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The Black Album, Warner Bros. Records (1994) The Black Album © 1994, Warner Bros. Records
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The Black Album

Warner Bros. Records

Don’t buy The Black Album!

Recorded between Sunset Sound in Hollywood and Prince’s Galpin Blvd. home studio, Minneapolis, for Sheila E’s birthday, the project later evolved into a collection of songs Prince intended to release as a club album in response to media speculation that he was too pop and no longer funky. He sought to create the funkiest album anyone had ever heard, it would be so funky that even the cover would have no picture or artwork, be just black, and was so named The Black Album. “Camille found a new colour, the colour black,” said Prince.

The tracks were recorded in late 1987, following the studio sessions for Sign O’ The Times. Superfunkycalifragisexy is the album’s oldest track, recorded in September 1986 at Prince’s rented warehouse on Washington Avenue in Edina, Minnesota. Rockhard In A Funky Place was written in 1986 by Prince and Eric Leeds for inclusion in the aborted Camille album project and was recorded at Sunset Sound in October 1986.

Although its tracks are unremarkable the album entered into music legend, purely for not going on sale. The Black Album was withdrawn just one week before its intended debut (8 December 1987) – Prince citing it was “evil” due to its excessive eroticism and violent undertone in the lyrics (and Warner Bros. doubting its sales potential). Prince hastily wrote a more enlightened replacement album, Lovesexy. When 2 R In Love, the sole survivor from The Black Album, was transferred to Lovesexy.

Prince still performed several songs from this albeit withdrawn album during the Lovesexy Tour, even referencing it in the video of Alphabet St., where the caption “Don’t buy The Black Album, I’m sorry.” can be read in a few frames, scrolling in the background. With approximately 100 promotional copies remaining in circulation following its sudden withdrawal, The Black Album became one of the most bootlegged albums in music history. It achieved such legendary status, in 2018 an original vinyl copy of the album was sold at Discogs marketplace for $27,500 and was the most expensive sale in the site’s history.

The Black Album got its eventual official release on 22 November 1994 as The Legendary Black Album (packaged accordingly to retain its forbidden mystique) – albeit granted only to fulfil Prince’s contractual output to give four more albums to Warner Brothers, for which the label paid $1m to suede him to sanction this release. Prince was deeply unhappy, and due to the ongoing legal battle between them, Warner Brothers withdrew even this release from sale, on 27 January 1995, adding even further to the album’s elusiveness and its place in popular culture.

The Black Album | Prince
Photography by Jeff Katz

Performers

All Instruments
Prince
Saxophone
Eric Leeds
Drums
Sheila E. 2 Nigs United 4 West Compton
Trumpet
Matthew Blistan "Atlanta Bliss"

Data

Production
Prince
Label
Warner Bros. Records
Distribution
Warner Bros. Records
Cover/Design
Prince (concept)
Released
26 years, 5 months ago on 22 November 1994
Running Time
44:44
US Chart Peak
47
UK Chart Peak
36
Prince Album
#16
Orig. Formats

Tracklist

  1. Le Grind [feat. Sheila E, Boni Boyer and Cat Glover] (6:44)
  2. Cindy C. [feat. Cat Glover] (6:15)
  3. Dead On It (4:37)
  4. When 2 R In Love (4:00)
  5. Bob George (5:37)
  6. Superfunkycalifragisexy (5:56)
  7. 2 Nigs United 4 West Compton [feat. Cat Glover] (7:00)
  8. Rockhard In A Funky Place (4:31) 1

1 Co-written with Eric Leeds.

Singles from The Black Album

The Black Album produced no singles.

The Black Album – review

This is not music, this is a trip. And it was and quite literally! Prince wrote The Black Album in 1987 after experimenting with ecstasy, and then hating it when he came back down, locking the album away until Warner Brothers finally, and against his wishes, set it free in 1994 when needing material when that fell into short supply due to their contractual spat with Prince. The reason for its long confinement in the vault was that it was too darn rude and negative for the 80’s and because of this, the saintly Lovesexy was written to purge Prince from his sins and turned around in a matter of weeks to move the whole sordid experience swiftly along – doing Prince a huge favour in the process. Frankly this unnamed album would have bombed commercially. Prince had stayed headlong into uncharted territory by attempting gangsta rap (Dead On It, Bob George) and at a time many others were already doing it and far more successfully. The playability of The Legendary Black Album is due to the legacy it has greatly benefited from, passing into lore as the most coveted bootleg in music, its status diminished with an official release because unlike any other Prince album this was dated even long before its ultimate release. There are still tracks fit for the clubs, in the shape of Cindy C (named after Prince’s love interest Cindy Crawford) and Le Grind, which are probably Prince’s best return to funk since 1980s Dirty Mind. The Black Album is refreshing if only to hear Prince poke fun at himself (Bob George) since he was a serious artist since the wake of his Purple Rain success. The rose amid a tree of thorns, When 2 R In Love is too saintly for such a ‘naughty’ album. This Black Album is different and that’s why you dig it.

The Black Album

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