Janelle Monae teaches us the importance of rebooting our hard drives

Janelle Monae
Janelle Monae celebrates the launch of her new album and emotion picture, 'Dirty Computer,' with her Spotify Fans at the Mack Sennett Studios in Los Angeles on April 26, 2018. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Spotify)

Minnesota has recently claimed bragging rights for R&B Phenom, Janelle Monáe. Not only does Monáe have ties to the Land of 10,000 Lakes (she lived in the Twin Cities and Eagan in her early childhood), but her recent album Dirty Computer has debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top R&B albums chart.

Dirty Computer projects Janelle Monáe's most profound thoughts on love, sexuality, gender normativity, and the American identity — it is an inclusive album that invites listeners from (literally) all backgrounds to triumphantly be themselves.

Monáe's latest album is an afro-futuristic masterpiece, which combines R&B, funk, electro, trap beats. There are songs where Monáe emulates Minnesota Legend (and her childhood idol) Prince; others where she reminds us that R&B is alive and well; and vibes that showcase how Monáe's sound has matured as she learned to be authentically herself.

At a listening party in December, Monáe expressed why now was the time to share her life story: "This is the first time I've felt threatened and unsafe as a young black woman, growing up in America … This is the first time that I released something with a lot of emotion. The people I love feel threatened. I've always understood the responsibility of an artist — but I feel it even greater now. And I don't want to stay angry, but write and feel triumphant."

In Monáe's first solo album in five years, she preaches the importance of rebooting yourself in order to become whole. For Monáe, this means disposing traumatic experiences that hindered her from being the independent, fierce, black woman that she is.

Dirty Computer is a metaphor for each and every one of us who have dirty drives and "bugs" — tainted memories, relationships, hearts — that need to be cleaned and repaired. These memories include the traumatic experiences that have hurt us — the moments in which we've felt our lowest low, our most vulnerable.

Like computers, we store painful memories on our hard drives. The longer they're stored, the more bogged down we become. To avoid crashing, we need to clear some files. Janelle tells us to stop ignoring the annoying sign that says to clear some space and click reboot. If you need a visual tutorial on how to do this, there is also an emotion picture for Dirty Computer, directed by Janelle Monáe, that illustrates the cleaning process:

It's hard to put into words how great Janelle Monáe's album is, so I thought it'd be best if I let her tell you. Here are few moments from Dirty Computer that stood out to me:

"If you try to grab my pussy cat, this pussy grab you back!" – "I Got The Juice"

This lyric is the bridge from "I Got the Juice," featuring and produced by Pharrell Williams. Janelle refrains this lyric three times, before saying, "This pussy grab you back, give you pussy cataracts." This line is a response to President Donald Trump's derogatory comments on women that came to light during his presidential campaign.

"I remember when you laughed when I cut my perm off and you rated me a six
I was like, 'Damn" But even back then with the tears in my eyes' I always knew I was the sh*t" – "I Like That"

Verse three from "I Like That," Monáe reveals that a boy ridiculed her for apparent lack of style and a change in hairdo. To add assault to injury, he had the audacity to rate Janelle's striking looks a 6/10! (Surely, he must be feeling foolish now). The song is about not needing anyone to gas her up, and I love how Janelle keeps her confidence high despite the ridiculous taunts.

"Even though you tell me you love me, I'm afraid that you just love my disguise. Taste my fears and light your candle to my raging fire of broken desire" – "Don't Judge Me"

"Don't Judge Me" is a song about not passing judgment about Janelle Monáe's sexuality. For a long time, Monáe refused to share her sexuality, but through subtle, yet beautiful lyrics such as this, Janelle shares her true desires — the ones that hide behind the mask.

"I'm tired of Hoteps tryna tell me how to feel" – "Screwed"

The full verse, which is simply Janelle preaching, reads, "Hundred men telling me cover up my areolas, while they blocking equal pay, sippin' on they Coca Colas. Fake news, fake moves, fake food — what's real? Still in The Matrix eatin' on the blue pills. The devil met with Russia and they just made a deal. We was marching through the street, they were blocking every bill I'm tired of Hoteps tryna tell me how to feel, forreal."

If you're looking for Janelle's thoughts on our current presidency, political moment, and the feminist revolution, look no further. The final line is most poignant to me, as Monáe equates all men as Hoteps, who are men who say that they love women, but through their actions and words present a different narrative. Like most women, Monáe is fed up with men who tirelessly try to dictate how she should act and feel.

"This is not my America until same-gender loving people can be who they are. This is not my America until black people can come home from a police stop without being shot in the head. This is not my America until poor whites can get a shot at being successful. This is not my America." – "Americans"

The entire song deals with the complexity of being a proud American, while being critical of its shortcomings. In the album, the American identity is a running theme, with Monáe even saying that she would defend her land. The war that she'd elect to fight, however, is for the liberties of oppressed Americans: Black Americans, LGBTQIA, all women, and poor Whites.

There are so many more memorable lyrics and moments from the album, but my personal favorite is when Janelle says…

"If she the G.O.A.T., Do Anybody Doubt It?" – "Django Jane"

After listening to the album, is this even up for discussion?

Jeffrey Bissoy is a Twin Cities native by way of Yaoundé, Cameroon. Outside of reporting Hip-Hop for The Current, he's the host of Maintainin' and co-host of the NBA podcast, The Come Up. Got a suggestion or wanna leave a comment? Follow him on Twitter, @JeffEmbiid.

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Album of the Week: Janelle Monáe, 'Dirty Computer' (April 23, 2018) There are songs of self-acceptance, a delicate celebration of all things fem, and a funky Prince-inspired song about feeling real love -- and rumor is, he played synthesizer and produced the track.

Did you know Janelle Monae, as a child, lived in the Twin Cities? This spring, Janelle Monae seems to be taking over the world with her acclaimed new album Dirty Computer and an upcoming tour that will stop at the State Theatre in Minneapolis on July 3. What most Minnesotans don't know is that the show will be a sort of homecoming for the multitalented star, who lived in the state for a period of time when she was a child.

Here is Janelle Monae's third grade photo from her time at Minneapolis's Hale Elementary School Although Janelle Monae is most commonly associated with her birthplace of Kansas City, Kansas, and her current hometown of Atlanta, more information has come to light recently about the short time Janelle spent living in various locations in the Twin Cities — and specifically in Minneapolis, the same hometown as one of her biggest mentors and musical inspirations, Prince.

External Link

Janelle Monáe - official website

2 Photos

  • Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer
    Janelle Monae's new album 'Dirty Computer' (Courtesy the artist)
  • Janelle Monae
    Janelle Monae performs on March 23, 2017 in New York City. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Lord & Taylor)

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