Janelle Monae is gearing up for the release of her second album, The Electric Lady, and the singer is currently enjoying the positive feedback from its first single, "Q.U.E.E.N." In her cover story with Billboard magazine, Monae explains how the funky track, featuring Erykah Badu, promotes equality and acceptance and how she constantly seeks to spark discussions that continue after the music stops.
"I feel like there are constant parallels with me as a woman, being an African-American woman, to what it means for the community that people consider to be queer, the community of immigrants and the Negroid — the combination between the 'N' and the android," Monae says. "All of us have very similar fights with society and oppressors, with those who are not about love, who are more about judging. There are two different types of people: Some people come into this world to judge, some people come into this world to jam. Which one are you? It's a question we should all ask ourselves. My job is to create art that starts a dialogue, to create songs and lyrics that ask society these questions, by using myself as a sacrificial lamb."
Badu is just one of several hot guest appearances on the new album as Monae has also managed to rope in Miguel and her friend Prince for a track on her album, which is no small feat.
"It's not every day that he collaborates," she says of Prince. "I'm honored and humbled that he trusted me. He is forever my friend, and I am forever indebted."
As for her friendship with the legendary singer, Monae says she appreciates Prince's guidance and how he's nurtured her career.
"We are great friends, and he is a mentor to us, to me," she says. "It's a beautiful thing to have a friend — someone who cares about your career, and wants to see you go far and to push boundaries and shake up the world — give whatever they possibly can to the cause."
She hopes that her upcoming album will get plays on mainstream radio, but that's not where Monae's focus lies. Instead, she'd rather embrace her individuality and enjoy the success she reaps from being true to herself.
"I never liked people telling me what to do," she says. "I also wanted to own something: I've always had this thought of owning my own label, of being in charge of my words, my art, everything you hear. My goal wasn't to be the most famous person overnight — it was to make music on my own terms, develop myself and understand if my words were necessary to young people like myself and to make my family proud."
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