If you happen to be hanging out with one of the most phenomenally talented R&B singing sensations in the world today, remember to treat her to a latte or a fancy chocolate bar. It's Janelle Monae's birthday, and she is now 25 years old. The genre-bending, city-hopping wunderkind has already become a muse to some true legends in her short but fruitful career, and her full length 2010 debut The ArchAndroid is certain to end up on many, many year-end best-of lists in the coming weeks.
Monae grew up in Kansas City but move to New York to pursue a career in music theater. When she started to develop her own fusion of funk, soul and hip-hop-inflected R&B, she made her way south to Atlanta where she met Outkast co-founder Big Boi. The rapper and producer introduced Monae to Diddy, who snapped her up and signed her to Bad Boy. Monae's debut EP Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase) was extremely well-received by both critics and fans, earned her a Grammy nomination and landed her opening spots on an eclectic mix of tours (including the No Doubt reunion).
Monae's full-length debut took the sound of Metropolis and expanded it in every direction, fleshing out the songs with cinematic strings, lush future-funk flourishes and her ever-evolving voice. Monae will spend the month hanging out with Prince as a featured performer on his Welcome 2 America tour, and the next year should open up a lot more opportunities for her. On top of that, her single "Tightrope" is one of the most underrated singles of the year.