Prince Explores His New Wave Side With ‘Yah, U Know’
The “MPLS Sound” Prince turned into a worldwide phenomenon is a music genre unto itself, blending elements of soul, funk, rock, R&B, gospel and even new wave. While Prince has yet to be included alongside artists like A Flock of Seagulls, Thomas Dolby and Kim Wilde on a New Wave Hits of the '80s compilation, he certainly had the big hair, flamboyant outfits, gender-blending looks and sinister synths to be a poster child of the era.
Perhaps one of his best new wave songs is an unreleased track from 1982 called “Yah, U Know.” It was recorded at Prince's Kiowa Home Trail studio in Chanhassen, Minn. (according to PrinceVault). Driven by a scuzzy, danceable synth line and a drum pattern very similar to “Delirious”, “Yah, U Know” is one of Prince’s most giddily joyful tracks. Much like “Poorgoo”, the song appears to be a playful diss at someone in his life at the time or from his childhood, “But everybody's grossed cuz U spit when U talk / Say ‘Yah, U know.’”
In the song, Prince goes after this unnamed person for wasting his life away, “What's the matter with U? / Ya got nothin' better 2 do / Than 2 dance UR life away at the local disco?” He then playfully twists the knife while revealing his sly sense of humor, “What's a matter with U? / Smell like diesel fuel / Whoever told U it was cool 2 drink Perrier?” At the end of the song, Prince mimes the voice of the person he is confronting, who defends himself by saying “I would get a job but the world's gonna end soon. U got any 'ludes?” The apocalyptic reference is in line with the Prince’s primary fear at the time; a wide range of songs from “Ronnie Talk to Russia” to “1999” reference the end of the world.
A few years later, Prince would meet saxophonist Eric Leeds, the brother of his touring manager Alan Leeds. Eric’s signature style would soon lead brass sections on many Prince projects, including the Family, the Revolution, Madhouse and the New Power Generation. Something must have clicked soon after they met, because Prince dusted off “Yah, U Know” in 1986 for Leeds and trumpeter Atlanta Bliss to shine up with brass. “Slow Love” was recorded at the Galpin Blvd. home studio the same day
The horn section takes what begins as an Adam Ant-sounding synth heavy track, and morphs it into a joyful, free flowing jazz jam. “Yah, U Know” would have fit nicely onto a fifth side of 1999, or as a B-side to any of Prince’s singles through Sign O’ the Times. But for now, it’s yet another gold nugget to look forward to as the Prince estate mines his legendary vault.