Something I believe we can all agree on when it comes to Janelle Monáe is an undeniable love and respect for her authenticity and unapologetic personality — or should I say her free-ass–motherf*cker spirit as she calls it.
The singer-songwriter and actress recently sat down with TimeOut magazine to discuss everything from Prince’s influence over her music career, idolizing Missy Elliott, expressing herself through style, being a “queer black woman”, the responsibility she feels to make sure people who are like her feel seen, heard, and celebrated, her most recent album, Dirty Computer, and so much more.
Janelle Monáe on using style as a form of expression:
“I love the ’80’s,” she says. “It was a vibe. It wasn’t about name brands; it wasn’t about designers. Everything you had on was about how you wanted to express yourself. You didn’t let the trends speak over your art.”
Janelle Monáe on connecting with Prince and his free spirit:
“Prince has been an inspiration to me since I was a little girl,” said Janelle. “He did, in fact, scare me a lot. I think it was the fact that I had never seen a man express himself like Prince. You just got the sense that this is a free-ass motherfucker, you know? And it inspired my free-ass–motherfucker spirit. And then I got to form a great personal relationship with him. If anybody understood where I was trying to go musically and sonically, it was him. Whatever you needed, he would say, “I’m here.”
Janelle Monáe on the narrative that drove her album, Dirty Computer:
“I think the narrative first comes from a young African-American woman living in America through my lens. You take off the makeup, the costumes, the artist—I am the daughter and descendant of working-class parents and grandparents. My grandmother picked cotton in Aberdeen, Mississippi. She helped build this country, and when I think about being a woman, being a minority and being a queer black woman, I think it makes me feel a deeper responsibility to make sure people who are like me feel seen, are heard and feel celebrated.”
Janelle Monáe on Missy Elliott helping her embrace her uniqueness:
“First of all, I grew up idolizing Missy Elliott. She is the master of visuals, so I would be honored to have her do anything [directing a video]. It’s been a long time coming,” she says.
“When I first started my career, I did a showcase here in New York City. I was so nervous. I didn’t look like any of the other artists who were performing that night. My music didn’t sound like them, and I was in this tuxedo and had natural hair. I wasn’t what you would call a “typical” R&B black female artist, and I was really having anxiety about it. I did my thing, and I remember seeing her in the audience. When I came offstage, she was one of the first people to greet me. She told me she loved my performance and thought I had something special. Just the affirmation I got from her right there helped me embrace the things that make me unique.”
For the full interview, visit TimeOut.com.