By the beginning of 1991, Prince found himself more estranged from contemporary youth culture than he’d been at any point in his career. “Gett Off” (and the Diamonds and Pearls album it appeared on) was a deliberate attempt to re-engage the center of pop culture, which had shifted quite a bit in just the previous five years.
Hip-hop, in just ten years, had broken through to the mainstream and was quickly becoming a dominant force in popular-specifically youth-culture. Lots of things about Prince’s imagery were considered either passé or not applicable; from his style of dress to his androgyny. After the relative failure of Graffiti Bridge, Prince needed kind of a reboot. “Gett Off” and his backing band, The New Power Generation, provided that reboot.
1987’s legendary Black Album is notable for many reasons. One of which is the song “Dead On It”, a straight-up diss of hip-hop. Less than four years later, Prince had clearly reversed course; “Gett Off” finds him sing-rapping the verses and then straight up rapping later in the song. The NPG also boasted its very own emcee, the regrettable Tony M. Let’s just say that “Gett Off” is an excellent song despite Mr. M, not because of him.
“Gett Off” is excellent for reasons old and then-new when it came to Prince. It’s funkier than week-old dirty draws. It also contains one of Prince’s more playfully lascivious lyrics. While the addition of Tony M wasn’t exactly a masterstroke, the addition of a female vocalist to the NPG was. Rosie Gaines provides a worthy foil to Prince, and her soulful wailing adds an extra level of funky gravity to “Gett Off”. I remember getting this cassette single and, as a certified hip-hop head who was just beginning to purchase his own music, being excited for a Prince album in a way that I hadn’t been previously.
“Gett Off” is notable to me for two additional reasons. There’s the opening scream. Even though DJ Muggs has said that said scream is not the sampled scream that runs through House of Pain’s “Jump Around”, I also know that just because someone says something isn’t so, that doesn’t mean it actually isn’t so. Unless I figure out a way to buy a time machine and land in the middle of the studio session for “Jump Around”, I’ll never totally believe that Prince wasn’t sampled.
And then there’s the infamous canary yellow ass-less suit that Prince wore during his performance of “Gett Off” on the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards. I did not have cable until 1994. Thankfully, in the late ’80s and early ’90s, our local Fox affiliate broadcast the VMAs a few days to a week after they aired live on MTV and there was no instant press to spoil the, uh, surprise of Prince’s hairy backside exposed to the world. And even though the hiney was blurred out on broadcast television, the level of shock at Prince’s audacity was still the same. It not only got tons of tongues wagging (which, of course, was Prince’s intent), but it sent notice to the world that while Prince was willing to meet youth culture halfway, he was also still going to be Prince.
And it also inspired this awesome In Living Color sketch, with Jamie Foxx starring as Prince.