Questlove is an outspoken Prince superfan. “I patterned everything in my life after Prince,” he wrote earlier this year in a tribute essay for Rolling Stone. “I studied his fashion, I studied his affect … And he began to mentor me in musical matters, too … I had a simple rule: if Prince listened to it, I listened to it.”
Prince would have turned 58 this week, and Questlove took the opportunity to honor the star again by providing Okayplayer with a “Prince snob rating of Prince albums.” The drummer-DJ focuses on the records released during Prince’s Warner Brothers years, and the drummer rates each LP twice: once to reflect how it sounded when it came out and once to reflect how it sounds now. The difference between the two ratings is especially interesting, with the scale ranging from @ to @@@@@.
Speaking on The Black Album, for example, Questlove writes, “When it came out [as a bootleg in the ’80s]: @@@@@ (the folklore of it made it instant classic and people only heard snippets). When it came out in 94: @@@1/2 under the bitter circumstances; I just felt like he shoulda just let the folklore continue. It was ruined. How does it hold up some 27 years later? @@@@.”
The reviews are consistently amusing — Questlove hands a perfect score to Sign O’ The Times, noting “this was the ‘he could shit on a record and it would be perfect’ phase” — and rich with musical analysis about the origin of the “Minneapolis Sound” and the way the birth of hip-hop impacted the reception of Prince’s work.
Questlove is also a cheerfully provocative critic. He declares “Do Me Baby” Prince’s “finest vocal performance committed to tape in his entire career,” and deflects the potential rebukes of other Prince-heads: “Prince-cologists will gasp at me not giving [Dirty Mind] 5 stars, but it’s still not focused in the way that 99/[Purple] Rain was.”
Check out the full rundown at Okayplayer.Questlove defended Madonna and Stevie Wonder’s Prince tribute at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards. Watch here.