Just over a year ago, the world lost one of the greatest artists (and greatest guitarists) of all time. Prince, the diminutive funk master from Minneapolis, was found dead in his Paisley Park mansion last year, just another legend gone too soon.
As a tribute, I decided to put together a Prince playlist based around the Grizzlies. I selected one (or in Vince Carter’s case, two) song/songs for them. Prince released over 35 albums over the course of his career, so there was plenty to choose from, and I tried to spread the wealth and pick from as many different albums as possible. Even so, my bias towards Sign O the Times is probably pretty evident.
I also tried to stay away from the biggest mainstream hits, too. Everyone already knows “When Doves Cry” and “Little Red Corvette.” It’s more fun to give them B-sides and deep cuts and songs that people are less likely to have heard of.
And so, without further ado, I give you the Memphis Grizzlies Prince Mixtape.
[Note: I originally wanted to run this on April 21, the one-year anniversary of his passing, in part to pay homage, but also to maybe distract from the Grizzlies, who had started off the playoffs going down 0-2 and were looking like anything but contenders. The team had other ideas, though, so I figured this would be best left until after the end of the season, to serve as filler while we wait for the draft and free agency. Besides, there’s never really a “wrong” time to pay tribute to Prince.
Also, I think this should go without saying, but some of these songs are NSFW, though I kept my lyric choices as family friendly as possible.]
JaMychal Green - “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night”
“Money don’t matter tonight/It sure didn’t matter yesterday/Just when you think you’ve got more than enough/That’s when it all up and flies away”
The biggest question for JaMychal continues to be his impending restricted free agency. With Z-Bo and TA both set to hit the market as well, and the Grizzlies likely wanting to avoid the tax, there’s a chance that JaMychal pulls down an offer so big that the Grizzlies just can’t afford to match.
But for now, Grizzly fans can sit back and enjoy Green’s performances as they are. JaM has been an integral part to the Grizzlies’ success this season, and a key piece in the Grizzlies’ movement into the modern NBA, and Grizzlies fans should enjoy having a player like JaMychal on a bargain contract for now. Money don’t matter 2 night, but it’s going to matter a lot this summer.
Jarell Martin - “Billy Jack Bitch”
“What if I told you that you’re worth/Only have of what you be?/Would you come forth and tell no lies?/Would you come forth and talk to me?”
I really, really love this song. At one point in college, I listened to this song on repeat for hours. It’s loud, electric, and funky, and it’s built around a melody that’s nearly impossible to get out of your head.
I also have absolutely no idea what the song is about.
That’s basically how I feel about Jarell right now. I really like him, and I like to think that he’ll one day be a functional rotation player at the very least.
But at the moment, I’m not sure that’s going to happen. Martin was unable to build on the flashes he showed last season, and he’s spent most of the year down in Iowa. I also don’t know what he’s going to be. The hope is that he’ll develop into a stretch four, but there’s still the distinct possibility that he’s just an awkward tweener who doesn’t fit into any particular spot. I hope that’s not the case. Hopefully Jarell turns out to be just as awesome as “Billy Jack Bitch.”
James Ennis - “Empty Room”
“Love is strong, however long/We should’ve been forever/How am I ever gonna fill this empty room”
Okay, I’m going to be completely honest here. I really couldn’t come up with a song that really matched with Ennis. Maybe it’s because he’s so quiet, or because he’s been in and out of the rotation. (James, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry, but we can still be friends, right?)
Anyway the Grizzlies signed James Ennis this past off-season using the room exception. It was down to this song and 319 and I went this one because it was easier to find lyrics for this song that weren’t filthy.
Andrew Harrison - “Starfish and Coffee”
“Starfish and coffee/Maple syrup and jam/Butterscotch clouds, a tangerine, a side order of ham/If you set your mind free, baby/Maybe you’d understand”
This is my list, which means I get to be as niche as possible when matching players with songs.
“Starfish and Coffee” is a throwaway song, really. A two-and-a-half minute pop tune on Sign O’ the Times (which I consider to be Prince’s best album), it’s buried beneath legendary hits like “If I Was Your Girlfriend” and “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” and “Strange Relationship” and so many more.
But it was performed on the Muppets, and that counts for something.
“Starfish and Coffee” will never be hailed as a masterwork, but it’s fun to listen to, and in a way, that’s Andrew Harrison. He’ll never be a star in the NBA. His ceiling is likely a back-up point guard and a role player, but it looks like he’ll stick in the league and that counts for something. Now, if he could just get on the Muppets, I think you’d have to consider that a huge success.
(Author’s Note: I have a daughter who’s about to turn two, and to this point, my greatest accomplishment as a parent is teaching my baby to sing along with me to this song. She even asks me to sing it to her, which means she also has no idea what good singing sounds like.)
Brandan Wright - “Housequake”
“We’re gonna show you what to do/You put your foot down on the two/You jump up on the one/Now you’re having fun”
Brandan Wright’s biggest asset is his ability to be a rim runner, to roll hard to the basket and get to the rim. His athleticism and leaping ability allow him to finish with authority.
“Housequake” is another song (sorry not sorry) from Sign O the Times and it’s just a call-and-response party song about jumping around and feeling good, sort of like how you feel after Wright throws down an alley-oop.
BOOM! What was that? AFTERSHOCK!
Wade Baldwin - “Push”
“Push/You’re never too young, you’re never too old/Yeah, push/Don’t stop until you go”
“Push” is a track off the very back end of Diamond and Pearls, and it’s really super high energy. There’s two verses that are over in a minute, followed by Prince and two members of the New Power Generation “rapping.” It’s a fun song (though I low-key wish there was more time spent on the verses and less on the rap part).
Most would say that one of Baldwin’s biggest assets is his athleticism, that he should be able to push the pace (see what I did there?), that he should be able to explode on pick and rolls to put defenders into compromising positions. It hasn’t happened yet, but Baldwin was a rookie this past season, and there’s still time for him to develop into a competent point guard.
Troy Daniels - “Breakfast Can Wait”
“Finally my eyes are opened/I’ve been dreamin’ bout you all night long/The only thing that I’ve been hopin’ for is before you go to work babe/We get it on”
For practically their entire existence, the Grizzlies (and their fans) have coveted a knockdown three-point shooter, someone who could stand outside the arc and drop bombs.
That prayer was answered this past off-season in the person of Troy Daniels, a career 41.5% three-point shooter. In spite of all his warts, Grizzlies fans have constantly begged Fizdale to give him more playing time.
“Breakfast Can Wait,” a mellow single from Prince’s final studio album, is an ode to anticipation and the same sort of satisfaction that many Grizz fans felt when Daniels was acquired. Of course, Fizdale’s unwillingness to play Daniels consistent minutes has plenty of fans singing that they “need another taste.”
Chandler Parsons - “Erotic City”
“All of my purple life/I’ve been lookin’ for a dame/That would want to be my wife/That was my intention, babe”
I bet you thought I was gonna go with “Sexy M.F.” here (full disclosure: I almost did).
“Erotic City” is still one of my favorite Prince songs, particularly the seven-minute long version, which I listened to ad nauseam back in college. Between the bass line and the guitar riffs, this song gets into your head and refuses to leave. Sort of like Cha... too soon? Yeah, probably too soon.
I’m not sure there’s much explanation needed on this one. “Erotic City” is pretty straightforward about its message, and based on everything we know of Chancun, it fits pretty well with him.
Wayne Selden - “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”
“Baby don’t waste your time/I know what’s on your mind/Wouldn’t be satisfied with a one-night stand/And I could never take the place of your man”
For a little while, it looked like the Grizzlies were going to get nothing out of the decision to cut Troy Williams except a couple of weeks of passable play from Toney Douglas. Williams is now under contract, at least for now, with the Rockets, and he’s even managed to earn a handful of playoff minutes.
Fortunately, the Grizzlies called up Wayne Selden, and while the Kansas product has struggled shooting, he has also shown flashes of potential that look like they could seriously develop into a rotation-level player if not a starter.
So, while he may never take the place of our man, Troy Williams, he could turn out to be a nice consolation prize after the fiasco that was Toney Douglas.
Vince Carter - “My Name is Prince”/ “Time”
“In the beginning, God made the sea/But on the seventh day, he made me/He was tryin’ to rest, y’all, when he heard the sound/Sound like a guitar cold gettin’ down/I try to bust a high note, but I bust a string/My God was worried ‘til he heard me sing”
“I don’t wanna work another day baby/I wish you could stay with me/I don’t think it matters anyway/For you, I’m as rich as I could be”
Vince has been in the league for nearly 20 years, and that sort of longevity deserves two songs. (Author’s note: Vince may or may not be getting two songs because I couldn’t settle on just one song for him.) (Author’s note on the author’s note: It’s definitely because I couldn’t settle on one song.)
For the first arc of Vince’s career, I’ve chosen “My Name is Prince,” the opening track to 1995’s The Gold Experience.
“My Name is Prince” is pure funk, and opens a great album with a bang. Energetic and electric, and sprinkled with a little bit of hip-hop, “My Name is Prince” is the type of jam guaranteed to get you out of your seat.
It’s that energy that makes it the perfect jam for VC’s early years. Young Vince was a marvel to watch, a guy who could jump out of the gym and throw down dunks that were guaranteed to leave your jaw on the floor. From the dunk at the Olympics to his dunk contest victory in 2000, Carter’s dunks were electric and iconic and they screamed, “My name is Vince, and I am funky. My name is Vince, the one and only.”
Carter’s second act deserves something a little softer, something a little less explosive and a little more nuanced.
As Carter has aged and his otherworldly athleticism diminished, he’s been forced to play a different style to remain relevant in the league. Carter hasn’t just succeeded at that, either; he’s excelled. While he’s slowed down, he’s adapted his game.
For this, I’ve gone with “Time,” a slow jam off of the Art Official Age album. But while the song lacks the energy and electricity of “My Name is Prince,” it’s no less of a jam.
It also doesn’t hurt that the song is about time, the opponent which Vince has managed to fend off better than anyone could’ve ever expected.
Deyonta Davis - “All the Critics Love U in New York”
“Why you can play what you want to/All the critics love you in New York”
Entering the draft, Deyonta Davis was projected by some as a top 10 pick, meaning that when the Grizzlies scooped him up with the 35th pick, they were getting a player with tremendous upside potential.
And while Davis spent the majority of his season in Iowa, the sparse minutes that he played were exciting. Most Grizzlies fans — at least the ones I’m familiar with — can do nothing but rave about what the future could hold for him in Memphis. Even Marc Gasol, who’s stated on the record that he wants to leave the franchise in good hands, likes Davis’ potential, and Big Spain doesn’t dole out praise lightly.
All the critics love Deyonta in Memphis.
Stay tuned. Friday we’ll have the most important part of the mixtape: songs for Coach Fizdale and the Core Four.