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Where Did Ebony’s Wide-Ranging Interview With Prince Go?

Yesterday, Ebony Magazine posted an extensive interview with Prince. Today it's gone. What happened?

Yesterday, veteran reporter and editor Miles Marshall Lewis published the transcript of an extended interview with Prince on Ebony.com, ostensibly the outtakes of a “feverishly transcribed” interview with the Purple One that took place this summer, at Prince’s Paisley Park home, ahead of the September release of HitNRun. At the time, Prince had removed his entire catalog from all streaming services except Tidal with HitNRun scheduled to debut exclusively on the new premium service, and what Ebony ran at the end of August amounted to three brief questions tied to his opinion of Tidal, vision for the music industry and an emphasis on ownership in music.


But the extended interview published yesterday was much more extensive; Tidal and the concept of ownership came up, as did his relationships with musicians in his previous bands, the stories behind a few of his iconic songs and his feelings about the constant assignation of inspiration to his music by others, acknowledging that his own silence on the topic encouraged people to try and dig into his mindset. It covered a lot of ground.

And then today, the story was gone.

Lewis tells Billboard that Prince’s team got in touch with Ebony yesterday, asking for the interview to be taken down, saying that Prince believed the conversation to be off the record. Lewis denies that assertion, mentioning that during at least one part of the conversation Prince did ask for a section to be kept off the record, and that that section was not published. Multiple attempts to contact Prince’s team were not returned as of press time.

What was remarkable about Lewis’ interview transcript in the first place was that it existed at all; Prince is legendary for many things, among them his refusal to allow journalists to record his interviews or take notes in his presence (“Some in the past have taken my voice and sold it,” he told Billboard‘s Gail Mitchell in a 2013 cover story by way of explanation). It made super fans and casual observers take notice; it’s rare enough for Prince to give interviews, much less one so extensive and so wide-ranging. Billboard aggregated the story from Ebony yesterday as well, which was also removed following the original’s deletion. So with such a big coup on its hands, why did Ebony remove the interview?

Prince is far from the only artist who is protective and reclusive about his work and life, though he may be the most extreme. Paisley Park, his Minnesota home/studio/hideaway where Lewis’ interview took place, is almost mythical in its exclusivity, and Prince has had a strained relationship with the Internet; outside of Tidal, his catalog doesn’t exist and any YouTube videos featuring him or his music are almost instantly removed. Combined with his cloaked and rare interviews, it adds to the aura of one of the most intriguing artists of any generation.

Beyoncé is another artist who has a history of tightly controlling the narrative around herself, gracing the covers of magazines without granting interviews. Rihanna just recently did the same, and she’s currently sitting on the most-anticipated album since… Adele, who herself went three years between granting interviews, and Adele certainly seems to be doing fine. A year ago, D’Angelo returned from the wilderness to release the excellent Black Messiah after a 15-year hiatus from releasing music during which he did a handful of interviews at most. Daft Punk‘s Random Access Memories deservedly won Album of the Year (among a slew of other honors) at the Grammy Awards in 2014 and the French duo is among the most reclusive artists in the business.

Of course, Prince has no obligation to put himself out there in the media. His legacy is set in stone, he doesn’t enjoy publicly discussing the past and he’s more paranoid than most about owning his own story, all valid points. And so his fans continue to wait and wonder. At least there’s plenty of music to fill the time.