Local Current Blog

Lizzo: Prince-to-Janelle Monáe is “a very well-deserved passing of a torch”

Lizzo performs "The Beautiful Ones" at the 2016 Prince Memorial Block Party from The Current and First Avenue. Photo by Nate Ryan/MPR.

How could we not share this with anyone who’ll listen? Our favorite Minnesota-gone-LA rap star Lizzo guest-hosted on music podcast Switched On Pop last week, and when she wasn’t unleashing her glorious laugh, she was serving up the truth. Throughout the episode, she tells hosts Charlie Harding and Nate Sloan about her own podcast Good as Hell, her single “Truth Hurts,” and her upcoming tour with HAIM (“You’re going to see tons of hair”). But some of the most incredible moments go down when she talks about Janelle Monáe and Prince.

Monáe dropped two singles – “Make Me Feel” and “Django Jane” – last month to preview her upcoming album Dirty Computer. The Kansas City native has qualified as an R&B icon in years past, releasing The ArchAndroid (2010) and The Electric Lady (2013) after debut EP Metropolis: The Chase Suite (2008). But after gaining more visibility through roles in hit movies Moonlight and Hidden Figures, she’s closing in on pop star status.

One thing we know about Monáe is that she shared a close relationship with Prince. He attended her concerts at the Varsity Theater, First Avenue, and the Skyway Theatre in Minneapolis. For many years, he’d even host her at Paisley Park. “She would bring her band over,” NPG member Shelby J says. “They’d run around Paisley and sit in on our rehearsals.”

“Prince actually was working on [Dirty Computer] with me before he passed on to another frequency,” Monáe told the BBC, “and helped me come up with sounds.” It’s easy to hear his touch so far, especially on “Make Me Feel.”

So having studied music, performed at Paisley Park, and interacted with both Prince and Monáe, Lizzo is a veritable authority on the pair’s shared beauty. And she has a lot to say.

First, you have to know Lizzo is a fan of “Make Me Feel.” She tells Switched On Pop, “I got to freak out on [Janelle] about it. She invited me to this brunch, and I was like, ‘Sis!’” She pauses. “The last time I saw her, I had big crazy hair, and this time I saw her, I had long, straight hair. [So] I was like, ‘Sis! You just tamed my curl pattern! You snatched my wig!’” Lizzo laughs. “‘I knew you was gon’ drop something, but I didn’t know!’”

Lizzo describes Monáe as a fantasy writer. “Even if she’s talking about herself, she’s created a world where — it’s like Lord of the Rings. She’s Frodo, and she’s Gandalf. You never know: the real Janelle might be in there. She might be Gimli, but you’ll never know.”

Then it gets really real. She says, “Janelle in this song – as on the nose as it is – is so important to Prince’s legacy. And the legacy of good music. And the blues […] It’s a very well-deserved passing of a torch. I think that she has everything that it takes to keep the legacy alive. Especially being a black woman, which I think was really important to Prince.”

Hosts Sloan and Harding sound so in awe of Lizzo’s energy that they happily let her steal the show. But they supply several savvy musical insights, breaking down “Make Me Feel” for all its chromatic, “Kiss”-like, and bluesy goodness.

“Well, this has been the most fun show I’ve ever recorded,” Harding says near the end. And it’s one of the most fun episodes we’ve heard. For more from Lizzo and Switched On Pop, listen to the full podcast episode right here.