The Great Debate: Rick James vs. Prince

Rick James vs PrinceIt’s customary for music-loving individuals to debate which songs, albums, and artists they consider the best, especially when comparing one artist head-to-head with another. Opinions are openly expressed, facts are justifiably revisited. It makes for a great, educational, and often aggressive but fun conversation. is going to start one right now!

Artist: Rick James
Debut: 1978
Albums: 13 total, including Come Get It! (1978), Fire It Up (1979), Street Songs (1981), Cold Blooded (1983), Deep Still (2007)
Singles: “You and I,” “Mary Jane,” “Give It to Me Baby,” “Super Freak,” “Cold Blooded,” “Ebony Eyes”, “Standing On the Top,” “Glow”
#1s (Singles, Albums): 8


Artist: Prince
Debut: 1978
Albums: 39 total, including For You (1978), 1999 (1982), Purple Rain (1984), Diamonds and Pearls (1991), Come (1994), Emancipation (1996), The Rainbow Children (2001), Musicology (2004), Art Official Age (2014), HITnRUN Phase Two (2015)
Singles: “I Want to Be Your Lover,” “1999,” “When Doves Cry,” “I Would Die 4 U,” “Kiss,” “Alphabet St.,” “Batdance,” “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” Letitgo,” “Gold,” “The Greatest Romance Ever Sold”
#1s (Singles, Albums): 29

You’re either a Rick James fan or you’re not. You’re either a Prince fan or you’re not. Both men are incredibly flamboyant, charismatic, and polarizing, extraordinary performers in and out of the recording studio. They’re so over the top, in fact, they either entertain you or turn you off. What’s also true of them both is they’re hit-making musical geniuses who can rock out or roll in the deep.

A former doo-wop singer from Buffalo, NY, the late Rick James evolved into a unique soul/R&B act and pop culture icon, one who could produce funky dance records as easily as sultry slow jams. As one of the best writers and producers ever, James made hits for The Temptations, Teena Marie, Smokey Robinson, and even Eddie Murphy.

You’re underselling Prince if you refer to him as unique. He’s truly something else. A pioneer of the “Minneapolis sound,” the Minnesota native pop icon impacted both the Billboard charts and the box office. He told audiences “Let’s Go Crazy” in Purple Rain, and “Trust” the Joker in Batman. Like James, Prince is one of the top writer/producers of all time, crafting smashes for Sheila E., Chaka Khan, Judith Hill, The Time, Vanity 6, and The Bangles.

But which of them do you like most?

Let The Great Debate begin! Tweet your choices to us @SoulTrain, using #TheGreatDebate!

—Mr. Joe Walker

Mr. Joe Walker is an urban and pop culture enthusiast. Known as “The Word Heavyweight Champion”, the biographer, author, entertainment and celebrity journalist, and columnist is currently a senior writer for, staff writer for Muskegon Tribune Newspaper, and writer of weekly classic hip-hop reviews for Concrete Magazine’s Also co-creator of, Walker’s acclaimed, award-winning work has been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. He is also working on a book project with Liquid Arts & Entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker, connect with him on Facebook, and also visit his blog

One Comment

  1. Ted Roy says:

    Rick was a master funker. Prince however couldn’t be contained in one genre. “Sign O’The Times” and “Colonized Mind” reaches a level of societal commentary equal to Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. He can rock with blazing guitar solos. Only Eric Clapton can come close to his end of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. Can even get on the piano and play bluesy. On top of that he wrote a song my students love, “Starfish and Coffee”. Have to go with Prince.

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