Most street performers in New York City take to the parks or subway with their instruments—vocal or otherwise—expecting little more than pocket change and maybe some applause in exchange for a display of their often incredible talents. So imagine the delight of the musical duo the Drumatics earlier this summer when the twosome was performing Janelle Monáe’s “Dance Apocalyptic” in Brooklyn’s McCarren Park and was joined by the Electric Lady herself. More priceless than a whole cap full of Washingtons.
The petite performer joined forces with Pepsi to spread summer love (the Brooklyn way) by surprising fans with an impromptu performance while hidden cameras were rolling. “Any chance I can give my supporters an opportunity to bring some joy, that always means the world to me,” Janelle told VIBE on Friday.
Street performing has a special place in Janelle’s heart. Before she commanded stages around the world, the Kansas City native would perform around colleges in Atlanta to hone her craft.
“I used to perform at the steps of the library,” she recalls. “Dorm lounge to dorm lounge. Just writing songs for anyone who would listen. I never accepted any money. I just wanted to know what people thought about my music.”
The singer says the guerilla-style surprise was a collaborative idea with Pepsi as part of the Real.Big.Summer campaign: an effort to add a jolt of spontaneity to a regular summer day (while also promo’ing limited-edition vanilla and wild cherry Pepsi flavors).
“I got the opportunity to surprise these performers who are also fans while they were playing ‘Dance Apocalyptic,'” says Janelle. “I’ve never done anything like this before and I was excited about the concept. I wanted it to feel organic. They were so startled and surprised.”
Check out the big surprise and impromptu performance above. —Sowmya Krishnamirthy