Musicheads Essential Artist: Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monae at 'Black Panther' premiere
Janelle Monae attends the premiere Of Disney and Marvel's "Black Panther" at Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., on January 29, 2018. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
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Musicheads Essential Artist: Janelle Monae
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Born in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1985, Janelle Monáe Robinson was raised in a working-class home, and it opened her eyes to racial and economic disparities from an early age. In 2001, she landed in Atlanta and connected with OutKast's Big Boi, eventually releasing her highly anticipated debut, Metropolis, on Sean Combs's Bad Boy Records in 2007.

Janelle has spent her entire recording career building out her own Afrofuturist world. She's dreamed up her own android alter ego — Cindi Mayweather — and explored a dystopian future where robots are as alienated as others, conformity is celebrated, and authoritarian government is stamping out all personal and creative expression.

On 2018's Dirty Computer, she brought that sci-fi narrative full circle and came clean on all the ways she's been treated like an other in her real life, as a now publicly out queer black woman and as a gender-fluid and genre-defying performer who's refused to fit neatly into any category.

Unsurprisingly, one of Janelle Monáe's biggest fans was Prince. Prince appeared as a guest on Janelle Monáe's 2013 track "Givin' 'Em What They Love," and he was both an influence and a guide as she created Dirty Computer.

As her stars continue to rise in both music and film, Janelle Monáe has become a leader and an outspoken advocate for Black empowerment, sexual freedom, and boundary-less creative expression.

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