“Money Don't Matter 2 Night”: Prince and the Mainstreaming of Black Music in the 1990s

During the days of the so-called “Chitlin Circuit”, some Black musicians put more of a premium on being on the road than selling records. The latter issue mattered less in an era where artists, Black artists in particular, were challenged by unfair and exploitative record deals that denied them royalties on record sales and in some cases publishing. Artists made their money being on the road, and most importantly being high up on the bill; the money mattered every night.

When Prince emerged as a Pop star in the 1980s, he did so when the metrics for Black Artists had shifted, and they were not just measured on their appeal to Black radio. Indeed Prince, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Lionel Ritchie, and Whitney Houston, were of a generation of artists expected to commercially outperform rank-and-file R&B acts, but also to match, and even outpace, the sales of the top White pop stars. Prince’s success through the early part of his career, I would argue, was connected to his adeptness at performing Black music on the fringes of mainstream Pop taste. Diamonds and Pearls marks a moment when Prince seemed most invested in presenting Black music in its full and varied forms — anticipating shifts in the political contexts of his music and career.– because he was at a point in his career where “Money [Didn’t] Matter 2 Night”.

Mark Anthony Neal

Mark Anthony Neal, Ph.D. is Chair of the Department of African & African American Studies and the founding director of the Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship (CADCE) at Duke University where he offers courses on Black Masculinity, Popular Culture, and Digital Humanities, including signature courses on Michael Jackson & the Black Performance Tradition, and The History of Hip-Hop, which he co-teaches with Grammy Award Winning producer 9th Wonder (Patrick Douthit).

He also co-directs the Duke Council on Race and Ethnicity (DCORE).

He is the author of several books including What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture (1999), Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic (2002) and Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities (2013).  The 10th Anniversary edition of Neal’s New Black Man was published in February of 2015 by Routledge. Neal is co-editor of That’s the Joint: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader (Routledge), now in its second edition. Additionally, Neal host of the video webcast Left of Black, which is produced in collaboration with the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke.

Left of Black Video Podcast