So far, 2016 has been both a good and bad year for the musical trio KING.
After making a splash in 2011 with the EP “The Story,” they finally released their debut album, “We Are KING” earlier this year. Unfortunately, the man who helped this group get where they are today, Prince Rogers Nelson, passed away two months later.
“It was devastating, I mean, for the whole world,” says Paris Strother, who performs in the group with her twin sister Amber, both 30, and Anita Bias, 27. “But, as far as knowing him personally and having him as a mentor, it was a very hard blow.”
KING got the best co-sign an up-and-coming group ever got when their EP dropped and Prince publicly said he enjoyed their work. The fact that the Strother sisters hail from the same Minneapolis town as Prince (Bias is from Compton) made him love them all the more. “He didn’t know we were from Minneapolis when he heard the music, and found out afterwards,” says Paris. “It was a really cool thing to be able to sit with him and talk about, like, the neighborhood high schools and, you know, being from the same part of town.”
The women went on to open for Prince, who taught them the ins and outs of the music industry.
“From the time we opened for him in 2011 until his passing, he was very involved behind the scenes with a lot of our business and a lot of our decisions,” says Paris. “He really left the artistic direction to us, but he made himself available as an advisor.”
Another person the ladies looked up to (and who also unfortunately passed away this year) was Muhammad Ali. They have a song on “KING,” titled “The Greatest,” that is obviously dedicated to The Greatest. Paris says they don’t know if Ali heard the song before his passing, “but just having it out there was enough for us. It quickly became a song that people listened to to celebrate his life and, so, that just meant the world to us, because that’s all we ever really wanted.”
While Prince’s influence can be found all over “KING,” you can also hear The Time, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Andre Cymone and all the other Minneapolis artists and producers who laid down funky, soulful jams all throughout the ‘80s. But since these women currently call Los Angeles home, you definitely get some West Coast-bred, alt-R & B in their songs. Another influence KING is proud to claim is video-game music.
“One of my favorite songs is ‘Sheik’s Theme’ from ‘(The Legend of) Zelda,’” says Paris. “It’s just this very beautiful, very simple, very short – it’s on a loop, but it’s just a beautiful, beautiful texture. And a lot of the ‘Super Mario’ music is really beautiful.”
KING is currently on tour. Friday night, they’ll be performing in Durham, which will be their first time coming back to the Bull City since their Triangle debut at the first Art of Cool Festival in 2014. Expect them to follow in their footsteps of their late, great, purple mentor and – just as their name suggests – be the rulers of their musical kingdom.
Who: KING, with Nick Hakim
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Motorco Music Hall, 723 Rigsbee Ave., Durham
Info: 919-901-0875 or motorcomusic.com