18 years ago, on this very day, Prince (one of the most influential personalities of all time) was named Male Artist of The Decade at The 2000 Soul Train Awards. Presented by Public Enemy’s lead emcee Chuck D and accompanied by his friend, partner and advisor L. Londell McMillan, Prince accepted this accolade with humility and purpose. The award highlighted his exceptional leadership in the industry and the way he transformed the consumption of content in the emerging digital age, but his speech was about revolutionary ownership.
The artist said as he accepted his award:
“Some people find it odd that when we win anything in this game, we give praise back unto God. Well, in somebody else’s game any triumph makes us feel blessed. When it is your game, you make the rules and everything comes easy. All your friends are in key positions, so when you decide you don’t want to play anymore, you never leave empty handed… Can somebody say ‘Golden Parachute!’ Well, it is not your game. You didn’t make the rules. So everything comes hard. As long as you are signed to a contract, you are going to take a minority share of the winnings.”
Prince and McMillan worked continuously throughout the 90s to build a standard of ownership through within the musician community through the Artist Empowerment Coalition, a model that is still being followed today. Chuck D referenced this mindset in his opening remarks when he said that if you don’t own your “masters” the “master” will own you. This mindset resonates especially with Hip-Hop artists who use their digital platforms to get their music directly to their fans even now, almost 20 years later.
The Artist continued his remarks by speaking to the great spirit of Black people:
“…A select few of us will do well. The majority will not. So as a people, we will be considered a minority. But let’s stop and take a moment to look at yourself. There is nothing minor about you. You are a blessed people. You’re the most talented on earth and you are still grateful. That is why upon winning in their game, you always think God. Tonight, I would like to ask one favor of you. Imagine what it would be like in our own game. Peace and love for one another.”
Londell McMillan is the Founder & Chairman of the NorthStar Group, which owns The Source.