Prince just pulled a fast one!
Just mere months after the release of his first-ever digitally streamed new album, the 57-year old music icon dropped HITNRUN Phase Two on an unsuspecting public via Jay-Z’s streaming service, Tidal.
According to Consequence of Sound, the album, a sequel to September’s HITNRUN Phase One, also contains the track “Baltimore” that Prince wrote in tribute to the death of Freddy Gray, the Baltimore man killed while in police custody back in April. Gray’s death sparked days of riots across the streets of Baltimore, and added fuel to the “Black Lives Matter” cause that has swept the nation.
The song is also joined by several other unreleased tracks, according to Rolling Stone, including “Stare,” “RockNRoll Love Affair,” and “Screwdriver.” There are also some choice cuts of songs that have been performed live, but never released commercially, that include “Revelation,” “When She Comes,” “Black Muse,” alongside brand new material, as well.
Prince meanwhile, has been in an especially creative mode the past two years releasing four albums back-to-back between 2014-2015. Prior to HITNRUN, Prince released Plectrumelectrum and Art Official Age simultaneously in 2014 in more traditional fashion under a renewed license with Warner Bros. Records. HITNRUN Phase One & Phase Two, however, marks Prince’s first foray into releasing new albums through a digital streaming service. Prince selected the artist-friendly Tidal, run by Jay Z.
“After one meeting, it was obvious that Jay Z and the team he has assembled at Tidal recognize and applaud the effort that real musicians put in2 their craft 2 achieve the very best they can at this pivotal time in the music industry,” Prince said in a statement after entering into his Tidal partnership. “Secondly, Tidal have honored Us with a non-restrictive arrangement that once again allows Us to continue making art in the fashion We’ve grown accustomed 2 and We’re Extremely grateful 4 their generous support.”
With the release of HITNRUN Phase Two on Tidal, Prince joins a slew of artists that have released new albums in surprise fashion. The inventor of the “surprise album” strategy was none other than the wife of Jay-Z herself, Beyoncé, who dropped her self-titled LP back in 2013. The album went on to sell almost a million copies in three days of digital sales, according to The Verge. Drake, Rihanna, Kanye West, and Frank Ocean are all working on new music that’s rumored to be dropped in similar fashion.
“Digital distribution, recording technology, and social media have facilitated huge leaps in the speed of sales and promotion,” the article ponders. “Why spend weeks and months orchestrating a huge campaign behind your album when you can toss it to fans with a click and create a memorable moment that way?”
Regardless of the method, it’s always memorable when Prince releases new music, and it looks like he’s determined to continue.
“When you hear something you like that you can’t find a precedent for, that’s what you want more of. That’s what gets me excited,” Prince told Entertainment Weekly just prior to Phase One‘s release in August. His co-producer Josh Welton agrees.
“I would say it’s an experimental Prince record for fans who just don’t care about him sounding like a certain thing,” Welton said. “I know he has different types of fan bases and this is kind of for the [hardcore] Purple Collective, the ones who say ‘I don’t care what he puts out! I love Prince.’ And because he’s such a creative, it gives him that freedom to say, ‘I just want to make music like this today.’”
Prince’s new albums, HITNRUN Phase One & Phase Two, are both available now through Tidal.
[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]