Janelle Monáe sat down for an intimate conversation about her album Dirty Computer at New York’s 92nd Street Y on Tuesday night. The artist also elaborated on her tour in support of the LP, film projects and work with her organization Fem the Future.
Monáe revealed how far back the concept of Dirty Computer and many of the songs went for her. The album title was conceived before she even released her debut full-length album, 2010’s The ArchAndroid. The songs she had written for the LP date back to 2015, a year after her sophomore album The Electric Lady was unveiled.
“I came back to Dirty Computer after I felt like I had enough time to live,” she explained of why it didn’t immediately follow ArchAndroid. “I needed to experience more things in my life before I dug into this album. I knew it was going to require a significant of understanding.”
She also noted how the experience of shifting from the Obama to Trump presidencies had a huge effect on the lyrics and messages behind the songs. “When things started to change drastically in our country, I started to have the word ‘community’ in the forefront.” To her, the album is both a personal narrative and a piece of protest music.
As hourlong conversation progressed, Monáe picked apart the process of how her songs are written, engineering herself and choosing collaborators like Brian Wilson, Grimes and Zoe Kravitz to appear on the album.
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This month, she’ll be wrapping the North American leg of her Dirty Computer Experience with a few festival dates. In December, she’ll appear in the Robert Zemeckis film Welcome to Marwen alongside Steve Carell.