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A Long Convo With... Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe has a lot to say. The left field singer-songwriter, who's set to release her full-length, sci-fi inspired debut The ArchAndroid on May 18, is no mere gimmick, with her back-to-the-future pompadour, crisp white shirt, black slacks and 1950’s saddle shoes. She's a rather serious, complex artist who isn’t afraid to wave her freak flag. Yet, Monáe still aims to entertain the masses. There is something refreshingly charming about a woman who jumps on tables during concert performances and makes genre-melding music that sound like her life depends on it. Yeah, she’s pretty interesting. —Keith Murphy



VIBE: What was the most memorable aspect of recording The ArchAndroid?

Janelle Monáe: We traveled to Prague and to Turkey… I had a lot of the songs come to me in my dreams. I had my recorder next to me in my bed and I was able to record everything that I could make of the dreams, thank God. We dealt with the music first. I write music for the people because I come from a working family. My mom was a janitor and my father drove trash trucks, and my stepfather actually works at the post office. I’m very connected to that society. That’s where my uniform comes from…I’m paying homage to that working class who turns nothing into something. 

How does a song like “Tightrope” play into your homage to the working class?

So many people deal with so many obstacles everyday that they need to relieve some of that stress. So “Tightrope” deals with balance and not getting too high or too low. So I just really focused on creating art, songs that I felt would connect to people. I let all my fear go on whether people were going to like it or not.

It seems you’ve gained some famous fans. Can you talk about the experience of hanging out with Prince at his Paisley Park studio?

He is a definitely a huge supporter of what I do. I shared with him The ArchAndroid and he loved it. He has given me lots of advice. He is even encouraging everybody to go and get ArchAndroid because he was moved and touched by it. It’s very inspiring just to watch him. I heard his new album and its really going to be great.

Let’s talk about some of the other songs on ArchAndroid. Let’s start with “Dance Or Die,” which sounds very tribal yet funky. What inspired that song?

With “Dance Or Die” when we were creating that song it was a very spiritual, tribal experience. Saul Williams was there and we were just all sweated out. We were having a good time. We brought in some live horns and we really went to a spiritual place. I chose to rap instead of sing on “Dance Or Die” because I want my lyrics to hit home in a very bad ass way. We were all losing it and jumping on furniture. It was a Wonderland Arts Society tribe…shirts off, sweating… everything.

How much of a melodic influence did Michael Jackson have on “Locked Inside”?

Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder inspired that song. That’s actually one of the first songs that I started producing myself. I was really inspired by their chord progressions and the melodies that I’ve cried to over the years from both of them. I wanted to incorporate that feel. I believe that when someone dies that doesn’t mean they can’t live inside of you. You can keep their spirit alive.

When I hear “Sir Greendown,” I think about a Disney musical on acid.

[Laughs] Yeah… That color represents a very surreal place for me. It was inspired by Salvador Dali’s painting. But “Sir Greendown” also reminds me of James Bond. But the funny thing is the music was already written. I had gone to an Of Montreal concert and Nate, who produced the music, had stayed behind to work on a song that we were working on. I came back to the studio and he was asleep, lying on the keyboards. And I heard this sound, this hauntingly beautiful chord. It was as though he had been possessed and this had come out. It was scary, but so beautifully arranged. That combination just inspired the lyrics and the dreaminess and the psychedelic, operatic feel that it has.

You are becoming known for your live stage show, which is very high energy and interactive. Your three-piece band has this huge sound that comes off like there are 10 musicians onstage. How were you able to get that large feel from such a small outfit?

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Chris Brown To Sue Rape Accuser For Defamation

Chris Brown is reportedly gearing up to take legal action against the woman who accused him of raping her at a hotel in Paris. The singer will reportedly sue her for defamation, TMZ reports.

Brown's Parisian lawyer, Raphael Chiche, says his client adamantly denies the allegations and plans to challenge them in court. "Chris Brown is free. No lawsuits were filed against him," Chiche said in a statement. "He vigorously challenges the charges against him. A complaint for slanderous denunciation will be filed tomorrow with the public prosecutor of Paris."

As previously reported, Brown was arrested on Jan. 22, after a 24-year-old woman filed a complaint claiming that he violently raped her in his Paris hotel. He was released from police custody without charges. Shortly after the incident, Brown took to Instagram where he claimed that the woman was lying. Another woman also jumped to the singer's defense, stating that he was not at the scene at the time of the alleged assault.

While the singer is free to leave the country, an official investigation into the alleged incident is still ongoing. It does not appear that Brown or his legal team have filed the defamation suit at this time.

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Erykah Badu Denies Producers Contacted Her For 'Surviving R. Kelly'

Erykah Badu is hitting back against dream hampton after she claimed that producers of Surviving R. Kelly contacted the singer to appear in the Lifetime docuseries. Badu claims that she was never contacted, and would like hampton to provide the receipts or apologize.

It all started when a fan pointed out that Badu and R. Kelly worked with one another years ago, which is why she allegedly chose not to be apart of the docuseries. Erykah rejected that comment, stating that she had never worked with him on music or declined to appear in the documentary.

Hampton stepped in by claiming that a producer attempted to contact Badu, but did not receive a response. "I asked Producer T. Farris to contact @fatbellybella to be in doc because I wanted clarity on two things: 1) a quote attributed to her, 'No one has done more for Black people than R. Kelly' & 2) what she was thinking when she called him her "brother" at Soul Train Awards," dream tweeted.

Badu quickly responded: No ma’am. I WAS NOT EVER contacted by anyone to be in [email protected] You know that’s not true. I wasn’t a necessary component. You had all the right people, the ones close to the situation...But for now, produce this “producer’s” request or... APOLOGIZE. It’s simple."

Badu and hampton's latest back and forth comes only days after the neo-soul artist was criticized for seemingly defending R. Kelly amid his sexual abuse allegations at a concert in Chicago. She later clarified her remarks about the disgraced singer, saying that she did not approve of his actions, but believed he was deserving of love and assistance.

Check out Badu and hampton's exchange below.

I asked Producer T. Farris to contact @fatbellybella to be in doc because I wanted clarity on two things: 1) a quote attributed to her, "No one has done more for Black people than R. Kelly" & 2) what she was thinking when she called him her "brother" at Soul Train Awards.

— dream hampton (@dreamhampton) January 22, 2019

No ma’am. I WAS NOT EVER contacted by anyone to be in [email protected] You know that’s not true. I wasn’t a necessary component. You had all the right people, the ones close to the situation...But for now, produce this “producer’s” request or... APOLOGIZE. It’s simple.

— ErykahBadoula (@fatbellybella) January 23, 2019

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Judge Removes Tekashi 6ix9ine's Lawyer From Racketeering Case

Tekashi 6ix9ine is in need of new legal representation. A judge has reportedly removed one of 6ix9ine's lawyers from his racketeering case ahead of his trial, XXL reports. The decision was made during a pre-trial conference on Tuesday (Jan. 22).

The presiding Judge Paul A. Engelmayer ruled that the 6ix9ine's lawyer, Lance Lazarro, would have to be removed from the case due to a potential conflict of interest. Lazarro reportedly represented Tekashi's co-defendants, Faheem "Crippy" Walter and Kifano "Shotti" Jordan before representing 6ix9ine in his racketeering case.

During the conference, Engelmayer stated that he was upset that Lazarro had not disclosed his relationship with the co-defendants previously. Lazarro reportedly represented Walter for a gang assault charge in Oct. 2018 and Jordan for numerous charges in 2009 and 2015. He explained that he didn't think the matter was important to mention.  Judge Engelmayer responded by noting that it wasn't the attorney's place to determine whether his previous work was significant.

Lazzaro will not be able to act as Tekashi's lawyer until he sends letters detailing the extent of his relationships with Walter and Jordan. If the judge finds no conflict of interest, Lazarro will be able to return as an acting attorney for Tekashi. Dawn Florio will continue as part of Tekashi's legal team.

As previously reported, the "Stoopid" artist, Walter, and Jordan are awaiting trial for a racketeering case. Tekashi pleaded not guilty to the federal charges in Nov. 2018. If convicted, he could face a life sentence in prison. His trial date is slated to begin on Sept. 4.

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