If you have ever seen Janelle Monae perform, then you already know that she has some fancy foot-work. If you have ever heard her talk about androids and robots and wondered if she was human, no worries. She will quickly tell you that she isn’t. If you sit long enough to listen, you will find that she is simply a musical being that is full of knowledge, artsy, confident, “electrifying“, and knows exactly the power of her gift.
UI: Now the electric lady I’ve seen some of the videos of your performances. You’re electrifying! You re everywhere dancing is that why the title for the album
JM: Laughs No not entirely, the title was really inspired by my paintings and I’m a visual artist and I went on tour for the last couple years and I would paint and sing at the same time. And so as I was painting each night I would the same silhouette of this woman of the physique and this went on for a really really long time. So when I got back to Atlanta Georgia which is like my second home I went and spoke to my therapist (laughs) Seriously I did and I was like I’m painting this female silhouette over and over again and I don’t understand what this means. She really encouraged me you should name her. You should name her so you can just deal with it. And so I just had a hard time marginalizing her because the colors that I was using was red and greens and oranges and these vibrant colors and I got this visceral feeling from it and so what came to my heart and my mind was the electric lady and I start to think about a world where there were more electric ladies and there was this inspirational figure that I could even aspire to be more like and I started to ask myself what does an electric lady think about love and does she make love, what is her position on politics, religion, sexuality and all those different things and that sparked the subject matter for album and it also lead me into telling, if you know anything about the concept albums that I have.
UI: I’ve been trying to figure it out
UI: Yes (laughs)
JM: And Arch Android and now we’re on the Electric Lady so this is a concept album and those paintings were sort of like a portal into the future if you will, because I didn’t understand where I was going to go with the next installment of the story of Cindy Mayweather who is
UI: Your alter ego?
JM: Is A part of my DNA.
UI: OK (laughs)
JM: She’s come to me in my dreams, I’ve had a lot of different encounters with her and anybody that’s in my dreams or a part of my life like that is a part of me. And she helps me write because I’m a private person, so I kind of use her to help me to write about the things I do. So it helped me to realize it was a time to do the prequel, to go back to why…who Cindy Mayweather is and why and why she’s wanted why she wants to be disassembled. So this will also take back the beginning of her story before she became the arch android
UI: So Cindy is definitely the wild one, were Janelle is the more relaxed calm?
UI: Not at all?
JM: Absolutely. I think that both of us, it’s just the future, Its us setting up, and trying to make sure that were setting up a better future for right now. Her songs are of the future but they relate..there’s so many parallels between us. From both of us feeling like we have to unite people. The have’s and have not’s marginalized and the majority and minority with those who are thriving in society and that don’t understand how we all get along in this world. Whether it be the gays of the lesbians people who are trying to be not discriminated against. I mean whenever I speak about androids and I’m speaking about the future I’m speaking about the new negro, the new black person Because we will live in a world, because of the rapid speed of technology that we have to deal with robots, artificial intelligence.
UI: Oh yeah, I definitely believe that
JM: And how will we all get along, you know? Will we oppress the android? Will we repeat history and enslave the android? Or how will we all get along? so i think a part of my goal is not always being an authoritative figure but more of a narrator. A fly on the wall observing where I feel like we could be in the future if we don’t pay attention.
UI: A while ago, I think it was one of the award shows you explained why you were a tuxedo.
JM: Umm hmm Yes
UI: And I’ll be honest when I first saw you I was like she always has on a tuxedo, what is it?
UI: And when I found out why I had so much more respect for you. For those who may have missed it can you explain to them the reason behind your tuxedo.
JM: Sure absolutely. I, one, I think it’s really cool. When I came into the music industry, I didn’t see anyone that looked like me at all.
JM: And not that that was a problem. I didn’t feel the need to try to fit in or the need to contribute to the marginalization of women and sexism. You know there is that in every industry, but in the music industry it definitely exist and you know you have people from stylist and all these different people. I style myself but, I’ve definitely come encounter with people trying to say you know, you’re a woman so you need to dress this way and this is what women do. And of course I wear heels, I have dresses, I have all these beautiful garments and what not, but i think that my goal has always been to say, women need to be in control of their bodies. And however you dress, you should be in control of that. And so that was the first step. And so when I pick my uniform which is to pay homage to the working class. You know my mother, my grandmothers, they worked in the county jail. My grandmother was a cook for 25 years at the county jail in Kansas City, Kansas. You know my mom and my family they worked as post office workers, janitors…they helped the community. And so I wanted to have a uniform that reminded me of them, that kept me humble, kept me grounded and reminded that I have work to do. You know my job is never done in music, the music that I make is meant to uplift our community and move us forward and empower us. And this why…it is a combination of redefining what it means to be woman and also to make sure I’m paying homage to those people who worked hard for me while I was growing up.
