The Work Part 1 is the fourth track (as The Work Pt. 1) on Prince's 24th album The Rainbow Children, his first album after reverting to the name Prince, but six months earlier, a slightly different mix of the track had been made available (as The Work Part 1) as an official free download from the file-sharing service Napster, before being made available as part of NPG Music Club Edition # 3 two weeks later. The following month, a live performance video of the song was included as part of NPG Music Club Edition # 4. In 2003, a 2002 live version was included as part of the third track (listed as Money Don't Matter 2 Night / The Work) on the Live At The Aladdin Las Vegas concert DVD.
Specific recording dates are unknown, but it is likely that basic tracking took place at a live in-studio recording in February 2001 at Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota (possibly during the 8 February 2001 session where the Hornheadz added horns to the rest of the album's tracks). It was stated on the NPG Music Club at the time of the track's release that Prince played both the guitar solo and the piano solo at the same time in one take. The track was mixed slightly between its initial release in April and the final configuration of The Rainbow Children album in June 2001.
The album version also includes a segue prior to the beginning of the following track, Everywhere.
The Part 1 in the title is likely an homage to songs by artists like James Brown, whose tracks were often split into segments for single releases, rather than an indication of other parts to the song. There was a report in early 2001, however, before any public mention of The Work Part 1, of Prince introducing a new song at Paisley Park Studios and calling it The Work Part 2 (this report may have been in error, however).