Memoir — From the December 2012 issue

I Am Your Conscious, I Am Love

A paean 2 Prince

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if i was your girlfriend
 

Dick jokes, ass jokes, black-women-versus-white-women jokes, Taliban jokes, Whitney Houston jokes, more sex jokes, and then, finally, the best joke of all, because it plays like a confession telegraphed directly out of the comedian’s subconscious. From Jamie Foxx’s 2002 television stand-up special, I Might Need Security: “Hollywood is freaky . . . You get the chance to meet all your, you know, your favorite stars when you’re in Hollywood. And I met Prince . . . the man, you know what I’m sayin’?” Applause.

Jamie Foxx, dressed in a blue shirt with a satin sheen and dark trousers, traverses the stage, a pin spot following him as he follows his thoughts. “I’m not no fag,” he continues, almost bashfully. “But uh. I mean, he’s cute, he pretty . . . I just ain’t never seen no man that look like that. Just dainty and shit.” Beat. Hangdog expression. “I couldn’t look at him in his eyes.” Because “this little pretty bitch . . . came out with a little ice-skating outfit on, you know? With the boots sewn into the shit. And I’m like, That’s nice . . . I’m not gay. I’m just saying that’s nice.” More existential shrugging of the shoulders, turning away from the audience, embarrassment and confusion as Foxx’s desire attaches itself to a different, or rather unexpected, form. This is America, after all, where for sex to be sex it needs to be shaming. He flashes his goofy overbite. “I know you thinking—you thinking I’m gay,” Foxx says, more to his own heart and mind, perhaps, than to anyone in the audience. “I’m just saying I challenge any dude in here not to look in his eyes and feel some kind of shit . . . ’Cause he was pretty. He looked like a deer or something, or a fawn . . . I shouldn’t even be telling you this shit.” More laughter from the audience, more abashment from Foxx.

Then Foxx recalls how Prince started “talking with that shit”—adding a little audio to his distinctive visuals. Prince’s speaking voice—which Foxx’s audience may or may not know from a thousand and one uncandid interviews on VH1 and the like, or an awards show, or something—belies his slight frame: it’s deep and steady with few inflections. In any case, Foxx is spot-on when he imitates it. Foxx as Prince, utterly cool: “So how’s everything going?” Foxx as himself, his eyes downcast: “You know . . .” As Prince: “I heard you and LL [Cool J, the rapper who co-starred with Foxx in Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday (1999)] got into it . . . What do you think Jesus would have done in that situation?” Foxx, again as himself: “I don’t know. Knuckle up.” Laughter. And then, shaking off his Prince impersonation: “I glanced in his eyes once.” After a while, defiantly: “Okay, yeah. Okay, I was a fag for two seconds. But I wasn’t on the bottom of the shit, I was on top, don’t get it twisted . . . I’d have fucked the shit out of that motherfucker. That troubled me though, man . . . When I left, the security guard knew something was wrong with me. He was like, ‘What’s up playa? . . . You looked in his eyes, didn’t you?’ ” Foxx admits, sheepishly, that he did. He is so confused. Freeing his mind—will his ass follow? And then what? Will he be a fag, forever desperate to stare up into Prince’s slightly-lighter-than-the-color-of-Mercurochrome prettiness? Then Foxx asks the security guard if he’s ever looked into Prince’s eyes.

And one thinks, Looking into Prince’s eyes must be like looking at the world. Or, more specifically, the world of one black man loving another. How freaky is that? And who’s on top in that kind of mind fuck? (Probably Prince, given that he’s capable of articulating this basic truth, as he does in his 1992 song “Sexy M.F.”: “In a word or 2—it’s u I wanna do/ No, not cha body, yo mind you fool.”) In any case, as Foxx moves away from Prince’s world, the maestro’s security guard answers in the affirmative; he’s looked into Prince’s eyes as well. Foxx asks him what happened after that. And the guard—another brother in love, but, unlike Foxx, okay with it—says, as if the whole thing is the most natural exchange in the world: “I’ve been fucking him for two years now.”

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is a staff writer at The New Yorker. His book White Girls will be published this spring by McSweeney’s.

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  • no one important

    it’s “conscience”…not “conscious”

    • http://harpers.org/ Harper
      • no one important

        you do realize that record labels reprint lyrics based on a copyist’s rendering of the lyrics and not from the artist’s original lyric sheet, right?

        it’s “conscience”. “conscious” is an adjective. your use of it as a noun makes no sense.

  • mike

    ‘this is your conscience, motherfucker’. — bob george.

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