuse to paint myself in any kind of a corner because then who’s going to represent just the freedom?

Music has very few champions these days and nobody is really trying to stay true, just coming from that perspective. When it comes to Hip-Hop, there’s some people who stay true to Hip-Hop and how it’s broken down, how they approach it, how they approach their lyrical content, how they approach what they sample and, if they do, they go get Jazz or real musicians and they cover this or that. I’ve gotten into all of that kind of stuff. I just know for me, now, I look at it more organically. Even [back] then I did. My first albums were very electronic and the plan then was to, when I first started writing to do my stuff, it was gonna be extremely funky; things happened, so, I had to do something different. I wound up saying, ‘Let me just completely change it all.’ So I thought, ‘What can I do that nobody else is doing?’

Aisha: My last question has two parts. Okay, first part how many times did you and Prince go and see The Mack? The second part, how much of his image is crafted after the character of ‘Goldie?’

Dre: Wow, that’s funny! We did go and see The Mack, but you gotta realize just like there was one radio station, there was only one place we could go to see movies like that and that was the Capri. You couldn’t go see it a bunch of times, but we did go see Super Fly a couple of times and I think more you might look more at Prince for that, but I look at it different when it comes to him. One thing you gotta realize when it comes to Prince, he was a very Americana based person. He would sit around watching TV shows--- I couldn’t do it, but he would watch, Welcome Back Kotter,’ ‘Good Times, he would watch all of that. What’s Happenin', that was one of his favorites. I don’t know if he was on Sesame Street or Electric Company, but Gordon?

Aisha: Oh yeah, the bald-headed guy, Gordon, Sesame Street.

Dre: Yeah, he was a pimp in one of those movies.

Aisha: Yup, he sure was.

Dre: If you check out his walk, you’ll see the walk. My brother had that same walk with the shoulders, boppin’ back and forth, got that whole thing going. It was hilarious when I think about it because I used to give him [Prince] a hard time back in the day, and I used to give my brother a hard time, but if I gave my brother a hard time I might’ve got hit upside the head. But one of these days, I’ll have to show you some pictures of my brother because you’d think either--- because my brother was doing those things before that movie came out and my sister made a lot of those clothes. She used to work for the company Elegntique in downtown Minneapolis, owned by Bubba Armstrong and others. She also worked in the shop owned by former Minnesota Viking Oscar Reed and made garments for several football players.

Aisha: She did the buttons on his pants, right?

Dre: What?

Aisha: That was your sister right, who did the buttons on the side of his pants? Prince’s pants.

Dre: My sister made all of his outfits. All those early outfits: the trench coat, the buttons on the pants, the jacket, the Purple Rain jacket, Vanity’s camisole, The Time’s suits, my sister made all of that. My quirky, weird space outfits--- she made all that stuff.

Aisha: So those are all my questions. I just have one comment: I was so tickled to death that I really fell out my chair reading it--- it was GQ ,last year when you said that Prince would sit there and write down lines to approach women in a spiral notebook.

Dre: Mmm-hmm.

Aisha: Nothing was funnier to me [in that article] than that.

Dre: Oh you have no idea, you have no idea! That dude, he was really funny and I can’t say how much I really, really miss him because it really makes me sad. I get teary-eyed when I think about it because just who he used to be when we used to hang out. Because when I left, I left and didn’t really listen to much of his music and I hadn’t seen how far he had come until recently because a lot of his stuff wasn’t allowed to be on Youtube or whatever. So all the things I’m seeing now, I never saw. I only went to a handful of concerts like maybe four or five. He was awesome, he was great and all of that, but I hadn’t seen just how far he had come. He had really come a long way and I was so proud and I wish I could have got the chance to tell him just how proud I am of him.

Aisha: He knows.

Dre: Yeah, I think so ‘cause we had gotten together before he passed and had a chance to hook up a couple times. One time we got a chance to kick it, just he and I in a dressing room for a minute and I got to bring him up to speed and he got to bring me up to speed; it was really good. I wish he was around because I really would’ve loved to have that... that time where you talk to your boy about, ‘Remember when we did this and remember when we did that?’ ‘Cause we really did so much crazy, really fun, crazy stuff and nobody else was around. It was just he and I and different girlfriends, and we just had so much fun and the travelling, making the first album--- just so much stuff that we experienced and the only person that I can relate to on that is him.

I’m sure he was the same way because we were driving around [back then] in a hooptie and there was no one around but us. He was such a funny dude and I always think about his car and how I would tell him all the time, ‘Quit parking your car out front, it’s gonna get hit.’ He would never listen. Yeah he learned, I think we were out of town, we came back and it was the funniest thing because his car it was a little Datsun. A teeny little race car, and it got hit by a truck hit when we were out of town and when we came back somebody had dragged it up and placed it on the lawn and they had a note on it saying, ‘We could fix your car if you want to.’

