Janelle Monáe: The Bionic Woman

Janelle Monáe is a robot.

Well, not exactly — that’s her alter ego, a female android from the year 2719 named Cindi Mayweather and the subject of her first commercial foray into the music industry, the space opera/sci-fi epic conceptual series “Metropolis.”

But Monáe herself might as well be one. At age 25, her resume is impossibly long. She’s already rubbed elbows with some of the biggest names in the music business — Outkast’s Big Boi, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Stevie Wonder and Bruno Mars, to name a few — and her 2010 debut album “The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III)” was one of the most critically acclaimed LPs of the year.

Monáe’s returning to Champaign-Urbana this Sunday for her second concert here. After teaming up with of Montreal for the Pygmalion Music Festival last year, her second venture will take her to Foellinger Auditorium as part of the Campus Consciousness Tour.

The Daily Illini spoke with Monáe about the tour, as well as the next chapter in the “Metropolis” conceptual series.

*Daily Illini: Tell us a little about why you’re doing the Campus* *Consciousness Tour (CCT).*

*Janelle Monáe:* I try to be more conscious about the things that I do as it pertains to our universe and the Earth and things. When I saw the initiative that they had, I said, ‘Man, this is something that I definitely want to promote and just be a part of,’ because I believe in that idea and their core values.

*DI: What’s it like working with artists like Big Boi and P.* *Diddy? How have they been helping you?*

*Monáe:* The great thing is they haven’t interfered creatively, but their ears are always there if need be … They’ve just supported the Wondaland Arts Society and Wondaland Productions, which I founded before I met them. I’m absolutely grateful forever for those two just embracing us and saying, ‘You know, I don’t want to be involved creatively, but I want you guys to soar.’

*DI: How did you come up with the concept for “Metropolis” and the* *“ArchAndroid?”*

*Monáe:* The concept came from God. That’s all I can say — our maker, our creator. A lot of the songs came to me in dreams … I think that all of these ideas definitely came from a higher power, actually. And I just made myself available to be there, to be like a terminal and to record, and to sing, and to write and to perform. I definitely don’t think that me as a human or a superhuman, or whatever I am, was responsible for everything.

*DI: Do you have any plans for Suite IV?*

*Monáe:* Yes. I’m working on music now, and it’s already my favorite thing to listen to. And I just hope it continues to stay that way. And I’m confident though that just like “The ArchAndroid” and “Metropolis” the ideas and the music will touch people’s hearts. I write music for the people, and I think it will be a great medicine, and I think that these songs will stay very transcendent and classic in your life. I just can’t wait for you all to hear it.

*DI: When is it coming out, if you don’t mind us asking?*

*Monáe:* Well, I know that — or actually, I don’t know, because everything is about timing. When the robin tells the blue bird, the blue bird will then tell me.

*DI: Do you plan on collaborating with anyone on a movie version* *or a stage version of your concept series?*

*Monáe:* Sure. We are, definitely; the Wondaland Arts Society is my recording label and arts collective. We’re really into big ideas, and so everything is just about timing. We created the album to be an emotion picture if that’s any hint to what we’re into in terms of film. (We’re) just taking things to the next level and understanding that just because you record an album, it doesn’t have to be on CD. You can take it to the screen, you can take it to the theater. That’s what I love about creating concept albums; it can go so many places.

*DI: What other kinds of projects do you have coming through the* *pipeline?*

*Monáe:* I’m working on music. Nobody knows what it’s going to be about, what the concept is going to be about, and that’s how I work. I just get the meat done. Also, I’m bringing these artists on tour: Deep Cotton and Roman GianArthur will be joining me on the CCT tour. Their albums — their suites — are absolutely incredible. And just like I released “Metropolis,” they’re going to be releasing in the same format. We are definitely finishing up their emotion picture videos, and we’re gearing up to go ahead and release them into the atmosphere.

*DI: Explain your persona — the suit, the pompadour hairstyle. You* *keep the same image going all the time; what does it represent?*

*Monáe:* I think it’s something that you do, and you don’t talk about (it) as an artist. I don’t go around and explain, ‘My art is this and this,’ I try to create it and let everyone else categorize it … This is a part of where I am right now, and it’s just about promoting individuality. This is what I prefer. I don’t really believe in menswear or womenswear. This is something that I do believe in: It’s a very classic and transcendent look that you can time travel in smoothly without any issues. As simple as that.