UI: Now your video Dance Apocalyptic, you kind of changed things up. The tuxedo wasn’t there
JM: Oh really? Was that me? I don’t think that was me in there.
UI: It wasn’t you?
JM: No, that wasn’t me
UI: Was it Cindy? (laughs)
JM: It probably was. Yeah I don’t think that was me (laughs)
UI: I saw the tuxedo was gone and I said maybe the tuxedo is leaving, but it’s definitely here to stay
JM: I mean I think at the end of the day I’m not a slave to anybody’s interpretations of what my image should be, nor what my…I’m not going to be a slave to what I feel people think that I should be. II mean I think that everybody goes about life knowing that we’re all free. You know this is not the eighteen or seventeen hundreds and when somebody makes a decision, which is so small, to wear black and white or whatever it is, I mean its really just not a big deal.
UI: Now definitely throughout your career you’ve stayed true to your image and your beliefs and everything….how do you find it, how do you maintain in an industry where it’s all about popping mollies, sex, and stuff like that because it can be difficult, but you stayed true
JM: Sure. Nah, I mean it’s not difficult, if that’s their lifestyle that’s their lifestyle. I think the music I make and that I want to be associated with is again to uplift and enrich the lives you know i think love is very important and that’s why this album is extremely important because it touches on so many different topics. And I think perspective is everything. I think that if you can come into an industry and contribute….I’ve always felt like my job as an artist is not to come in and join a team that…you know they’re working for themselves. If everyone is cleaning up the kitchen you’ve got to know the living room is dirty and somebody has to do that right? So I’ve always felt like my goal and my job as an artist is to make a difference and come in and give a different perspective about life about music and just about growth and evolution.
UI: Electric Lady in stores September 10th I know your first single was with Erykah Badu, Queen
JM: Yes… Queen
UI: Have you ever thought about touring with her and Solange. I think that would be super dope
JM: Well they’re both my friends, I actually have toured with Erykah. Erykah was one of the first established female artist to invite me on tour with her. And she’s like a big sister to me, a mentor, and Queen was inspired by our private conversations. We talk on the phone a lot and we wanted to do something that was empowering for those who are often times marginalized from women to the queer community to the excommunicated to the immigrants to the negroid that I like to call a mix between black and android because there’s such a great parallel between those to categories but we wanted to do something that the underdog could be proud of. So that’s how Queen was inspired, it’s a female empowerment song as well. So I would love that.
UI: I think it’d be super dope
JM: It would be great and we’ve definitely talked about that
UI: Because the booty don’t lie! (laughs)
JM: Yea, the booty don’t. You right! You are absolutely correct
UI: How real is for you that back in 2003 you had a song called star
JM: You could be a star…mmm hmmm
UI: Yes. And now you’re a star, you’re on the cover of Vibe’s 20th anniversary issue
JM: Yeah, absolutely
UI: You’ve, got a new album coming out, touring, and then also….you’re a cover girl!
JM: Yes (smiles)
UI: How real is that for you?
JM: It is…man!
UI: Being a girl from Kansas
JM: Yeah, I’m just a girl from Kansas. Yeah…right…I’m just from this little small town in Kansas. I could not have written all of these amazing opportunities that have come into my life so I’m definitely, I’m a spiritual person I do believe that somebody is praying for me and having me covered. I want to make sure that whatever platform I have…being a cover girl is so huge because growing up as a young black girl you look at these magazines you’re trying to figure out, OK am I going to be myself or am I going to wear this make up and try to look like somebody else? How will I maneuver through peer pressure and all these different things and beauty, with women, is a huge part of our self-esteem. We feel beautiful, we feel alive! We feel ourselves.
UI: Inside and out
JM: Right, inside and out. And so I know that and when they approached me to be a cover girl I was just thankful because I get the opportunity to really just be myself and encourage other young girls and older women too to embrace the things that make you unique even if it makes others uncomfortable. And I get a chance to redefine what it means to be a young black girl in today’s society. And I don’t take it for granted, so I try to use whatever platform I have, and Vibe, being on the cover there, I try
UI: With Robin
JM: Yeah,and I’m honored to be on the cover because around the time when I was leaving in a boarding house in the AUC in Atlanta and I was selling my independent CD “The Audition” where “Star” was…that song was on, it was shortly after that Vibe did an article on me. And this was during the time where nobody really knew about me. But they said we want people to know about you and they really supported me from the beginning so I appreciate Vibe and happy to celebrate their 20th anniversary with them.
