Blessed with Andre 3000ís spunk, Tina Turnerís energy and Steven Spielbergís imagination, Janelle is the kind of artist youíll either laugh off as being way too weird or bow down to and call the next big thing. Diddy and longtime fans like OutKastís Big Boi wholeheartedly suggest the latter. Roto Rooter canít stop all the Internet leaks of Janelleís bugged-out Metropolis EP right now. Her debut album wonít drop on Bad Boy until September, at the earliest. But itís all good. DXnext has her now before the plutonium-powered bandwagon starts to get too crowdedÖ
Name: Janelle Monae.
Influences: Itíd be easy to just say inventive artists like Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley are Janelleís inspirations, but itís deeper than that. Monae also has a deep appreciation for stage productions and musicals like The Wizard of Oz, which actually might make them bigger influences on the artist than Bjork and James Brown ever were.
On Why The Time Is Now For The World To Know Janelle Monae: "Well, Iím really not in control of when people are ready to hear something or ready to be exposed to something this different. I just feel like itís that time. I feel like 2008 is a time Ėyou can see it in politics and I think youíll see it in music- for different voices to be heard and more diverse things to be promoted. I think that thereís a movement thatís happening, whether Iím in it or not, thatís going to continue to happen. It has been happening, but people are just now catching on to it. Thatís a question youíll have to ask God. He has most definitely told me that this is the time. Iím just following the lead."
On Fighting The Mainstream: "Actually, I donít have to do anything. I think right now Iím pretty well received. All I have to do is continue to stay true to my values. I have a responsibility to creating art and coming up with new concepts and ideas. And I have a responsibility to my community, especially young girls. I really hate talking a lot, so I try to lead by example. By doing that, thatís all I can do, you know? I donít like to marginalize networks like BET or MTV, for that matter, or us as an African-American culture or a Chinese culture. I donít marginalize people. I always tell myself that people are very open-minded to new concepts and ideas, but they donít know what they wanna hear until they hear it. I feel like Iíll be heard and I feel like Iíll be seen."
On Being A Good Example For Black Girls: "Thatís been a lifelong thing of mine. I grew up in Kansas. I grew up in an environment, to be politically correct, that was a little disadvantaged. By that, there were not a lot of resources at my disposal. Iím not complaining about [that], by any means. But because of that, it forced me to search outside of my neighborhood. To always ask questions. It motivated me to ensure that I was being a strong leader. Iím somewhat of a rock in my family to people twice my age. They look to me, which is a blessing, for advice on certain things that they know good and let they should know as right and wrong. For me, there are so many young girls that were just headed for self-destruction, whether it was getting pregnant by a dope dealer or not reading, to selling sex to get the things they needed. I saw that, and I saw the downfall of that whole movement with young girls. I always knew I had to do something slightly different to show them that we donít all have to take the same routes to become successful. There are other options. As an artist, I have a bigger responsibility to it because, I think, artists are a lot more influential than politicians are. One song can change somebodyís life. One girlís message can change somebodyís life."
On Early Musical Memories: "When I was 10 or 11, I formed a duo with one of my best friends. I was also a part of this group called The Wierdos. We most definitely were trying to make a statement in Kansas. We raised certain questions and provoked certain emotions in all the people who were walking dead back home. I was in and out of talent shows, competing and I was heavily involved in musical theater. It was the one thing I was religious about. Everyday I would go home and practice and sing. A lot of it just had to do with me trying to escape my environment. Drugs really took over my family. We lost a lot of things, a lot of materialistic thingsóas well as a lot of time. My parents lost a lot of time to certain drugs like crack and different things like that. I grew around all those things. Music was my escapism. Hard work was just instilled in me. I think the gift of song and the gift of art has such a huge purpose. You donít even really know how powerful you as an artist can be until youíre in it. Growing up in that environment, I got a chance to hone my craft. I had nothing but time. I did just that. I knew music could take me out of Kansas, and it did. Iíve started my own record label, The Wondaland Arts Society. We released an independent project last year. Weíve been able to, as a company and a team of creative artists, stay true to our innovative ideas and challenge ourselves and remember itís up to us to inspire and influence as many people as we come in contact with."
On The Characteristics Of A Janelle Monae Fan: "Thatís a good question. Itís one I donít think I can answer really. Every time someone says ĖI do it myself- this person isnít gonna be really into what weíre doing or isnít going to like the way I dance on stage, I get proven wrong. I have fans from 78-year-old white Jewish men to nine-year-old little girls whose fathers are executives at record labels. Itís very broad. When you come to my performances, the audience is very diverse. Thatís something Iíve always prayed for but I didnít know it could really happen. Knowing that itís true and that it does exist, I donít marginalize people. I donít categorize people and say my demographic is this way. I think the one thing that they have in common is that they wanna dance and wanna have fun. I think thriving individuals searching for answers. It takes somebody whoís open-minded, but not somebody whoís just weird or different. I have supporters who drink and smoke weed and go to Hip Hop clubs to older white men and women. I just thank God for that."
On Other Gifts Sheís Proud To Have: "I think God has most definitely blessed me with the gift of discernment. As a young African American female, as a female in general in the music industry, you need that. Heís led me to know and feel out certain situations and know whatís good and whoís right to be around me. Who I should stay away from? What things I should stay away from. Iím really anchored in my morals and my values. I donít ever get too big-headed. I always remember that I can be as funky as can be but I canít get too big-headed. Iíve avoided a lot of situations by just saying no to certain bad opportunities. Just waiting and being patient and knowing that Iím not in control. Something higher is in control. At all times I must acknowledge that and stay humble and stay true to the gift of art that I was blessed with."
What Makes Her DXNext-worthy?: Because thereís ďnew soundĒ and then thereís so-crazy-you-wonder-what-kind-of-barbituate-the-person-was-on-when-they-recorded-it new sound.