To be able to get up on a stage in front of total strangers and do whatever it is one does when one is a performer—sing, dance, act, pull rodents from a hat, whatever—requires not just talent, but ego. You have to believe that you have enough of a presence on the stage to hold the crowd's attention and please them to the degree that they will express their pleasure in some audible, physical way. Even performers as timid as, say, Joni Mitchell or James Taylor in their early days knew the deal, regardless of whether they could manage to even look out at their audiences. James Brown, conversely, could shimmy, split, sweat and slide his way around a stage and engage in non-stop declarations of his own prowess. He knew he was the baddest man on the planet, and for an hour or two, so did the audience.

As it turned out, James Brown had non-biological twin sons, born in Minneapolis about seven months apart to two different women. The younger one, named Prince, was a wunderkind who liked to wear fishnets and lock himself in his room to play one of the 27 instruments he kept in there. The older one, Morris Day, had a friend named Jerome follow him around with a mirror, so he could check his hair at any given moment (they were a hit on the playground at recess).

Both Morris and Prince grew up and were given to outbursts of deep funk, and both had quite a way with the ladies. Also, each man thought rather highly of himself both in the ability to lay down the deep funk and to woo fair maidens to the boudoir. Each had confidence to spare.

Prince made two movies with big brother Morris; in each, he gave Morris a role and several songs to sing with his band, the Time. The second film, a ponderous bit of celluloid called Graffiti Bridge, included a funk throw-down that was one of the best songs on the movie's soundtrack. "Release It" was written by Prince (with bassist Levi Seacer, Jr.), with most of the instruments played by Prince, and many of the background vocals sung by Prince. It was produced by Prince and perhaps engineered by Prince, with mixes overseen and approved … by Prince.

The lead voice, however, is Morris', and he delivers one boastful statement after another, addressing not a young lass named Stella, but a young lass referred to as a stella—a common noun instead of a proper one, in this case generically denoting a fine young lady. Morris steps up to the mic to take on everybody in the room:

"Whose crib is this? My crib.
Whose wine U drinking? Mine.
Who asked your ugly ass what time it was? Nobody.
Cuz we doing fine."

It takes some gumption, some bluster, some of what the French call la vanité, to get up in front of a crowd and let that spill forth from your mouth. And he's not through. He turns to Jerome—now his manservant, still holding the mirror—who apparently arrived at the party with a fine … um … stella, one who Morris himself covets and who at that very moment has left Jerome to take up with Morris. The taunting commences like so:

Morris: "Whose stella is this?"
Jerome: "My stella."
Morris: "Whose stella is this?"
Jerome: "My stella."
Morris: "Then what's she doing over here with me?"
Jerome: "Umm."
Morris: "Who told U that women like men with no money?"

This casual cruelty does not, as one might assume, result in Jerome forcefully bringing down the mirror on Morris' head. Jerome apparently lacks the self-confidence to stand up to Morris, or, at least, he knows what side his bread is buttered on, so the cruelty ends with Morris leaving with said stella, so that they can go back to her home and, as he puts it, "bone" (she apparently does not mind a little light vulgarity in her evening's companion). Jerome ends the evening the way he doubtless ended many evenings—buffing Morris' mirror.

Hear Prince Perform "Release It"

"Release It" shows Morris to be the most alpha of the alpha males, possessor of the biggest ego in the room—any room. But here's the rub—the words he delivers so superciliously are not his own; they belong to little brother Prince. This begs the question, who is more boastful—he who writes the boasts or he who delivers them? If you're in the room, watching Morris throw down like he owns the stage, because he does, you'd likely say Morris. If, however, you know that someone else was really asking, "Who asked your ugly ass what time it was?" you might side with him, particularly if you could coax him up on stage to drop a little of his own funk for the crowd.

More From Ultimate Prince