If you have questions for Robert, our resident R&B geek, please leave them in the comment section here and they will be answered!!

1) What’s the best Prince album and why?

At his best, Prince is big, messy, Whitmanesque in his ambitions and attempts to encompass the entire vocabulary of black music into 3-4 minute increments. His best albums aren’t mystifyingly perfect like Stevie Wonder’s string of classics; nor do they have the sweet, organic, arresting playability of Marvin Gaye’s finest work. What they are however is loud, gloriously loud in multitudes of musical ideas. They take staggering risks with convention and structure; and have highlights so blinding in their beauty, so mystifying in their invention; and so arresting in their listenability that they envelop whatever flaws the albums might have.

So if you guessed my answer to be 1987’s Sign of The Times, give yourself a gold star. Sure, you could bitch about Starfish and Coffee, deem The Ballad of Dorothy Parker too pretentious, and scratch your head at Strange Relationship. You could even complain about the lack of continuity between the studio and concert cuts. If you do that, however, at the expense of Play In The Sunshine, Housequake, I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man, Adore, If I Was Your Girlfriend and the title track, then you need buy an ELO record.

1a/2) Why is he such an ornery so-and-so these days?

Oy vey iz mir! He’s in his 50’s with two busted hips! Seriously, in the scope of great geniuses in the 20th century, he’s doing ok. Find somebody who revolutionized their idiom the way Prince did, and you will see someone with demons. Prince has had his share: his involvement with drugs, while minor, was the catalyst that led him to become a Jehovas witness, and his vicious treatment of Sinead O’ Connor underscores the problems with women he’s had in his life. Compared to someone like Sly Stone, however, he’s a saint.

That said, he has been a crotchety son of a gun lately. Gaging his New Yorker interview and love/hate relationship with Wendy and Lisa, I would say that Prince has not yet come to terms with the sexuality that made his early records burn so brilliantly; and that’s why he’s been a pissed off bastard.

3) Why don’t R&B musicians (Alicia Keys and John Legend excepted) play their own instruments anymore??

It’s easy to give the Wynton Marsalis answer, and complain about kids today not being that inventive. It’s harder to talk about the Massive drain in musical education in the past 40 years; the mass exodus of Black Male authority figures in mentoring and the arts; the pervasive sexism shown in the discounting of Female composers; the destruction of black radio by Bill Clinton’s deregulation bill; and the long, long, long list of R&B artist-musicians in the past 15 years that have been neglected by record companies obsessed with the easy suburban teenage dollar.