Janelle Monáe is busy on the promo trail for her forthcoming album Dirty Computer. In a conversation with BBC Radio 1's Annie Mac, the Wondaland artist gave a raw perspective on feminism in light of the #MeToo movement, Black Panther, and Prince's influence on her artistry.
Mac brings up Monáe's #MeToo influenced speech at the 2018 Grammys and asks for her take on whether or not the needle has moved forward. "It's not just a Hollywood issue. The abuse of power is happening right here in the music industry," she said. "We need to have some serious conversations. We need to have some systemic, structural changes to make sure women are taken care of and feel protected and that they get the opportunities that are there...this is a human rights issue."
Later on in the conversation, Monáe draws comparisons between Black Panther and her own work. She says some of the film's stars including Lupita Nyong'o, Chadwick Boseman and Danai Gurira stopped by her Wondaland studios in Atlanta while filming and were some of the first people to hear snippets of her Dirty Computer album. The close proximity of both projects parallels their ambitions: "[Black Panther and Dirty Computer] lets me know that the future can be bright for us. We don't have to be the stereotypical images on screen and in music that have been perpetuated for years and years and years. We get to define our world on our own terms."
The singer did not address persistent rumors that she is dating actress Tessa Thompson, her love interest in the video for "Make Me Feel." However, she did reference the liberating nature of the song and what that represents for her personally: "I felt like 'Make Me Feel' is celebratory of women, of people who are often times silenced and dismissed because of their sexual orientation [and] because of where they come."
Monáe also noted that Dirty Computer—which was made with her lifelong inspiration Prince's help—would be a project that centered on who she is as a black woman in America. "There were times I would stop recording," she recalled. "I would be deeply upset—angry—living over in America and feeling like the people that I love and me were pushed to the margins of society by the leader of the free world and that particular regime. There were times where I also had to channel that and really figure out how do I make a celebratory album and a song that doesn't keep us reminded about the current state of events."
Monáe dropped Dirty Computer lead singles "Make Me Feel" and "Django Jane" back in February. Watch her full BBC interview above. Dirty Computer is due April 27.