"The Geography of the Minneapolis Sound: Prince, Race and Place"

Wednesday, February 21, 2018
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM (ET)
CHS CHS 104 Chase Auditorium
Event Type
Distinguished Visitors Program

Distinguished Visitor Rashad Shabazz, associate professor, Justice and Social Inquiry, School of Social Transformation, Arizona State University 

Born and raised in the city’s Black neighborhood of North Minneapolis in the mid-20th century, Prince was a child prodigy. The son of jazz composer and singer, Prince taught himself to play multiple instruments: guitar, piano, bass guitar, and drums. In addition to his hefty catalogue of pop hits, Prince was a prolific songwriter. Not withstanding his forty-four studio albums (with several of them double, triple, and even a quadruple album!), he left more than ten thousand songs in his famous vault. There is enough music in there to release two albums a year over the next century. But more than individual genius, Prince brings into focus the social forces that gave rise to the contestations over the place of Black people and Black music in the city of Minneapolis in the post-World War II period. It was this contest over Black people and their music that give rise to the musical career of Prince and the sound of Minneapolis. Prince’s genre bending music that fused funk, rock, new wave, jazz, and pop is not the product of a singular genius, but was rather the consequence of social forces: chiefly white supremacy and exploitation of Black labor migration that brought Black people from the south and mid-west to Minneapolis; and the spatialization of Black people in the northern part of the city. These forces did much to lay the groundwork for the creation of the Minneapolis sound. Drawing on the work of Black geographers, music geographers, historians, and music theorists, this presentation seeks to answer the question posed in the title: is Minneapolis a Black geography and does it matter? To do this I will use Prince and his sound as a way to illuminate and map how social forces such as poverty, migration, and anti-Black racism shaped not only Minneapolis’s urban and racial geography, but also the popular musical forms that have defined the city and its most famous son for nearly a half century.

Tea at 4:15 PM

Sponsored by the Peace, Justice, & Human Rights Program in conjunction with the Distinguished Visitors Program 

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