An Interview With Funk Legend Prophet

Prophet returns with a new album and Stones Throw tour. Seeing him perform live is a vision of pure outsider funk.

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 Prophet rocks a lemon on stage like it carries mystical powers.

Prophet rocks a lemon on stage like it carries mystical powers.

Known by rare record collectors for his 1984 cult classic, Right On Time, the legendary funk artist known only as Prophet is back. His new album for Stones Throw Records, Wanna Be Your Man, is the first thing he’s released in over 30 years. The album was largely produced by Stones Throw mainstay and beat virtuoso, MNDSGN, and if that’s not enough hype, Tyler The Creator rapped over the title track’s beat in one of his 2018 YouTube remixes.

When it comes to his unique eccentricities like performing with a lemon in hand and donning yellow, there’s no pre-meditated strategy behind it. “Sometimes you just try things and it works, man,” says Prophet. 

It’s this free-flowing consciousness that’s kept Prophet focused on music over all these years. Currently on a Stones Throw tour with label mates, Stimulator Jones, Keifer, and Jerry Paper, I saw Prophet perform live in Salt Lake City. He was the opener, probably unknown to the majority of the room, but he had everyone enthralled within seconds of being on stage.

Nah man, I’m gonna do what I do whether I’m first or last.

I’ve never seen anyone perform with fruit? What does the lemon do for you on stage?

P: I like to eat them so I just started carrying them with me, and it caught on at Stones Throw. It’s like a comfort thing for me ya know. Sometimes it just adds a level of confidence when I’m performing.

Seeing you in the crowd smiling and eating your lemon while watching Jerry Paper was magical. Is it difficult to be the opener? Did you tour in the 80s?

P: Nah man, I’m gonna do what I do whether I’m first or last. Yeah, we spent some time in Europe. It was cool. We just had a van then, not a big bus like now. For my live sets in the future, I’d like to have a guitar, keyboards, and drums along with the DJ.

What do you think of Jerry Paper?

P: The first time I saw him perform was on this tour. I said, man, he’s on another level. Coming out in the dress and all like he does. You gotta be bold to do that. But he does his thing man. I support it.

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You’ve got a diverse group on tour. What do you guys do on off days or for fun?

P: It’s night to night right now man. Driving, shows, and more driving. I just stay focused, whether I’m home or on the road. I stay focused on the music. 

So is there another album in the works?

P: I’ve got a couple new tracks recorded that Stones Throw has. All produced by me. We’ll see what they do with them.

What did you like about working with MNDSGN to produce your new album on Stones Throw?

P: Ya know, he’s pretty popular in the musical world right now. So it was cool. Stones Throw suggested we work together. He added some musical elements to songs I had already written. It worked out really well for both of us.

What did you think of Tyler The Creator rapping over the beat of “wanna be your man”?

P: It was real cool, man. When I saw the numbers on the video. I thought wow, this is really something. I had heard of Tyler but that was the first bit of music I had heard from him. I don’t really listen to other artists these days. I just stay focused on my music.

Who’s kept the funk alive for you over the years? 

P: All the young cats. Anyone that’s kept the funk going. If you want me to name names, Prince, Michael, Rick James, all those cats inspired me.