ABSTRACT

During the mid-1980s, as Prince cemented his position among the biggest pop stars of all time, some critics bandied about an unsubstantiated theory that once he achieved crossover fame, Prince abandoned his Black audience. However, Prince’s presence in Black media, his performance on Billboard charts, and his own words refute this misconception. It is impossible to fully understand or appreciate the legendary first decade of Prince’s career without acknowledging the importance of his Black audience. Yet, his relationship with this audience remains largely ignored by the white critical and scholarly establishments as well as the Prince Estate. Therefore, this article argues that while the massive crossover success of 1999 and Purple Rain allowed Prince to expand his audience, his reign would have been impossible without the ardent support of his Black audience—his first and most loyal audience.

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