As promised in a statement by a spokesperson for the artist earlier this week, the track addresses “the unrest in Baltimore and the socio/political issues around the country in the wake of a slew of killings of young black men.”
"Baltimore" is an uplifting, uptempo rock song, complete with sunny guitar licks, a towering choir, and lyrics that directly confront the harsh reality of police brutality. "Does anyone hear when we pray for Mike Brown and Freddie Gray?" he croons, while a choir chants, "If there ain't no justice then there ain't no peace." Those words have been a staple at protests for years, and were even included in a statement made by prosecutor Marilyn Mosby, who charged the six officers arrested for Gray's death.
Prince has rarely been so blunt, often preferring to deliver his progressive messages through metaphor and allusion. But here, it seems the gravity of the situation calls for something more immediate. In the song, he acknowledges the history of struggle against police oppression with a clip from a newscaster announcing a "developing situation in Los Angeles," which references racial unrest during the L.A. riots. "Peace is more than the absence of a war," the choir chants.
This certainly isn't something anyone expected, but it may be just what we need.
Prince is expected to perform the track live during his Rally 4 Peace benefit concert in Baltimore on Sunday. Streaming service Tidal has announced it will stream the show for free, meaning listeners won't have to be Tidal subscribers to access it.