Aisha: A plow tore mine apart once. A snow plow.

Dre: A snow plow?

Aisha: A snow plow tore mine apart once, I only had half a car left, but everyone told me and I didn’t listen.

Dre: Yeah, it sounds about the same thing and he literally pulled out, he reached in the trunk and pulled out the tennis rackets. He said, ‘We could still play tennis’ [laughs].

Aisha: Before we go, I’m gonna tell you why I thought the GQ piece was so funny when you were talking about that because if it happened again tonight. My sister’s and I were like you and Prince growing up because you grew up together in the same house. I have two younger sisters and we’re very close in age and we went out to dinner before I got home to do this interview and my middle sister is a typical middle child. We were talking about how we’re gonna do Christmas Eve. My sister pulls out a notepad in the restaurant with a pen and I’m looking at her, my younger sister’s looking at her crazy, and said to me, ‘Did she just pull out a notebook?’ Then I look at our sister and said, Are you writing a list of how this is going to go? She’s like, Well yeah, I write my lists and when I go home, I’m gonna type up an itinerary and email it to everybody.She was dead serious!

Dre: Damn!

Aisha: I’m like, ‘Don’t, don’t do that.’ But yeah that’s--- when you said that it reminded me of back in the day ‘cause I’m three and four years older than my sisters. She and I were the ones that went to high school together. In high school she did the same.

Dre: I gotta say it was effective. His whole thing kept me out of a lot of trouble. He pulled out this note about this kid that I wasn’t supposed to mess with. It had all these snaps and stuff because he used to play the dozens back then. But we got into fights and all that kind of stuff. He had a little dossier of people he thought were a threat [laughs]. And so, I was confronted by this kid and I was getting ready to fight and Prince was like, ‘Nah, nah, nah.’ I was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Come over here,’ and he showed me this notebook and he said, ‘His mom’s name is Birdie and his dad’s name is Pontiac,’ and I’m like, ‘You gotta be kidding me.’ He said, ‘This is what you do, sing, [singing] he rocks in the treetop all day long, huffing and a puffing, rockin’ robin.’ I said, ‘Are you freaking kidding me?’ He said, ‘Yeah, he’ll go crazy, just sing that and tell his dad you’re gonna pump gas in his Pontiac.’ I said, ‘You gotta be kidding me. Why can’t I just go punch him in the nose?’ He said, ‘Well you don’t wanna do that ‘cause he’s got like 16 brothers and sisters and about two dozen cousins, so you gotta fight all of them.’ I’m telling you, he was hilarious! But he was dead serious! And I was like--- I never thought about anybody thinking to do something like that. He was hilarious and I just... I miss him.


That was our interview. I want to thank Andre Cymone for taking the time to talk with me. Our conversation lasted nearly two hours and was about as much fun and as informative as it reads. I also want to thank Jourdan Brown for taking the time to transcribe our conversation for me. Also, a special thanks to Katherine Anderson for providing her original photography and Anthony Burnside for making the introduction.

Andre has also given me a special announcement. In addition to the concert dates below and appearances as a guest on the New Power Generation tour, Andre will be performing at Superbowl LIVE presented by Verizon on February 1, 2018. Superbowl LIVE is part of a 10 day event that will be held in Minneapolis at the ‘Verizon Up Stage at Ice Mountain’ on the corner of 8th and Nicollet. Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and the Minnesota Superbowl Host Committee (MNSBHC) announced earlier this month that the event will feature a special tribute to Prince and include some of the pioneers of the Minneapolis Sound. This is the first announcement of Andre Cymone’s appearance at the event.

Here’s a list of Andre’s upcoming tour dates to promote 1969 and with the New Power Generation:

Andre Cymone - 1969 Live Music Experience

2/1 SuperBowl Live Ice Stage Minneapolis, MN 3/30 Bluesfest Byron Bay, Australia 3/31 Bluesfest Byron Bay, Australia

The NPG with Andre Cymone- Celebrating Prince

1/31 SuperBowl Live Ice Stage Minneapolis, MN 2/2 The Dakota Jazz Club, Minneapolis, MN 2/3 The Dakota Jazz Club, Minneapolis, MN 3/26 170 Russell, Melbourne, Australia 3/27 170 Russell, Melbourne, Australia 3/28 Enmore Theatre, Sydney Australia 3/30 Bluesfest Byron Bay, Australia 3/31 Bluesfest Byron Bay, Australia

Image courtesy Katherine Copeland-Anderson

You can listen to snippets of 1969 and purchase the album on Andre Cymone’s website.

Go To Homepage

Popular in the Community