The Black Album (Prince album)

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The Black Album
The Black Album, US, 1994.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 22, 1994
December 8, 1987 (withdrawn)
StudioPaisley Park Studios Chanhassen, Minnesota
LabelWarner Bros.
25677 (original pressing)
45793 (second pressing)
Prince chronology
The Black Album
The Versace Experience: Prelude 2 Gold
Professional ratings
Review scores
Entertainment WeeklyB[3]
MusicHound Rock2.5/5[4]
New York Times(favorable)[5]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[7]
Tom HullB[9]
The Village VoiceA–[10]

The Black Album is the sixteenth studio album by American recording artist Prince. It was released on November 22, 1994, by Warner Bros. Records. It was originally planned for release on December 8, 1987, as the follow-up to Sign o' the Times[1] and was to appear in an entirely black sleeve with no title or even a credit to Prince; hence it was referred to as The Black Album. Dubbed The Funk Bible by preceding press releases, and in a hidden message within the album itself, the work seemed to be a reaction to criticism that Prince had become too pop-oriented. It was his attempt to regain his black audience.[2]

The 1987 promo-only release had no printed title, artist name, production credits or photography printed; a simple black sleeve accompanied the disc. On promotional copies, only a song listing and catalog number—25677—were printed on the disc itself. The commercial version was to only have the catalog number—printed in pink—on the spine.[11] The original compact disc pressing was made by Sony DADC rather than WEA Manufacturing. After Prince became convinced that the album was "evil", he ordered it to be withdrawn a week before its release date. It was replaced with the album Lovesexy, a brighter pop-oriented album with elements of religious affirmation.


Prince invoked Camille, the alter-ego behind his unreleased 1986 album Camille, as the guiding force responsible for The Black Album.[12]

The opening track also mentioned the title of the album as being The Funk Bible, which was a consideration during work on this project. The title refers both to the album's all-black cover design and to Prince's attempt to earn back his credibility among the black pop audience.[13]

The album features one of the most atypical Prince songs: "Bob George", in which he assumes the identity of a profane man who suspects his girlfriend to have had an affair with a man named Bob. He asks her what the man does for a living and learns that Bob manages Prince, whom he dismisses as "that skinny motherfucker with the high voice". The gun-wielding alter ego then fires a multitude of gunshots, and ends up being raided by the police. During live performances of the song during the Lovesexy Tour, he ends up being shot. The name for the track was a combination of Bob Cavallo (former manager), and Nelson George, who was felt to have become very critical of Prince.[14] "Bob George" features a growling monologue that is pitched down (using a Publison) to the point of being almost unrecognizable as Prince. The voice at the end of the song that says "bizarre" is actually a stock sound from the Fairlight CMI IIx library, with its pitch raised.

The Black Album features songs such as the hip hop parody "Dead on It", which playfully makes the accusation that all MCs are tone-deaf and unable to sing, and the playful "Cindy C.", which refers to supermodel Cindy Crawford. The rhyme at the end of the song was originally written by Steve "Silk" Hurley and was included on a song titled "Music Is the Key", which was previously released by Chicago house-music group JM Silk, of which Hurley was the founder. Hurley would later go on to remix two of the songs from the "Gett Off" maxi-single, the Housestyle and Flutestramental versions.

The album contains several instances of the portrayal of characters, using either a sped-up or slowed-down vocal track by Prince (as on "If I Was Your Girlfriend", "U Got the Look", "Strange Relationship", and "Housequake", all from the Sign o' the Times album).

The instrumental jazz-funk jam "2 Nigs United 4 West Compton" was revisited as a live song on the One Nite Alone... Live! album, but it was hardly the same track.

"Rockhard in a Funky Place" was originally considered for inclusion on the Camille project and then the planned Crystal Ball album. After the album's fade out, dissonant feedback fades in, followed by Prince saying "What kind of fuck ending was that?" before fading out again. "When 2 R in Love" is the only ballad on the album, and reappeared on Lovesexy, which was released the next year.

Prince performed "Bob George", parts of "When 2 R in Love", and "Superfunkycalifragisexy" on his Lovesexy Tour. "When 2 R in Love" was usually part of the piano medley in Act II, whereas the other two songs were part of the Act I segment, where Prince's evil side showed through (coinciding with the idea that The Black Album was evil, hence its being pulled from release by Prince). Act II was his born-again segment, with more upbeat spiritual songs, highlighting most of the Lovesexy songs, and top 40 hits.

Samples of "Bob George" would later show up on the "Dub Beats" official promo mix of Madonna's 1989 single "Like a Prayer".[15]


The album was abandoned shortly before its intended release after Prince experienced a spiritual epiphany and became convinced it was "evil";[16] he later blamed the album on an entity named Spooky Electric, described as a demonic, low-voiced alter-ego induced by Camille.[17] The decision may have been influenced by Prince's having a bad experience on MDMA.[18] Prince recalled all copies and abandoned the entire project, leaving roughly 100 European promotional copies in circulation, and several American copies that would be widely bootlegged in the coming years.

