Prince had the trait that turned Steve Jobs and Kanye West into legends
In trying to make sense of the loss, we turned to Questlove, the DJ, Roots drummer, and once-described "Pope of Princeland."
In a New York Magazine interview, Questlove said that Prince knew how to perfectly match "innovation and America's digestive system.""He's the only artist who was able to, basically, feed babies the most elaborate of foods that you would never give a child and know exactly how to break down the portions so they could digest it," he said.
That's a trait that Prince shares with other people who have an larger-than-life influence on our culture.
It's why Steve Jobs famously said you shouldn't ask customers what they want.
"We have a lot of customers, and we have a lot of research into our installed base," Jobs said in a 1998 interview with BusinessWeek. "We also watch industry trends pretty carefully. But in the end, for something this complicated, it's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."
That attitude led to a mix of less-than-worldbreaking innovations like the pastel-hued iMac along with paradigm shifters like the iPhone.
The incorrigible Kanye West is another example. He can make sunshiney, haloed neo-soul like on his "Late Registration" or "Graduation." Then he could start provoking his listeners, like with the moody "808s and Heartbreak" or the raging "Yeezus." Or he can combine the provocation and the art, in the case of his best album, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," or his best album in years, "The Life of Pablo."(As an aside, the album most dismissed as its delivery, "808s," has since gone to become the record that made it OK for rappers to talk about their feelings, clearing the way for Drake and the introspective club bangers that followed.)
From West to Jobs to Prince, the real instrument being played is the audience's expectations. Which is somehow even more impressive than the music, electronics, or reality shows they create.