Janelle Monae Robinson was born in 1985 in Kansas City. She was growing up in a low-income family. Janelle’s father worked as a truck driver and had a drug addiction problem. Her mom was a janitor. Since childhood, Janelle has been dreaming about getting out of the neighborhood and finding a better life. Considering her birth town, the girl was inspired by Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz”.
While studying in school, Janelle sang in a church choir and performed on the local stages in musicals. She started writing her own songs rather early. After finishing middle school, the young woman went to study at American Musical and Dramatic Academy. She was the only African American in her class.
Janelle studied hard but felt that drama wasn’t what she was destined for. After performing in several players and facing the lack of desired roles, Janelle quit the academy. In 2001, she moved to Atlanta. Monae started performing at local colleges, trying to promote her music. At one of the performances, she met a hip-hop duo Outkast, who helped her with promotion and funding.
In 2003, Janelle recorded a demo album, The Audition, only 400 copies of which were released. In 2005, the artist helped Purple Ribbon All-Stars record two singles “Time Will Reveal” and “Lettin 'Go” for the album Got Purp? Vol. 2. In 2006, she worked with OutKast on their album Idlewild. Janelle helped record tracks “Call the Law” and “In Your Dreams”.
In August 2007, after signing a contract with Bad Boy Records, the singer presented her debut EP, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), which came in second on US Top Heatseekers Chart and settled on the 20th spot of US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart. In August, Janelle released a single “Many Moons” from that album, which climbed to the 47th place of The Rolling Stone’s 2008 Best Song list.
In 2009, Monae worked on her debut LP, which continued the topic discussed in the EP. It was a story about love and self-identification of an android. In May 2010, ArchAndroid came out. The critics gave it high scores, noting Janelle’s creativity and a successful mix of several music genres. The album reached the 17th spot of Billboard 200 and came in 4th on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart. The LP also became popular in the UK, reaching the 11th position on UK R&B Albums Chart. The same year, Janelle got a prize at the Rhythm & Soul Music Awards.
In September 2013, Monae presented her second LP, The Electric Lady, which continued the concept discussed in ArchAndroid. While recording the album, the singer experimented with genres, which were far from her favorite funk and soul. It featured jazz, gospel, and ballads. In the USA, The Electric Lady was a big success, climbing to the 5th spot of Billboard 200. In the UK, it settled on the 14th spot of the UK Albums Chart and came in second on UK R&B Albums Chart.
In August 2015, Janelle presented a new EP, Wondaland Presents: The Eephus. It featured six songs. All of them were recorded with the assistance of other artists, including Jidenna and Kendrick Lamar. The EP settled on the 2nd spot of US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart and came in 22nd on US Billboard 200.
The same year, as a protest to the violence of the police against African Americans, Janelle recorded the song “Hell You Talmbout”, which earned positive reviews. In 2016, the singer demonstrated her acting skills by appearing in such films as Moonlight and Hidden Figures.
In April 2018, Janelle released her new LP, Dirty Computer, which topped the Best Album Of The Year lists by The Associated Press and The New York Times. The album reached the 6th spot of Billboard 200 and came in 4th on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart. It was also a big success in the UK, Canada, and Ireland.
Janelle Monae continues recording new hits and performing live.