If you were around in the 90s, chances are you have sung along to “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss” by P.M. Dawn. Sadly, Prince Be passed away Friday, Jun 17, succumbed to renal failure due to a long standing battle with diabetes. The singer was 46 years old.
Prince Be collaborated with his family members, brother Jarrett/DJ Minutemix and cousin Doc G, to create sleepy love ballads and mellow pop through a lush crossover of dreampop, hip hop, soul, and r&B. Starting 1988, P.M. Dawn were the gentle, loving balance to the hurt and toxic masculinity in a great deal of other popular music at the time, from rock to hip hop. Both Prince Be and DJ Minutemix were raised by their mother and step-father, George Brown, a founding member and drummer of even more influential band, Kool and the Gang.
Related: Prince Was A Care-Free Black Man. And For That, We Love Him
The brothers began composing in ninth grade and several years later, Prince Be went into a recording studio with $600 that he had earned from working as a security guard in a homeless shelter. Initially reaching out to Tommy Boy records, they were told they were too much like successful “alternative” hip-hop band De La Soul and not hard enough to be anything else, so they were turned away. They were eventually embraced by UK label Gee Street Records, where they were sold and courted to many music reviewers. Unfortunately, the label which was deeply invested in the band went under and they were then sold to Island. While on Island, they saw a #1 and several other hits before becoming forgotten by the masses as time moved forward.
P.M. Dawn influenced a generation of outsider musicians – those who have been told they are not hard enough or are too weird. Genres like “cloud rap” and “trill wave” can thank the Cordell family for the ethereal inspiration. Declarations of “I don’t wanna be filthy rich” and “Regardless of how you think, regardless of how you feel. See yourself as more than a human being” juxtaposed a time of intense consumerism and the push to acquire everything one can, the every man for himself mentality. The Cordes family created a space for “weird” kids whose art also defied genre.
“Kanye West, T-Pain, Outkast… but you can’t mention P.M. Dawn without mentioning De La Soul, and you can’t mention Arrested Development without mentioning P.M. Dawn,” Doc G said in a 2011 Rolling Stone interview of the artists P.M. Dawn inspired. “Everybody begets somebody. We had the weirdness. Now it’s okay to be weird; it’s okay to wear bizarre things.”
Cordes can rest assured that his influence, while possibly not remembered by name, will not be forgotten as musicians like FKA Twigs and Maya Songbird, those who cannot be put into one small box, begin to proliferate and enjoy success.