(R)Evolution: Prince’s 21st Century Gospel as Imagined through The Rainbow Children

After 2 decades of innovation, envelope-pushing, boundary-erasing, and line-blurring, audiences had come to expect Prince to emerge with a new look, a new sound, and even a new band with every album. An artist who melded the sexual and the spiritual from the very beginning, longtime listeners of his music were hardly surprised by his references to God juxtaposed with musings about his insatiable desires of the flesh. From early performances where he paraded about in bikini briefs and a trench coat, to changing his name to the now-iconic symbol, Prince was never short on surprises. And yet, in 2001, with the release of The Rainbow Children, he once again caught the world off guard with an album that pushed everything he’d done before over the edge, sonically and thematically. This piece explores the cultural reset that is The Rainbow Children, the album that marked a turning point in Prince’s spiritual ideology and reaffirmed his place in the Black music tradition.

Rhonda Nicole

Rhonda Nicole is a Los Angeles-based independent singer/songwriter, music journalist, and social and digital marketing consultant, whose life officially turned purple in 1984. As the managing editor for the now-defunct SoulTrain.com, she interviewed a number of Prince-related artists including Jill Jones, Taja Sevelle, fDeluxe, LiV Warfield, and Andy Allo. She’s currently the director of social media for the National Museum of African American Music, which opened in Nashville in January 2021. Rhonda Nicole’s 2010 debut EP, ‘Nuda Veritas’ and self-produced 2020 releases ‘Radical Ecstasy’ and ‘Home’ are available on Bandcamp and all streaming platforms.