It was a singular pleasure to interview Touré, the journalist, TV host and cogent cultural/political critic and music writer. Touré is a blunt, deep thinker with a podcast worthy of your attention, and I’ve long admired his work.
The author of “I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon” just posted a terrific interview with Lady Gaga on Toure.com. This is about a tenth of my conversation with Touré, who becomes even more endearing when he talks about his wife and kids. Check out the video at startribune.com.
Q: How much had you heard about Prince and drugs before the emergency plane stop in Illinois?
A: I had heard a lot about that, but what I had heard was that Prince was constitutionally against using drugs throughout his life. Folks talked about him as a teenager, in his 20s when “Purple Rain” was hot, in his 30s, not using drugs, not drinking. Even eschewing caffeine and coffee. I spent a lot of time talking to people about how is it he was working for three days in a row, recording a song a day, and how he accomplished so much. They said he was just filled with the spirit, this energy, drive and determination. To learn that this became part of his life as he got older isn’t to me a real comment about him; it’s that he fell into what so many Americans are dealing with: prescription drugs, self medication, becoming addicted because they are trying to deal with pain.
Q: Have you bought a ticket to the Paisley Park museum tour?
A: I have not. I would absolutely go. I’ve been to Paisley Park once. I will be very interested to see what it will become in this new iteration. It’s going to be part museum, part performance space and part recording venue. It’s going to be a vibrant place, not a dead place, like Graceland.
Q: How many times did you interview Prince?
A: I interviewed Prince twice within one story. We had a half-hour interview in a conference room where I had to go through all his Shakespearean language, posturing and sort of playing with me. I had to write it down, couldn’t record it. Looking at my notes afterward, for many sentences I had no idea what he was talking about, even though I know I wrote that down exactly. But when we were talking more on the basketball court, he was very natural, very himself. I think that’s where I got down to the real man who loved to play, compete, be one of the boys. Loved to win.
Q: Did you beat him?
A: In one-on-one, I would say there was no winner. I was not trying to hold back, but neither of us were ballplayers all the time so the shots were not quality. If you just looked at Prince when he went to shoot, yes, he had good form, he looked like a ballplayer. When we played as a team two-on-two, he and I against his bassist and my photographer, we won that one and Prince hit the winning shot.
Q: If you could see only one musical act the rest of your life, it would be …
A: Well, that’s a difficult question. Prince, him and a piano would be extraordinary. But somebody like Kanye would be doing extraordinary technological stuff all the time, trying to invade the performance space. So if I stuck with one forever, Kanye would show more variety in terms of what he’s doing in terms of technology. In this new show, he’s on a platform that seems to glide above the audience. I’ve seen other shows where he appears to be the only person on the stage; he appears to be moving from planet to planet. He’s a really interesting thinker about how to approach the performance space.
Q: I can’t get beyond the clown part of Kanye. Getting up onstage and bothering Taylor Swift; pumping up Beyoncé and Jay Z when they don’t seem that enthralled with Kim [Kardashian]. (This Q&A was done before Kanye verbally attacked Jay Z for not being supportive when Kim was robbed in Paris.)
A: Kanye is definitely a difficult artist. Part of what has happened is that he grew up largely single mother-single child. Dr. West was brilliant and she loved him. From her own mouth she told me she worshiped the ground that he walked on, so she taught him all his impulses are right. That’s a very dangerous thing to teach a person in the world. But sometimes, as Black Lives Matter teaches us, spaces need disrupting.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.