This spring, Janelle Monáe seems to be taking over the world with her acclaimed new album Dirty Computer and an upcoming tour that will stop at the State Theatre in Minneapolis on July 3. What most Minnesotans don’t know is that the show will be a sort of homecoming for the multitalented star, who lived in the state for a period of time when she was a child.
Information on Monáe’s Minnesota stint is hard to come by — most biographies jump straight from her Kansas roots to her Atlanta breakout — but the singer-songwriter-actor talked briefly about those years during a 2013 conversation with The Current’s Mark Wheat.
You can hear their complete chat here; below is a transcription of the portion of their conversation that touched on Minnesota and Prince, including their collaboration on Monáe’s 2013 song “Givin’ Em What They Love.”
On her Minnesota years
Mark Wheat: I just discovered that you’re from Kansas originally, but spent a few years in the Twin Cities. How did that happen?
Janelle Monáe: Yes, absolutely. So I’m originally born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas, but my dad took a job here and I lived in St. Paul and I lived in Eagan. I used to live right on Pillsbury Street, and I was in Eagan around the time right before the Mall of America was built. I attended Hale Elementary School.
Oh, wow. Shout-out to Hale.
What was your best memory of the Twin Cities? What do you take away? What do you tell people when they say, “Oh, you used to live there?”
Right, right. I think it was just being in a more diverse school system. That’s when I really got introduced to, just, different cultures when I moved here to Minneapolis. You know, it was just white kids, black kids, Asian, and I didn’t…I mean, I grew up in a predominantly African-American school system, which was amazing, but it was very important for me early on to have that experience. So, I really am thankful that my parents did move here so that we could culturally be a little bit more diverse.
I know because people say when they review your music that that’s one of your many strengths: bringing different cultures and influences and genres together.
Absolutely. That’s something that I’ve always wanted to do and want to continue doing with music. I think it’s a universal language. It has no religion, you know. It has no sexual orientation. It brings people together and once you can get people in the room then you can start these beautiful conversations.
The great thing that I love about Prince is that he gives back. He’s like a mentor to me, and so I can call him and ask him about anything and he helps us book these big shows and what have you. He takes us on tour. He does mentor. I think that’s the one thing I love about him, I want people to know: not only is he just this incredible, this consummate artist and musician, but he takes the time out to talk to the next generation of artists.
Right, because you do the one song with him. Did you guys actually work in the studio or…
Yes, you did.
It was an amazing experience.
I feel like you guys have to do that. You wouldn’t want to collaborate via MP3, right?
It was an underwater experience in New Atlantis. The water of course was purple and there were black and white fish swimming around. It was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.
Interview transcribed by Jeyca Maldonado-Medina