Is Prince Rebranding Himself or Trolling Pop Culture?

The world-renowned “Purple Majesty” has recently pulled some surprising industry stunts.

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thiscouldbeusbutyouplayin

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This week Prince recorded a rap song featuring British artist Rita Ora (yes, the Rita Ora who dated Rob Kardashian). He also released a song titled “This Could Be Us” from his upcoming solo album, which will be released on Warner Bros. Records. The title is inspired by viral memes that depict two people in various states of coupledom.

One meme shows Prince on his motorcycle with a satin-gloved Apollonia cuddled up close to the Purple One. The caption reads, “This could be us, but you playin.”

Prince is officially trolling the Internet.

Late last year the Purple Rain artist released the single “Breakfast Can Wait” with his band 3rd Eye Girl. The accompanying art for the track featured a notorious Prince-impersonation scene from The Chappelle Show, in which comedian Dave Chappelle is holding a plate of pancakes and wearing a wig, makeup and a purple suede jacket in very Prince-esque fashion. Prince released the artwork via Twitter with a famous line from the skit to complement it: “Game: Blouses.”

There is no doubt that Prince is a musical legend, but one question still hasn’t been answered amid all his recent shenanigans: Is this a joke?

Music critics would say no. Although the muses for his newfound music may be questionable, his music is not. Minnesota’s Star Tribune described his song featuring Rita Ora, as “a rare rap song on which the music was as aggressive and menacing as the rapping.”

Beyond the studio, the 56-year-old singer-songwriter has been more active than ever on social media and even made his first-ever sitcom appearance on Fox’s New Girl, in which he played himself.

Once upon a time, Prince swore up and down that he hated the Internet. He even took down YouTube videos of his songs and filed a $22 million lawsuit against Facebook users and bloggers for stealing his work. As of late, though, it seems that Prince has had a change of heart.

Prince’s motivation has always been light years off the beaten path, and he continues to defy Father Time (seriously, has the man aged any since “Raspberry Beret”?). But this new embrace of today’s pop culture from an artist who has long avoided the conventional might be even too different for Prince. Only time will tell whether he’s just trolling the Internet or really trying to appeal to millennials. Either way, the joke feels like it’s on us.   

Taryn Finley is a summer intern at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.