NEW YORK — On her track “Violet Stars Happy Hunting!,” new Bad Boy signee Janelle Monáe calls herself an alien from outer space. But the eccentrically gifted artist and Diddy seem to have bonded somewhere around Metropolis, the universe Monáe created as the basis for her debut project of the same title.
She and Diddy even have alter egos in Metropolis. Hers is Cindi Mayweather, a character she created for her EP, Metropolis Suite I of IV: The Chase, which she released independently last year and will re-release June 10 through Bad Boy/ Atlantic Records.
“Cindi Mayweather is one of her kind,” Monáe told MTV News last week from Blender Theater before she headlined a showcase for the media. “She’s like the James Brown, Judy Garland, you know, Elvis and Janelle Monáe of her day. So she was created, but she was programmed not to love and not to have any feelings. And she [complete with her own MySpace page] falls in love with this human by the name of Anthony Greendown [who has a MySpace too]. And for that, they want to disassemble her. Because the number-one rule is to never fall in love with a human.
“So she and I, we made a pact,” Monáe continued. “For me to tell my land about her story and for her to tell her land about my story. And that’s what I’m doing.”
Monáe, a former protégé of Outkast’s Big Boi and now based in Atlanta, admits the concept can be overwhelming. That’s why she’s releasing her debut as a series of four “suites,” which are essentially EPs that include four to five songs. The first suite was released last year on indie label the Wondaland Arts Society, which she co-founded.
Diddy, normally one to see things only his way, is content to live in Monáe’s world. “She gonna give it piece by piece, because there’s a lot of important things that she wanted to say,” he explained of her album rolling out in a series.
“I been to Metropolis,” he added, playing along with Monáe. “And my name is LeRoy. And I’m into white women and, you know, I drive a Cadillac and I drink moonshine. And I don’t smile in pictures.”
Jokes aside, Diddy is clearly enamored with his new ingenue, who manages to mix rock, soul and punk together to create her own sound.
She wowed the audience at her performance with hubris, candor and dance moves that would have made Fonzworth Bentley jealous.
Diddy compares his signing of Monáe to some of his more famous discoveries, including the Notorious B.I.G. and Mary J. Blige. The Bad Boy CEO, now more of an elder statesman, said Monáe is a one-of-a kind creative artist that he felt he had to sign.
“I think it’s something that I needed to do to show my level of creativity for my legacy as an executive producer and as a label owner,” he said of bringing her onboard. “I was looking for things that were different and innovative. Because if you’re a leader in this industry you want to be helping to push it forward, and she’s an artist that would help to push it forward. … It’s so good that it’s not a risk. It’s not about the sales, it’s not about one particular thing.”
“Wow,” Monáe exclaimed, seated next to Diddy.
“It’s about the whole entire brand,” he continued. “It’s a gift. It’s something that once you see it, you’re like, ‘If I get a chance to be involved in nurturing this artist, this is more than a business or making money in the music industry, I could be a part of giving a gift to the world of something like Billie Holiday.’ That’s a gift. Mary J. Blige, I been blessed to be a part of, that’s a gift. Biggie, that’s a gift. This, to me, is one of my gifts.
“To cut to the chase, she’s bad, man,” he said with a smile.
Monáe is scheduled to film her first music video, for “Many Moons,” soon.