Janelle Monae: Futureshock

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ew people have that quality of being able to inspire; the ability to make others dream. These people help us hold on to our dreams while fulfilling theirs at each and every moment walking down that yellow brick road while bringing us along. Janelle Monae, a belle from Dorothy’s hometown, Kansas, intends on inviting you to meet the Wiz and then taking you beyond to a futuristic world that has cyborgs falling in love with humans and other destinations that are light years ahead of the present. With twinkle in her eyes and twang in her voice the melodic, eclectic Janelle Monae invites you to into her world.

Janelle Monae was born in the inner city of Kansas City where she had to cope with the harsh reality of being surrounded by poverty, street violence and the neighborhood junkies and pushers. The only outlet she had from the impoverished streets of Kansas was her acting career; something that she’d been cultivating since a very young age. Although she was a thespian, she still had to find a way to break away from the dangerous streets of Kansas City, Kansas.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: How did you escape the streets of Kansas City?

Janelle Monae: I went to the American Musical Academy in New York City. And I studied musical theatre. I wanted to be on Broadway. That was my dream. Of course, I started going to auditions, but then I felt discouraged because I didn’t see any roles for me…no one was making any roles that I felt like I could connect with outside of The Wiz and Lion King. Those roles are cool, don’t get me wrong, but it was more like “what can I do that’s groundbreaking?” So being the type of girl that I am, I left and I moved to Atlanta, Georgia and thought to my self “hmmm…I want to do music.”

AHHA: So you made the move from thespian to songstress in Atlanta?

Janelle Monae: Yea, I wanted to push music on this whole crazy thing. For theatre, I wasn’t doing any acting or plays or anything like that, so I left and I started writing music. I pretty much wanted to develop my own characters. I wanted to create my own story and I wanted to show who I was, the people around me, and what I had seen. And I didn’t want to constrict it to any of the roles on Broadway. So I started writing and recording. I actually stayed in a boarding house right off of Parsons Street, which is literally in the Atlanta University Center] of course you know, Spelman [College], Clark [Atlanta University] and Morehouse [College]. I stayed in the boarding house with six girls, and I continued writing and recording. And I would go outside and sing my songs on the street, and I wanted to know what the intelligent college students thought about my music so I did a lot of experimenting to get feedback from them. I knew music helped me out. It motivated me. It helped me become a better person and I wanted to share that with everybody, so I did that. I literally toured Spelman, Morehouse and Clark. I went to all the dorm rooms to sing and I performed free concerts to see what they thought about my music. I gave myself an album release party and I only had enough money to press like 200 CDs and to my surprise, they sold out that night.

AHHA: What was your next move?

Janelle Monae: Shortly after, I went to a Kim Porter event, who is Puffy’s babymother…she had an open mic night that she put on every Sunday. So I thought it would be cool if I went and performed, so I did. And I went onstage to go sing and after that I got a standing ovation to my surprise. After I got offstage, Big Boi was sitting in the front row and I didn’t even know it. He grabbed my arm and was like “I want to sign you,” and I was like “okay.” And Big Boi talks really fast. So he said, “Hey dawg [incomprehensible mutterings getting low and trailing off towards the end] (Laughs). I ended up getting signed then and there.

AHHA: Describe your style as a musician?

Janelle Monae: You know what, that’s such a hard question for me. I’ve been influenced by so many different things. I guess there are two different categories; R&B/Hip-Hop songstress and the futuristic Rock star. I would say that I’m more so in the futuristic Rock star category.

AHHA: You know I have to ask, why.

Janelle Monae: I’m trying to decide where music is going and direct it in a different direction and I can’t really focus on the past. All I can do is focus on where I am in the future. So that’s where the futuristic comes from because I’m focusing on tomorrow, and what I’ll be doing and where my music will take people from here on out. The Rock star comes from just me being free with writing music, performing, and singing. Whatever it is, I’m just free and whenever I perform I give it my all and let loose. I’m not trying to be too cool. I’m just really trying to rock whatever it is I do and shoot off like a star into the sky. So I just combined that into futuristic Rock star or whatever, because I am the future. I never try to be too cute to perform hard and sweat. I just want to give all the energy back to the audience. I want the audience and listeners to have it and also let them know that I’m not trying to be anything other than a free young lady.

AHHA: Can you tell us about your upcoming album, Metropolis, and the motivation for the title?

Janelle Monae: Metropolis is a silent film. I was actually watching the original 1927 version by Fritz Lang and the characters reminded me so much of my environment, growing up back in Kansas. There are people in the underworld who are like slaves. They work all day and they don’t know what their purpose in life is. And they’re trying so hard to escape these undergrounds. The people that live in Metropolis, they have this carefree life and money is not an issue for them. They have the people underground working for them. Everything is peaches and cream for them. And there’s this constant struggle between the underground workers and the people of Metropolis. It shows how the people of the underworld are trying to rise to the top and it reminds me so much of the world we live in.

AHHA: Who did you work with on the project?

Monae: Right now I’m working with Wondaland Productions. Nate “Rocket” Wonder, who is a gifted artist and incredible person, is the executive producer. We worked together on all the music. I also worked with Chuck Lightning of my production company, Wondaland Productions, and we wrote together. They basically pushed me to be the best artist I could be. They taught me how to play different instruments and use my imagination when I write, and taught me how to use different production programs so I was basically producing some of the stuff myself. It helped me become a better me artist and I love them for that. That’s really it.

AHHA: When is it dropping?

Janelle Monae: I’m hoping towards a release date of after OutKast’s Idlewild Soundtrack, because I’ll be featured on that in August. A little bit after that, Metropolis will come out or that’s what we’re hoping for.

AHHA: Here’s something new for you…Sitcom, reality show or cartoons and why?

Janelle Monae: Cartoons…I like cartoons because you can be as creative as you want to with the characters. You can make them look a certain way. You can change them. You can have them flying into space. There’s just no limit to creating them. It makes the impossible possible. Whenever I’m watching cartoons, my imagination runs wild and I realize there’s no limit to what I can do. I love being able to draw and create and use my creativity. I just love cartoons, they make me happy…I start jumping around and I love cereal!

AHHA: Don’t we all. I’ve always been a big fan, what’s your favorite?

Janelle Monae: I eat Raisin Bran a lot. But I like Fruit Loops. I used to eat Trix a lot, but right now I’m on Raisin Bran. I still eat Fruit Loops, because they have these little rings on them now, but they’re good.

AHHA: You know I had to laugh at that one. Random question. What’s your favorite color?

Janelle Monae: What is my favorite color? Purple, it’s so funny because when I was little my favorite color was purple, and now I’m on Purple Ribbon. It’s just funny to me. Purple to me, I just don’t know. When I was younger I would create my own little world and things to me would just be purple. Purple to me represents fairy tales and represents creativity. It’s represents something in my self and I just look to it. Whenever I’m singing, I think about purple, whenever I’m coming up with a song, I think about it. Of course, it looks nice on me, when I wear it around.

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