Greetings KEXP Friends. Michele Myers here. Each week on my Saturday Afternoon Show (3-6pm) I choose a favorite artist and play 3 songs from them and tell you their story. Once in a while you hear a new artist who is simply ON FIRE. Janelle Monáe is one of those.
Her live show has elements of the theater, film, experimental performance artistry and even live painting. The music is a mix of hip-hop, soul, rock, cabaret and soundtrack. The best songs, like “Dance or Die,” are undeniably party hits.
For such a high-production girl, Janelle’s background is humble. She started out in a run-down hood in Kansas City. A little girl with big city dreams, she hoped someday to act and sing on Broadway. Eventually she earned a scholarship to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City after high school. She was in a few off-Broadway shows but felt she wasn’t getting where she wanted, so the next step was relocating to Atlanta where she started singing in bands. In Atlanta she met Big Boi from Outkast who produced her first release Metropolis, The Chase Suite. And Sean “P Diddy” Combs heard one of the singles from that record and signed her to his label.
Her 2nd record is the 2010 release, The ArchAndriod, a concept record where her android alter ego, Cindi Mayweather, tries to free the citizens of an imaginary city Metropolis in the futuristic year 2719.
She says The ArchAndriod is an “epic James Bond film in outer space. In terms of influences, it’s just all the things I love — scores for films like Goldfinger mixed with albums I adore such as Stevie Wonder’s Music of My Mind, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, and jamming experimental hip hop such as Stankonia.”
The single “Tightrope” features Big Boi himself: