Attrell Cordes—known to the world as Prince Be, one of the co-founders of influential hip-hop group P.M. Dawn—has died. According to Rolling Stone, Prince Be was 46.
Raised by his mother and step-father, George Brown—a founding member of Kool & The Gang—Prince Be began DJing in his teenage years. He also began putting in studio time with his brother, Jarrett—a.k.a. DJ Minutemix—on the collaboration that would evolve into P.M. Dawn.
The group released their first album, Of The Heart, Of The Soul And Of The Cross: The Utopian Experience, in 1988, to quick acclaim. Influenced by other sample-heavy rap groups like the then-nascent De La Soul, Of The Heart sold more than a million copies, propelled by the hit single “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss,” which artfully sampled Spandau Ballet’s “True.” (Spandau Ballet singer Tony Hadley appeared on the video for the song.)
The group’s follow-up, The Bliss Album…?—subtitled Vibrations Of Love And Anger And The Ponderance Of Life And Existence—was another success, with one of its tracks, “I’d Die Without You,” appearing on the soundtrack to Eddie Murphy’s Boomerang. The album also featured samples of George Michael’s “Father Figure,” a collaboration with Boy George, and a cover of The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood.”
Subsequent years saw a down-turn in the group’s fortunes, with their third album, 1995’s Jesus Wept, receiving lackluster reviews. (The group’s fourth and final studio album, Dearest Christian, I’m So Very Sorry for Bringing You Here. Love, Dad, received a similarly muted response in 1998.) More troubling, DJ Minutemix was arrested in 1995 on charges of sexually assaulting a teenage relative, an incident that seems to have soured his relationship with his brother, according to a 2011 interview with the Cordes’ cousin and group-mate, Doc G.
In 2005, Prince Be suffered the first of what would be a series of diabetes-related strokes, paralyzing portions of his body. Despite his health problems—which would continue for the rest of his life—the group had a brief resurgence later that year on NBC’s reality singing competition Hit Me, Baby, One More Time, where they won $20,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation with a spirited performance of “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss.” (On a less positive note, Jarrett Cordes was fired from the band a few days later, according to Doc G, who now tours under the P.M Dawn name.)
Prince Be continued to suffer health problems for the following decade, before finally dying yesterday from complications of renal kidney disease. His influence—and his dedication to a style, both in his rapping, and his life, that emphasized gentleness and kindness over bravado and violence—continues to be felt in the musical world. His long-time colleague Doc G memorialized him on Facebook with the following words:
“Prince Be Rest In Peace Forever More,
Pain from diabetes can’t harm you anymore,
My Heart is at Peace B-Cuz U suffered so long,
Tell Grandma I said Hi & Stay Blisstatic & Strong.”