Pop Conference 2021

Jackson State University Professor C. Liegh McInnis, DePaul University Professor Kamilah Cummings & De Angela will be presenting a panel, Prince: Disrupting Notions of Blackness, at Pop Convergence 2021 on Friday, 23 April 2021, 4-5:15pm EDT. Pop Conference 2021— the longest-running music writing and pop music studies conference of its kind—will bring together the world’s leading pop scholars, journalists, writers, musicians for three days of virtual events exploring pop music’s role in mirroring and shaping one of the most chaotic and disruptive moments in modern global history, from 22 to 25 April 2021. The conference is hosted by NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music and Tisch School of the Arts and is free and open to the public.

Free registration @ https://popconference.org

Kamilah Cummings will present “Purple, Lace, & Race: Prince and the Art of Protest,” and C. Liegh McInnis will present “The Art of Double Disruption: How Prince Worked in the Tradition of Jean Toomer and Richard Wright to Rebel Simultaneously against White Supremacy and Black Self-Limitation.”

De Angela will present “Controversy: The Blueprint of Prince’s Musical Transformation and Disruption.”


In the 15 November 1981 Baltimore Sun article, “Whites Are Missing Good Rock By Blacks,” Geoffrey Himes proclaimed, “As young and talented as Prince is, he has a better opportunity to demolish the rules about black rock ‘n’ rollers than anyone else.” Not only did he accomplish this three years later at the pinnacle of his commercial success with 1984’s Purple Rain film and its accompanying soundtrack, but Prince would also go on to create a genre of music labeled the “Minneapolis Sound.” However, by 1988’s critical masterpiece Sign O’ The Times, Prince was his own genre, often copied, but never duplicated.

While Sign O’ The Times would encapsulate everything Prince was as a singer, songwriter, composer, arranger, and producer, the linchpin of Prince’s discography is 1981’s Controversy. The album is the perfect amalgamation of Prince as a disruptor. Although its predecessor 1981’s Dirty Mind would shock fans and critics alike with Prince’s sexual explicitness and sociopolitical awareness, while adopting punk’s aesthetics and ideologies, Controversy is where all the themes that Prince would revisit throughout the rest of his career–race, sex, gender, politics, spirituality, duality, and love—and a bricolage of musical genres–rock, pop, soul, r&b, new wave, and rockabilly—were woven together in a quilt of his authentic voice and sonic palette.

In this talk, the deconstruction of Controversy reveals that the album as a whole would ultimately anchor the trajectory of Prince’s career, while also serving as the blueprint of constant transformation and disruption for the rest of it.