Immediately after the decision to pull The Black Album from stores, the album emerged on the streets in bootleg form, arguably becoming popular music's most legendary bootleg since the Beach Boys' aborted 1967 album Smile.[19] Several celebrities, including U2's frontmen The Edge and Bono, cited it as one of their favorite albums of 1988 (Rolling Stone magazine celebrity poll).

In the music video for the lead single from Lovesexy, "Alphabet St.", a message quickly scrolls down the screen that reads: "Don't buy The Black Album, I'm sorry."[20]

In April 2016, an original promo copy from 1987 was sold on Discogs' marketplace for a then-record of US$15,000.00.[citation needed] In 2017, five copies were discovered in the United States, with one of those selling for US$42,298.[21] In June 2018, another copy of the original album was found in Canada—this copy later sold on the Discogs marketplace for $27,500.[21]

Legal release[edit]

The Black Album was finally released by Warner Bros. Records on November 22, 1994—again, containing only a track listing and the new catalog number 45793 printed onto the disc itself, and a copyright date of 1994 (with the exception of "When 2 R in Love", which was released in 1988 on Lovesexy). Although it was released in a strictly limited edition and was pulled on January 27, 1995, the album was re-released exclusively to Tidal in 2016.[22]

In the week of the album's official release, Warner ran an ad at the back of the November 26, 1994, issue of Billboard that offered owners of counterfeit copies a free copy of the legal release, provided they mail their bootleg copy to the label in exchange. This offer was given only to the first 1,000 individuals who sent in their copies.[23]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Prince, except where noted.

Side one
1."Le Grind"6:44
2."Cindy C."6:15
3."Dead on It"4:37
4."When 2 R in Love[a]"3:59
Total length:21:35
Side two
5."Bob George" 5:36
6."Superfunkycalifragisexy" 5:55
7."2 Nigs United 4 West Compton" 7:01
8."Rockhard in a Funky Place"Prince, Eric Leeds4:31



Chart (1994) Peak
Australian Albums (ARIA)[24] 15
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[25] 7
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[26] 35
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[27] 49
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[28] 8
UK Albums (OCC)[29] 36
US Billboard 200[30] 47
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)[31] 18



  1. ^ Also appears on Lovesexy.
  1. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Prince: The Black Album > Review" at AllMusic. Retrieved September 16, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Harris, Keith (June–July 2001). "Every Original CD Reviewed - Prince". Blender. No. 1. Alpha Media Group.
  3. ^ Browne, David (December 2, 1994). "The Black Album Review". Entertainment Weekly. No. #251. Time. ISSN 1049-0434. Retrieved September 16, 2011.
  4. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel, eds. (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide (2nd ed.). Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 899. ISBN 1-57859-061-2.
  5. ^ Pareles, Jon (May 22, 1988). "Prince Twice Is Still Prince Charming". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. OCLC 1645522. Retrieved September 16, 2011.
  6. ^ "Prince - Black Album CD Album". Retrieved August 4, 2012.
  7. ^ Hoard (2004), p. 655. Portions posted at "Prince: Album Guide". Archived from the original on March 20, 2011. Retrieved August 4, 2012.
  8. ^ Hall, Matt (February 1995). "Prince - The Black Album". Select. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  9. ^ Hull, Tom (n.d.). "Rock (1970s)". Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  10. ^ Christgau, Robert (June 28, 1988). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  11. ^ "1987 - Welcome to the Funk Bible". The Black Album. August 13, 2006. Retrieved September 16, 2011.
  12. ^ Gottschalk, Kurt. "In Which Prince at Last Wins the Battle Against Evil, and Yet Y'all Still Make Fun of Him". Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  13. ^ Carcieri, Matthew Prince: A Life in (2004), p. 49
  14. ^ Nilsen, Per. Dance Music Sex Romance: Prince: The First Decade. SAF Publishing Ltd; 2nd Revised edition (2003), p. 229
  15. ^ YouTube
  16. ^ Hahn 2004, pp. 121–122.
  17. ^ Price, Simon. "Battle Of The Black Album: Jay-Z vs Metallica vs Prince". The Quietus. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  18. ^ Marchese, David (April 21, 2016). "24 Outrageous Prince Stories". Vulture. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
  19. ^ Nilsen, Per Dance Music Sex Romance: Prince: The First Decade SAF Publishing Ltd; 2nd Revised edition (2003) p305
  20. ^ Deriso, Nick (December 8, 2017). "30 Years Ago: Prince Suddenly Shelves 'The Black Album,' But Why?". Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  21. ^ a b "Rare Prince album surfaces in Canada". BBC News. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  22. ^ Cox, Jamieson (June 7, 2016). "A bunch of Prince's weirdest albums are now available on Tidal". The Verge. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  23. ^ Billboard, November 26, 1994 p. 138
  24. ^ " – Prince – The Black Album". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  25. ^ " – Prince – The Black Album" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  26. ^ " – Prince – The Black Album" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  27. ^ " – Prince – The Black Album" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  28. ^ " – Prince – The Black Album". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  29. ^ "Prince | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  30. ^ "Prince Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  31. ^ "Prince Chart History (Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved May 1, 2016.


External links[edit]