Prince Writes "Slave" on Face, Changes Name to Unpronounceable Symbol (1993)
"People think I'm a crazy fool for writing 'slave' on my face," Prince told Rolling Stone in 1996. "But if I can't do what I want to do, what am I?" It's an existential question for an existential time in Prince's life. After numerous tussles with his label, Warner Bros. – including, ironically, a fight over the release of his song "My Name Is Prince" as the first single from 1992's Love Symbol Album – Prince appeared in public with the word "slave" elegantly penned on his cheek. Then he declared that the mysterious symbol that had adorned the cover of Love Symbol Album would, in fact, become his new name. These gestures were a radical demonstration of emancipation from a corporate overlord that Prince found untenable. And in a grungy decade that was embracing anti-corporate sentiment, they created a furor. "When you stop a man from dreaming," he continued in Rolling Stone, "he becomes a slave. That's where I was. I don't own Prince's music. If you don't own your masters, your master owns you." He reverted to "Prince" in 2000, but by then, his name change had become the stuff of pop-culture legend.