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Janelle Monae Q&A: The Fall Fest headliner talks about “The Electric Lady” and her hope for Hofstra students

 Photo Courtesy of University Relations Hofstra Chronicle: We’ll start off pretty easy. Have you always been a performer?

Janelle Monae: Have I always been a performer? Yes. In my mother’s womb I was, you know, doing cartwheels and singing at the same time. Yeah, always.

HC: What was your childhood like, in terms of performing?

JM: When I was a child, in terms of performing, I was very energetic, lively. I was really fearless, I was more fearless as a child.

HC: More fearless than you are now?

JM: Yeah.

HC: How so?

JM: Basically because my mom gave me a lot of sugar. She let me eat candy. No I’m just kidding. No, because I had nothing to be afraid of. I hadn’t the worries of being a young adult. You know, and I didn’t get around anyone else who was fearful because all the kids were, you know, doing cartwheels and backwards flips on concrete. And they were unafraid to bust their heads. So I was hanging out with a lot of my cousins and having a great time as a kid. You know the saying, kids are more fearless than adults.

HC: Do you have any personal heroes or musical heroes?

JM: Not right now, no, I’m just searching. I mean I have things you can read in old interviews, but right now I’m in a searching space and I haven’t found any heroes right now that I want to name, so unfortunately I can’t tell you anything. I’m sorry.

HC: No that’s alright. I want to ask you about “The Electric Lady” as an album. It’s a very modern, thematic sort of album. What do you hope that people take away from that, and from your music in general?

JM: Well, I mean I stopped hoping that people take away anything I want them to but I want them to first of all understand my intentions, which are to spread more seeds of change, to get people to do s*** that they’ve been putting off for however many days or weeks or months or years. I’m about equality and women and minorities. I stand up for the working class. I also like to have a great time, you know? And I want people to have a great time as well. And I mean that with being balanced. You know, there is an equal amount of music and lyrics that will elevate you just as much as there are music and lyrics that will help you dance to keep from crying. And so this particular project, “The Electric Lady,” talked a lot about women. And I used instruments from horns to synths to drums to guitars, electric guitars, to express how complex we are as women and I speak about the ghetto woman, the college student to, you know, the girl with Dorothy Dandridge eyes, to strippers, to you name it. But I wanted us to be subjects to be studied as subjects and not objects. And I hope that that was felt.

HC: Would you consider yourself a visual artist as well as a musician?

JM: Sure. Absolutely. When I’m writing music or even about to go on stage, I visualize the stage. It comes to me, I imagine myself doing X, Y and Z and I go out and I do it.

HC: Is that communicated through your music videos as well?

JM: Yeah, absolutely. I call them “emotion pictures” because they’re all of my emotions, visually that I’m trying to help you guys go through that journey with me.

HC: What have been some of your favorite performances? What makes a live performance stand out for you?

JM: I enjoy when, you know, we both come ready to give. Mutual love. When the audience is ready to give love, when we come giving without expectations, that’s when the marriage happens. It’s like you’re getting married. And I’m not married right now but when I go out there I feel, I feel like there’s this matrimony that’s happening. And it’s just a high you know, that you can’t explain. It’s something that you live for as a performer, to be able to connect with the people in a real, deep way.

HC: How was this performance, in terms of that?

JM: Oh, it exceeded every expectation that I had. It was my first time here. The students were so diverse. I just hope that they do all the things that they set out to do and they’re not too hard on themselves. And I hope that they just feel better about themselves after watching our performance. That’s what we want to do, give an experience that motivates you to do the s*** that you need to do to change the world for better. Whether it be in medicine, whether it be in education, whether you want to be the President of the United States, you’re in politics, do things that can help better us all as a community. And I hope that they felt that through the fire and the energy that I had as a performer.

HC: Alright, this is my last question. What can fans look forward to in the coming months or year?

JM: I’m figuring it out just like they are.

Interview by Ehlayna Napolitano.

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