When you hear the name Janelle Monáe, pleasant descriptors come to mind—drama-free, beautiful, talented—and for the most part, what you see is what you get. But as she sashays into a brightly lit New York studio for our August cover shoot on a warm afternoon, a new set of adjectives arise—feline, intriguing, powerful.
Navigating the chaos surrounding the stark-white studio, she embodies the muse for her upcoming fourth album, The Electric Lady, which drops Sept. 10
. “An electric lady,” says the 27-year-old, Kansas City-bred singer, “is quirky, unafraid, epic and ‘nicety’—that’s when you’re being nice and nasty, noble and naughty, all at the same damn time.”
Her new album is a hodgepodge of electric heavy-hitters, including Prince, Esperanza Spalding, Miquel, and Solange, and delves further into the exploits of Cindi Mayweather, the android heroine of her first EP Metropolis.
The Electric Lady serves as suite IV and V of her sci-fi saga and Cindi learns more about herself. Much like her cosmic counterpart, Janelle, too, has ripened over time.
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That might have something to do with her upbringing. Janelle comes from a working-class family that was back-boned by her grandmother, a former Mississippi sharecropper and a mother who worked as a janitor.
Her father was a garbage truck driver who struggled with drug addiction, and after years of seeing its negative effects, Janelle moved to Atlanta where she self-produced her demo, “Janelle Monáe: The Audition.” Grinding is in her genes…
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