UI: That’s very dope, congratulations on that.
JM: Thank you
UI: Some artist say, I’m in the spotlight but I don’t want to be a role model because it’s too stressful. Do you feel that way?
JM: No. I think that, again, the only pressure you feel is the pressure that you put on yourself. And I will say that I’m not perfect. I am evolving and growing and learning and you know…I’m still trying to catch up with who it is that I am. You know because of just growing. And I think that my calling has been to lead. I didn’t always feel like that but I know now more than ever that what you do now has the potential to shape your future and your community and what you do now can set up the future for the next generation so you have to be very careful. Music is very powerful because it taps into the emotions, it taps into the subconscious so I know that I am created because of my creator. I come from that tree, and so with that being said I have make sure that I’m doing right. I always have this fear of just…if I’m not using the gift in a positive way it could be taken away from me and it could potentially set us back. You know, but I don’t apply that pressure on myself to be perfect or to be anything. I think its just to be honest and to be open and to try my best to do good by people and to do go through music and through art and to make a difference.
UI: Now on Electric Lady, I know you’ve got Erykah Badu
UI: Miguel, prime time, Solange
JM: Yes, she’s helping me with a lot of the background vocals on the title track The Electric Lady
UI: And then also, WOW…Prince?!?
UI: You called him your lifetime hero.
JM: Did I say lifetime?
UI: I read it somewhere that you said he was your lifetime hero
JM: Really? I think I said musical hero
UI: Ok It’s Prince! Same thing!
JM: Same thing! I mean he’s Prince right. He’s also been a great fiend too and I’ve been very vocal about that. And he actually reached out to me during metropolis Suite 104, my first nationally released EP that Puffy helped me get out into the world. And so , he came into my life during that time and he’s been a huge supporter a mentor so I”m just honored that he wanted to give all he could to the Electric Lady, and I got a chance to produce him.
JM: Yeah I think that is something, I still am in disbelief of b because he doesn’t get on peoples albums
JM: And for him to be a part of this project, which is what makes it very special and I would pre-order (laughs) If I was a consumer right now I would pre-order it because It just marks a very special moment in musical history in my opinion.
UI: I’ve got to say that when I put on instagram and twitter and facebook that I was going to be talking to you, your fan base.. is…
JM: Where they excited?
UI: Excited!!! My instagram…everything!
JM: Oh My God! Ok Good…sweet!
UI: Does it bother you when guys and females are like “Oh my God she’s bad, I would holla at her” because they were saying, she’s beautiful
JM: Yeah, that’s complimentary. I thank my momma, and daddy, and God, you know that is a compliment to them, I am a product of those.
UI: So you’re fine with it?
JM: Yes absolutely, you know I tell people they’re handsome. You’re handsome.
UI: Thank you (laughs)
JM: Are you offended (laughs) All that hair you have.
UI: You’re beautiful.
JM: Thank you
UI: Natural beautiful
JM: I love how you talk,, ya’ll accent is just incredible
UI: (laughs) Thats that Baltimore, I’m from Baltimore
JM: I love it, it’s so cute. How could you get mad, If you have that accent and you say those things who could be offended by that
UI: What do you think is the biggest misconception about Janelle Monae?
JM: The biggest misconception about me um. Is that I’m human.
UI: You are?
JM: I’m not that’s the misconception
UI: You’re not?
JM: No I’m an android.
UI: I knew you were going to say that.
JM: Absouletly, that’s the biggest misconception. People just dont, they dont know. But I’m here to confirm it right now.
UI: Have you always been like this…an android.
JM: I have always, I have.
UI: From a child?
JM: From a child.
UI: Are you the only child?
JM: I’m not. No I have lots of…I grew up in a very big family. I grew up with over 50 first cousins.
UI: Oh wow!
JM: So my mom had 8 sisters 2 brothers and you know, I grew up in a very big family so I always felt a lot of love and I’ve had a lot of siblings.
UI: September 10th make sure you get it, The Electric Lady, in stores. Janelle Monae I thank you.
JM: Thank you so much for having me. God bless ya’ll
Electric Lady in stores September 10th! Get your copy, here!