Music | April 8, 2021 12:02 pm

Prince Shelved His Album “Welcome 2 America,” But It’s Being Released Anyway

Should we listen to the 2010 recording when he’s not here to give permission?

Prince
Prince performing on stage during the Purple Rain tour.
Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images

April 21 will mark five years since Prince’s untimely death, and in those years we’ve seen the legendary musician’s estate open up his storied vault and put out a number of previously unheard recordings. Next up? A lost album called Welcome 2 America, which will be released for the first time on July 30.

Recorded at Paisley Park Studios in 2010, the 12-track album was supposed to be a reflection of “Prince’s concerns, hopes and visions for a shifting society, presciently foreshadowing an era of political division, disinformation, and a renewed fight for racial justice,” according to an album announcement from his estate. It reportedly addresses “golden parachutes, the superficial nature of social media, reality TV-fueled celebrity culture, and corporate monopolies in the music industry, ultimately concluding that America is the ‘Land of the free/home of the slave.’”

The announcement also included the following statement about the record, written by Prince around the time of its original planned release: “The world is fraught with misin4mation. George Orwell’s vision of the future is here. We need 2 remain steadfast in faith in the trying times ahead.” Track titles include “Running Game (Son of a Slave Master),” “Born 2 Die” and “One Day We Will All B Free.”

Prince had a massive tour planned around the album, but he shelved the record with no explanation, playing more than 80 dates on the “Welcome 2 America” tour between 2010 and 2012 without ever putting the recoding out. There’s no indication that he ever intended for it to see the light of day, and the fact that Welcome 2 America is being released now that he’s dead and can’t stop it raises some legitimate ethical concerns.

The Purple One was notoriously controlling when it came to all things related to his music and career — to the extent that he famously changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol to stick it to Warner Bros. — and while he left no will, we have to assume that the fact that he kept this record locked away in a literal vault (along with what’s believed to be thousands of other unreleased songs) for so many years means he didn’t want us to hear it. Disrespecting his wishes so that his estate, which owes the IRS nearly $39 million in back taxes, can make some fast cash feels a little gross.

But if you absolutely must, you can check out Welcome 2 America this summer courtesy of Legacy Recordings.