Freaky Rap Pioneers PM Dawn wrote the rules for summer style
The first day of the year that rises above 78 degrees requires a number of rituals: wearing your favorite shorts, perhaps, or sipping an iced cocktail. And for me, this is the first day that PM Dawn’s “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” can be enjoyed in full bloom – a flower that has perennial possibilities but thrives in humid air. It is beauty. the serious. And the video – a first magnum tie-dye opus, presented not by a Lollapalooza headliner or a Woodstock number, but by a rap group.
PM Dawn, started by brothers Attrell (Prince Be, who died of diabetes in 2016) and Jarrett (DJ Minutemix) Cordes, was an oddity in its day and remains overlooked today – but its impact is unusually large. They were the predecessors of Boyz II Men’s mellow melodrama, but also of the shy weirdness of Blind Melon, the mawkish romance of the Backstreet Boys, and the rap song-rap vulnerability of Soundcloud. “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss” was a No. 1 hit in 1991, featuring an evocative and vibrated pun on a sample of “True” by Spandau Ballet. It was the band’s biggest hit, but his entire career deserves attention, if only for its prophetic and otherworldly qualities.
Even among other softies like Arrested Development and A Tribe Called Quest, PM Dawn was musically something much stranger, if not weird, and it echoed through their clothes. The duo’s style was better than before its time – it was unique. In a 1993 performance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Minutemix wore a leather baker’s cap and khaki anorak suit, while Prince Be wore a Southwestern-print sequined poncho and airbrushed black jeans with the duo’s name – a plan, perhaps, for Post Malone’s darling noodles, but also something so bizarre, it could only be personal, a heart sleeve jumpsuit. And in some ways, they shared more aesthetically with conjurers like Stevie Nicks than their conscious rap peers, though they also draped themselves in Ankara prints. PM Dawn posed in purple silks and layered necklaces with occult symbols, like mystics. They shared the sugary sensuality of a single Prince rose, but replaced its thirsty funk with an interest in a higher power. And as their obsession with visuals like flowing clouds and running water suggested, they envisioned their music not only as a form of self-expression, but, also cheesy, a kind of portal to a other universe. The unabashed sentimentality of music was quickly mocked in its day, but these are, oddly enough, the very qualities that have taken root in music and fashion today.
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