By 1996, Prince was free from Warner Brother Records, although he would have to continue recording under his new love symbol name due to a contractual agreement, and, as a result of this freedom, his creativity was reborn with an increase in new recorded material. This same year, Prince started his own record label, NPG Records, and released a three-disc album entitled Emancipation. Each disc totaled an hour in length and resulted in a three hour long epic odyssey that included covers by Joan Osborne and Bonnie Raitt. This was also the first album that Prince recorded music by other artists. Emancipation did fairly well for being a triple album. The album reached No. 11 on the Billboards and sold half a million copies, which made it the fourth best selling triple album in the United States.
In addition to being released from Warner Brothers, starting his own record label, recording a well-received triple-disc album, Prince married Mayte Garcia, the backing vocalist and dancer with Prince's backing band The New Power Generation. The two were married on Valentines Day in Minneapolis and 15 years separated the two. Prince was 37 years old, Garcia was only 22. Later that year, October 16th, 1996, Prince and Garcia had their first child. Tragically, their baby boy only lived a week and died of a skull defect. At the time, the only name reveled to the public was "Boy Gregory," but later, Garcia informed the world that his name was Ahmir, which stands for prince in Arabic. Prince and Garcia's marriage lasted for two years, ending in divorce. During those years, Prince did not release an album under his name.
Fourteen months after the release of Emancipation, Prince released a five-disc album entitled Crystal Ball. Similar to The Hits/The B-Side, which was released by Warner Brothers in 1993, Crystal Ball included three discs of unreleased bootlegged material dating back to his Warner Brother days, an unreleased album entitled The Truth that was recorded after the release of Emancipation, and another unreleased studio album that was recorded in 1995 called Kamasutra. In all, Crystal Ball was a release diehard Prince fans were waiting for. In fact, Prince allowed the album to be pre-ordered a year before. Unfortunatley, fans who pre-ordered the album had to wait several months after the album was released to record stores to receive their copy. But to their benefit, the albums released to stores were missing the fifth disc, Kamasutra.
The Truth might be one of Prince's most underrated albums to this day. It is considered his acoustic album, but with many synthesized sounds and effects added in. It has a much more intimate feel then his other studio albums and really shows off his acoustic guitar talents. In addition, The Truth incorporates more experimentation in it's compositions similar to that of the albumSign 'o' the Times. For example, the track "circle of Amour" starts off as your typical R&B ballade. However, as the song progresses, it harmonically drifts further and further away from its original key. Even when you think the songs over, Prince briefly launches into a completely different groove leaving the listener thinking of all the possibilities this one song could have gone.
From 1999 to 2003, Prince released eight albums including his first live album entitled One Night Alone... Live!. During this time Prince was also creating an online presence and providing fans with a way to purchase and hear his music with his online subscription service NPGMusicClub.com. In 2001, Prince remarried Manuela Testolini but this releationship ended with a divorce in 2006. In 2004, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That same year, Prince signed a one-year contract with Columbia Records and released his twenty eighth studio album Musicology. This album led to Prince receiving more Grammy Awards in the categories of Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "Call My Name" and Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for "Musicology." With all of this attention on Prince, Rolling Stones Magazine projected that Prince was the highest paid musician in the world with a 56 million dollar annual income.
The following year, Prince released 3121 and signed with Universal Records. The album, similar to many releases of his, was a huge success with the album reaching the number one spot on the Billboards. Single "Black Sweat" was nominated for a MTV Video Music Award. In 1996, Prince received a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award, mainly for his progressive online subscription for the release of new music. In fact, most of Prince's music is hard to find on the web today. All his music is copyrighted and frequently taken off of youtube and other free streaming services. In November of 2006, Prince received another honor with the induction into the UK's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Prince was also nominated for a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star in 1999 to honor his earlier hit 1999 and in 2014. Both incidents Prince turned down the honor feeling he wasn't ready for the award. During these same years, Prince's publishing contract with Warner Brothers was finally over, allowing him to use his original name and not the love symbol. However, Prince frequently used the love symbol for his album artwork and promotional material. Later in 2006, Prince opened a night club in Las Vegas at the Rio giving him an opportunity to perform live every weekend. By early 2007, Prince had received another award in the form of a Golden Globe for his musical contribution to the Disney movie Happy Feet with the track "The Song of the Heart." Even with Prince's decades of successful releases, the mid-2000's marked the years of recognition Prince worked hard for.
In 2007, Prince had the honor to perform for the Super Bowl XLI Halftime show. This game was not the most memorable due to the fact that the Indianapolis Colts blew out the Chicago Bears 29-17. This made Prince's iconic performance more memorable then most halftime show. Later that year, Prince released Planet Earth. This album was met with some controversy, since Prince allowed the British newspaper company Mail on Sunday to provide the album for free with the paper. Of course, record distributors and companies were not happy with this decision since they could not profit not Planet Earth record sales. In 2007, Prince also started his own perfume line named after his successful release 3121.
In 2009, Prince released Lotusflower, a three disc album that was organized into three distinct parts. The first disc was called Lotuseflower, the second was called MPLSoUND, and the third was called Elixer and was dedicated to Bria Valente, vocalist and student of Prince. Elixer is credited as Bria Valente debut album even though it was released as a three album set under Prince's name.
Even though Prince performed the Superbowl Halftime show in 2007, it wasn't until 2010 that fans were aware of his love for American football with his new single "Purple and Gold," written for the Minnesota Vikings. This single was not released with an album but can be heard on the Minnesota Vikings webpage. 2010 also brought much recognition to Prince once again. Time Magazine listed Prince as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World." He also received another Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2010 BET Awards, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. This year Prince also released the album 20Ten.
Over the next six years, Prince would have his hand in all spectrums of entertainment. In 2013, he released a single called "Breakfast Can Wait" inspired by Dave's Chappelle's comedy show, Chappelle's Show. In 2014, Prince resigned with Warner Brothers Records and in exchange the record company gave Prince ownership of all the master recording that he had done with Warner Brothers. In 2015, Prince released Hit n Run: Phase One followed by Hit n Run: Phase Two later that year. Over these six year, Prince only released a few albums but probably recorded over 30, according to trombonist Michael Nelson. As explained by Nelson, "[Prince] just lived [music], 24 hours a day. He never wanted the creative flow to stop. If you didn't record and idea right then, that little inspiration was gone."