Janelle Monáe is gearing up for the release her third studio album Dirty Computer on April 27. Tonight (April 26) Monáe is releasing a 44-minute “emotion picture" by the same name on MTV and BET. To celebrate the occasion, she spoke with Ebro Darden Beats 1 on the concept behind the album and Prince.
On Prince & His Influence
Janelle: I" must say that there is only one Prince and there will never be another. I had the opportunity to be inspired by Prince just like you, just like the rest the world growing up. In fact, I used to be terrified Prince. I could not watch his videos. I had a dream that he chased me in a purple suit. It was something about watching this black man -I’d never seen a black man express himself like that, and it scared me. You know I don't know if it was because maybe I hadn't been comfortable with tapping into my fearlessness…it’s just like you got the sense that he was a free ass m*****f***** right? And I don't know if I was ready to tap into my free as Mother f***** nature, but I think what I love most is that I got the opportunity to get to know the man who everybody looked at as this mysterious, other-worldly being. You know I did get the opportunity to perform onstage with him. In fact, I gave him — he had the first copy my first album. I gave it to him at Paisley Park, and I got a chance to see that he was such a philanthropic person. Like he gave, and he didn't want people to know what he gave. And he's given a lot to me. Any way that I can honor him, and just you know remind this generation how much he paved the way for artists like myself. I mean there were times that when I ever felt confused on what direction I should take, or if my ideas were to big for the music industry…I knew that was the one person who understood where I was trying to go."
On the concept behind the album Dirty Computer:
Janelle: "So you know we come from dirt and when we transition out we’ll go back to dirt. I believe our spirits will go elsewhere after that. I think it came to me in a dream that we are computers. We are CPUs – our brains – we’re uploading/downloading – we’re transmitting – passing back and forth information… and with all computers you got your bugs you got your viruses right? Now there are some computers that may already come with bugs and viruses. Are those negatives? Are those positives? Are those features or not? It's a conversation that I want to have with us as a society as human beings about what it means to tell somebody that the way they’re programmed – their existence – whether they're queer, LGBTQ, IA, in that community – whether they are minorities, whether they're bugs or viruses, whether being a woman, whether being poor, makes you have bugs and viruses. What is it like to live in a society that is constantly trying to cleanse you, and tell you that you need to conform you need to be reprogrammed, deprogrammed. And so I just wanted to talk about my own bugs and viruses, and how I'm choosing to deal with it. You know, how I'm choosing to resist that whole notion because Dirty Computers don't see those bugs and viruses as negatives. Those are things that make them unique and it's about embracing those things that make you unique even if it makes others uncomfortable.
I think that I’m flexing different muscles. I think that there is a different way that I'm expressing myself and allowing myself to be a complete human being. I think that you're right to say that there are some things with these songs, with this album that I have not. I knew that I was supposed to make this album before I made The ArchAndroid. Right after I did the EP Metropolis. I felt an obligation to continue Cindi Mayweather and the stories, and be in 2719 as a writer, and as someone who felt like my fanbase my “fandroids” I like to call them – my support system supported me this far, and I just didn't want to let them down. But Dirty Computer has been in my heart for a while. It needed to live with me. I needed to have more conversations with myself. I needed to break out feeling like I needed to be anybody's image, that they would prefer me to be, but rather be my unique honest complicated complex self, and that's what you see on Dirty Computer."
The film will premiere on MTV and BET at 11 pm EST and will be available on all streaming outlets shortly after. Monáe is also hitting the road in support new album. The 27-city tour will begin in Seattle, WA on June 11, and end on August 4 in Atlanta, GA. Hear Janelle's interview with Ebro in full here.