Family Name is the twelfth track on Prince’s 24th album The Rainbow Children, his first album after reverting to the name Prince. In 2002, a live version was included as the first track on the second disc of Prince’s first live album One Nite Alone... Live! (along with Xenophobia, Extraordinary, Avalanche, Raspberry Beret, The Everlasting Now, Wanna B Ur Lover, Diamonds & Pearls, The Beautiful Ones, Nothing Compares 2 U and How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore from the same show).
Specific recording dates are unknown, but it is likely that basic tracking took place in late 2000 or early 2001 at Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota. The song opens with a long computer voice introduction over a musical backing, saying "welcome to the Akashic Records genetic information division", before asking the user to input the requested genetic history. After a keystroke, the computer responds by saying "you have chosen African-American" before launching into a dramatized situation where an African slave is banished from England, and sent to the USA, where he is told his previous family name is no longer valid and he is renamed. The song continues from there, and ends with a sample from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s "I have a dream" speech, delivered in Washington, D.C., USA, on 28 August 1963. The full paragraph of the speech, which Prince samples from here, is: "And when this happens,and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old negro spiritual, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last." (Prince had previously sampled this in the opening of his televised concert to celebrate his "emancipation" from his contract with Warner Bros., on 12 November 1996).