Early in Barack Obama’s first presidential term, the U.S. showed the wear that would ultimately become a crisis a decade later — when sniping, arguing and a full-blown culture war engulfed the country in a seemingly inescapable spiral. In 2010, however, many Americans were optimistic that better days were on the way. But Prince was deeply concerned about where things were going: with people’s consumption of technology (especially with the iPhone and other modern tech staples in their nascent days) and with race relations in America, particularly issues affecting the Black community.
“His forethought as to what’s going to happen now by who would be consumed by these things, like the iPad and technology was just fascinating,” Prince’s creative director Morris Hayes tells SPIN over Zoom. “When you talk about the politics and social issues going on and how poignant that is now…It was just him putting a mirror up to this country and to the world to show what was happening. As he was writing, you can tell he was feeling some things and really wanted to speak about them. It’s more prophetic because of the time we’re in and you see all these things come to pass, it makes you think what a genius he was.”
In spring 2010, amid a career hot streak for actually releasing new music, Prince hunkered down in his Paisley Park recording studio in suburban Minneapolis to start jamming. Following 2004’s Musicology, which revitalized his career in the mainstream, Prince churned out 2006’s 3121, 2007’s Planet Earth and 2009’s Lotusflow3r / MPLSound.
Even when he wasn’t releasing music, Prince was always working. The tales about his iconic vault aren’t just legends — they’re reality. Just ask Hayes, the artist’s musical director and keyboardist for over 20 years. Getting calls to check out in-progress Prince music wasn’t unusual, but when he was called over to Paisley Park in 2010, he realized something was different.
“When I got there, I discovered him sitting in his car waiting for me, telling me to get in and to listen to this record he created with these new musicians,” Hayes says. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is done.’ He got the CD of it and played it for me, but it’s very raw. He tells me, ‘I want you to just kind of do your thing — you know, just overproduce it — and I’ll take away what I don’t need. You just do your thing.'”