The inspiration for 1987's near-classic Sign O' The Times dates back to Sly Stone's dark and brooding There's a Riot Goin' On. Ghetto uprisings, deteriorating race relations and AIDS caused Prince to augment his sex-and-God ethos. The title track warns and confides. "Housequake" jams to an edgy hip-hop beat, and "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" is a brilliant pick up line delivered in one of Prince's most infectious pop/rock melodies.
It has grown harder to separate the wheat from the chaff since Sign. The hard funk of "Alphabet Street" and "Gett Off," and the lovely neo-soul of "The Most Beautiful Girl In the World" are Prince's most pleasing songs of the late-80's and '90s. In the '90s, music took a back seat to the infamous name change and "the Artist's' battles with his former label, Warner Brothers.