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Page last updated at 10:13 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009
Introducing... Janelle Monae

By Greg Cochrane
Newsbeat music reporter

She has cool hair, she claims to travel through time and she rides Outkast's horses. She's the robo-pop star the world has been waiting for.


Watch: Janelle Monae's video for Many Moons

Janelle Monae is almost indecipherable.

Partly because she's on a crackly international phone line connected from 'Wonderland', and partly because she whispers down the line in her soft Kansas-accent like a tepid door mouse.

Oh, and because the majority of what she says is fantastical nonsense.

"I was actually raised with wolves," she purrs to begin with. "I was the youngest of the cubs."

Growing up

Not the usual 'Hello, how are you?' then from the now Atlanta-based star.

"Growing up I never had anybody to tell me 'Oh, your work sucks' or 'Oh, you're amazing.'

"You didn't have those boundaries set up or have anyone influencing you - you go by just listening to your heart."

Janelle Monae, the facts

WHAT: Elvis meets The Hives in female form

FOR FANS OF: Outkast, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson

DOWNLOAD: Many Moons


LIVE: Possible UK tour this summer

Stick with us. Right now, Janelle Monae is one of America's most promising new artists.

Musically active since the age of 12, following school she left her native Kansas City and moved to New York in pursuit of fame.

"I was very free-spirited - you meet lots of other animals but I wanted to get more connected with the human race - so I would just take trips," she says.

"After I graduated I auditioned for certain schools, got accepted and started my voyage."

Yes the voyage that has now morphed into her impressively-quiffed persona - a mix of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Bjork and Howlin' Pelle Almqvist.

First noticed

Once in NYC, whilst studying she intended to hit the floorboards of Broadway but opportunity never came.

"I've got lots of ideas about musicals and plays which would literally wake me up in the middle of the night," she reflects. "But you know, one of the courses that I loved the most was psychology and physics - I love maths."

Monae first grabbed attention with her contribution to Outkast's 2006 conceptual movie Idlewild.

"I actually met Big Boi on this horse ranch," she recounts.

"Big Boi owns this polka dot stallion - black and white. I was very attracted to it so he let me come out and let me ride it.

"Then Dre [Andre 3000] would come - and Dre likes to fence a lot, so we would fence every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He always thought for some reason that I was a very brave girl."

But it isn't just equestrianism she specialises in.

"I'm a time traveller," she deadpans. "I've had the pleasure of meeting the Mona Lisa - and she does smile!

I also was able to meet Claude Monet - you know his grandson actually made a hair machine for me
Janelle Monae

"I also was able to meet Claude Monet - you know his grandson actually made a hair machine for me. I put my hair in it and automatically wraps my hair into this bun."

Alien existence

When she's not supposedly travelling to the 1700s ["because the clothes they were wearing were very detailed"] she's staring into space.

"There's a large universe", she intercepts. "There are many interesting creatures that do exist.

"[Through time travel] I was able to understand the progression of different species and how they evolve.

"And how if we don't do certain things right here in the present then our future will be ruined and we can't help alter history."

Any kind of serious chat seems futile. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised as her debut album Metropolis [potentially released in four parts, or 'suites' and on P Diddy's Bad Boy records] is a space-aged journey to the future - set in "2714".

She does do normal things like play gigs as well though.

"One of things that I'm most excited about doing is always creating art in front of an audience," she says. "That being said, I don't choreograph anything I do - I'm just pretty much giving my all.

"I play a lot with fire before I go onto the stage. One thing that I don't do is use the restroom."

"You get that constant feeling of my-body-is-on fire-I have-to-go-to-the-bathroom type of performance - it's an A-typical art form."

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