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Hill Harper Moves To 'Fire And Desire'


Now we hear from a man who says a relationship he built with a prison inmate changed his own life for the better. Actor Hill Harper documented his friendship and the advice he shared in his book "Letters To An Incarcerated Brother." When we spoke with him about the book last year, we also spoke with him for the regular feature we call In Your Ear. That's where we invite some of our guests to tell us about the songs they've been listening to. And he told us about what he listens to when he wants to unwind.

HILL HARPER: Hi, I'm Hill Harper. And this is what's playing in my ear.


HARPER: There's an old song by Prince, and when people think about Prince's music, I don't think they ever think about this song. But it's without question my favorite Prince song for a reason. It's called "Dorothy Parker." And he says in the song, you know, Dorothy was a waitress on the promenade. She worked the night shift. Dishwater blonde, tall and fine, she got a lot of tips. And it's this beautiful story song, basically extolling his love and beauty of this waitress named Dorothy Parker. And for whatever reason, that song just touches a chord in me, and it inspires me as an artist. And so I listen to that song a lot.


HARPER: The other song is a song that's even older. It's Rick James, and it's "Fire and Desire." And if you ever want to talk about passion and love, then you think of Teena Marie, and you think of Rick James, both of whom aren't with us anymore. And you listen to the song "Fire and Desire," and you just hear their voices, and you hear the passion. And you just hear what's going on. And if you ever, ever, ever make love with music playing, this should be the song that you play on repeat.


HARPER: I know folks don't like to talk about the music they play when they make love. But listen, let's just be honest, sometimes the music makes it better. So "Fire and Desire," put that on your playlist.


HARPER: Last but not least, since I kind of went old, I want to bring it contemporary. Kendrick Lamar is a young man, and I couldn't be more impressed with his intellect. And he has a song called "Control," where he's actually a guest on it. It's a Big Sean song. And I'm going to say a couple of the lyrics. He's basically claiming his greatness.


HARPER: There's one line that I love. He said: If Phil Jackson came back, still no coachin' me. I'm uncoachable, I'm unsociable. Forget your clubs. Forget your pictures. Forget your Instagram. Forget all of that.

And he's basically saying, I'm going for it, and I'm going to be great. And I am not going to try to conform to the status quo and the same norms, and you can't control me. And that's special because so many of us are so afraid to actually go big and go for it and go for our dreams and live big. And so I love it because it's basically hip-hop without extolling the virtues of bling, money, drugs, etc. And that's the direction I want hip-hop to go in. So I love you, Kendrick Lamar. Keep doing your thing.


MARTIN: That was actor Hill Harper telling us what's playing in his ear. To hear our previous conversation with him, just head over to NPR.org, click on the Programs tab and then go to TELL ME MORE. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.