Prince Rogers Nelson was one of the great indescribable artists of our lifetime (see also, Bowie, David). The diminutive singer-songwriter-possible space alien blended rock, R&B, soul, pop, funk, and just about every other musical genre into barrier-smashing hits. His sexually charged songs are probably responsible for the existence of a good chunk of the world’s population. And, according to the late Charlie Murphy, he was a surprisingly talented basketball player.
Like the aforementioned Murphy and Bowie, Prince left our earthly realm far too soon, dying from a fentanyl overdose on April 21, 2016. While cannabis could have prolonged the life of His Royal Badness, many of the songs he’s penned suggest Prince had a somewhat critical view of the substance (he did join the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2001, which prohibits “improper conduct” that could extend to illegal drug use).
Below are six of his songs (plus an honorable mention) that make either a sly or direct reference to cannabis. Some unfold a cautionary tale of gateway drug escalation or dismiss cannabis use as immature, while others serve as an analogy for sex and living in the moment.
“Sign o’ the Times”
Prince released Sign o’ the Times, his ninth studio album, in 1987. The title track touches upon some sobering themes, including AIDS, gang violence, and drug use. In one verse, Prince sings about a cousin who tried cannabis, then was addicted to heroin four months later (the gateway drug theory has been widely debunked, but keep in mind this song was penned during the Reagan era).
Hurricane Annie ripped the ceiling of a church / And killed everyone inside
You turn on the telly and every other story / Is tellin’ you somebody died
Sister killed her baby ‘cuz she couldn’t afford to feed it / And we’re sending people to the moon
In September my cousin tried reefer for the very first time / Now he’s doing horse, it’s June
Written during Prince’s Nude Tour in 1990, “Schoolyard” was featured on an early version of his Diamonds and Pearls album but was ultimately cut from the final October 1991 release. The lyrics unfold the tale of two teenagers “gettin’ it on in the schoolyard,” with the protagonist’s paramour wanting to enjoy some cannabis at a party before bumpin’ uglies.
Ace’s girl showed up, that’s when the party started jumpin’ / Tower Of Power’s “Squib Cakes” steady humpin’
I said “Carrie, hmm, do U wanna dance?” / She said “Uh hmm, yeah, like later man, first let me smoke this weed”
I said “Damn, my cologne ain’t sayin’ shit if this is what she needs”
“Chaos and Disorder”
Prince’s eighteenth studio album, Chaos and Disorder, was released in 1996 to fulfill his contractual obligations with Warner Bros. He refused to promote the album, but his title track was a riff-heavy rock jam touching upon how the good ol’ days have led to, well, chaos and disorder. The cannabis reference alludes to how back in the day, big joints were enough to get you good and high, but nowadays people are turning to crack and suffering more dangerous consequences.
Carjack used to fix flat tires / Cadillac used to be a Benz
Big joints never gotcha higher / Freebase cost you in the end
Coming off Prince’s 17th album The Gold Experience (which was the first released under his symbol), “Now” has a distinct hip hop feel, with instructions to “Light up another one, dude” and lyrics that transform the group of partiers into a de facto joint or blunt.
Freaks dance like they in heaven
DJ don’t stop the music, DJ don’t stop the music
Fill us with de dope track, lick us, twist us, roll us in your mouth
Light us up and take a hit, light us up and take a hit
Mmm, suck us ’til we’re dry
And when we’re lookin’ like a roach, hit the lights
Before U say goodnight though
Let’s make a toast yo
This ain’t about this, that, what, where, or how
This about the freaks doing everything they wanna do now!
“Days of Wild”
Still fresh in his “Artist Formerly Known As” symbol era, Prince penned “Days of Wild” in early 1994. The rap song throws shade at waving guns around and smoking weed (“Brother please! We’re 2 wise 4 nonsense”).
Pop guns and weed? Brother please! / We’re 2 wise 4 nonsense
The other 90’s was better suited 4 that biz / Back when Dick was fuckin’ Liz
Before soda pop had fizz / Don’t blame it on your jockstrap full of jizz
“Don’t Play Me”
Released in 1997 under Prince’s 21st album The Truth, “Don’t Play Me” is a stripped-down guitar strummer with lyrics that at first seem a bit “Get off my lawn” (“Don’t play me / I’m over 30 & I don’t smoke weed”), but the soothing blues sound continues to showcase Prince’s incredible versatility as an artist.
Don’t play me
I’m over 30 and I don’t smoke weed
I put my ass away and music I’ve played
I am not the type of stereo U’re trying to feed
Honorable Mention: “We Can Funk”
Featuring George Clinton, this funktastic jam off Prince’s 12th album Graffiti Bridge doesn’t explicitly mention cannabis, but its cheeky nod to failing a drug test (or passing it, depending on how strongly you feel about “the funk”) and enjoying some bump ‘n grind time with a lovely lady evokes thoughts of THC testing.
I’m testing positive 4 the funk
I’ll gladly pee in anybody’s cup
And when your cup overflow I’ll pee some more