The Fascinating Connection Between Egyptian Lover, Prince, Ice-T & Dr. Dre

Speaking to AllHipHop, the pioneering DJ explained how The Purple One influenced the Egyptian Lover sound and, in turn, a whole era of West Coast rap.

Egyptian Lover performed a sold-out show at the Hi-Dive in Denver, Colorado on March 29, bringing his electro-Hip-Hop brilliance to the stage.

Opening with Kraftwerk and peppering artists like Melle Mel and Duke Bootee, Twilight 22, Sugarhill Gang and, of course, songs from his own catalog into his set, the Los Angeles electronic music pioneer delivered.

Backstage, Egyptian Lover had a few moments to chat with AllHipHop about the fascinating connection between himself, Prince, Dr. Dre and Ice-T.

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For the uninitiated, Egyptian Lover has been making records since the early 1980s. His first single, “Dial-A-Freak” with Uncle Jamm’s Army, was a local club hit and “Egypt Egypt” soon became a cult favorite, particularly among breakers—but it all started with Prince.

“Prince did a song called ‘Controversy’ and at the end of the song, he did this chant rap: ‘People call me rude, I wish we all were nude/I wish there was no black and white, I wish there were no rules,'” he explains. “I was like, ‘Damn! That’s brilliant.’ He’s not rapping, he’s chanting like a monk or this freakish kind of thing, right.

“So I said, ‘OK, I gotta write something like, ‘Give me a freaky kinky nation…’ so it’s more of a chant rap than a rap, rap. So, I kinda got that style from his vocals and the beats from ‘Planet Rock’ and [Kraftwerk’s] ‘Numbers,’ married those together and came up with the Egyptian Lover sound. [Afrika Bambaataa’s] ‘Planet Rock’ and [Twilight 22’s] ‘Electric Kingdom’ were the number one songs at the clubs in L.A.”

Egyptian Lover’s debut album, On The Nile, was released in 1984. True to his newly established sound, it came with a lot of “uh uh, uh uh’s,” as evidenced on songs such as “And My Beat Goes Boom” and “Girls”—yet another element inspired by Prince.

“I got the ‘uh uh, uh uh’ from Prince’s ‘Sexy Dancer’ and I made it my own,” he says. “All the vocal stuff, all the style came from Prince. The song ‘The Alezby Inn’ came from a song Prince made called ‘Bambi,’ which was about a girl liking girls. A lot of the vocals were inspired by Prince and the feel of the music. He changed my life. I was graduating when he was coming out with all those records. That was entire world. I was born and raised with it then.”

Egyptian Lover was also making his own mark on Dr. Dre, who was frequenting the same L.A. clubs. Before Dr. Dre became a trailblazing member of N.W.A, he and DJ Yella were part of World Class Wreckin’ Cru. The group’s biggest single, 1985’s “Surgery,” was unmistakably influenced by Egyptian Lover.

“When I first heard ‘Surgery’ and heard him breathing, I was so mad,” Egyptian Lover says with a chuckle. “Like, ‘That’s my s### right there. Oh nooooo! That’s the Egyptian Lover style! Not West Coast!’ But then somebody said, ‘You copied Prince. It’s a form of flattery.'”

Meanwhile, Ice-T—who was in the Army at the time—was anxious to get back to L.A. and start throwing dance parties like Uncle Jamm’s Army. In 1983, the same year Egyptian Lover and Uncle Jamm’s Army released “Dial-A-Freak,” Ice-T dropped the electro-flavored “The Coldest Rap (Part 1)” and “The Coldest Rap (Part 2)” via Saturn Records, a drastically different sound than the gangsta rap that made him famous.

“When Ice-T came on the scene, man, there was only a handful of people doing street rap, which they now call gangsta rap,” he says. “So the first one I heard was Mix Master S####. And then I had a record in high school, and me and Mix Master S#### switched tapes. I heard his rap and he heard mine. But then I didn’t want to keep doing street rap, I wanted to do more of a party rap. I got out of it and just did all party rap, no more street rap.

“Then I heard Ice-T do it. And then there was a few others around the neighborhood that was doing it. So they were taking the style of like ‘Rappers Delight’ but only doing it in a gangster style, street style, and I thought that was brilliant for what it was, but I couldn’t see myself playing that at a party. When I saw Ice-T got signed, it was incredible. I hustled my a## off for a record deal. He talked his way into that record deal and it worked out.”

Uncle Jamm’s Army and the World Class Wreckin’ Cru, including Dr. Dre, The Unknown DJ, Egyptian Lover, Ice-T and Kid Frost went on to define the early West Coast Hip-Hop sound throughout the 1980s. After several albums like 1989’s King of Ecstasy and (more recently) 2021’s 1986 and multiple world tours, he has the kind of career longevity that’s growing increasingly rare these days.

“Forty years later,” he says with a sense of bewilderment. “Hell no I didn’t think I’d still be doing this. The first record I did, I did it just ’cause it was fun. Then I did my solo project, ‘Egypt, Egypt.’ I put my name on the record so they’d know what my name was when I DJ’ed at the party. That was the Egyptian Lover sound, so I just stayed true to that sound.”

Egyptian Lover also credits his father, whose expansive record collection broadened the young Egyptian Lover’s musical horizons.

“My father had a record collection and one day, I grabbed a Dean Martin record,” he recalls. “I saw this movie called Dean Martin: Matt Helm and he was like a James Bond kind of guy, right? And I’m like, ‘Who’s Dean Martin?’ He’s kind of sexy singing, right? He wasn’t singing singing, but he was singing like with a sexiness. So my dad said, ‘I got his records over there.’ So I put one of them on, then I took another album, I put that on.

“I took a third album and said, ‘They all sound the same.’ That’s Dean Martin’s style. I knew if I ever was a singer, I would do the same thing. I would create my style and then continue to make records in that style. So I created the Egyptian Lover style and to this day, I’m still doing music that way.”