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Singer Janelle Monáe became an R&B sensation in 2010 with the release of her critically acclaimed debut album, The ArchAndroid.
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Born in Kansas in 1985, singer Janelle Monáe began performing as a child and got her big break in 2005 when she was invited by Big Boi to perform on several OutKast tracks. She was later signed by famous producer Sean "Puffy" Combs to his Bad Boy Records label. In 2010 her debut full-length album, The ArchAndroid, rose to No. 17 on the Billboard U.S. album chart and received a Grammy nomination.
I feel like I do have a responsibility to the community. The music that we create is to help free their minds and, whenever they feel oppressed, to keep them uplifted.
Singer. Janelle Monáe Robinson was born on December 1, 1985, in Kansas City, Kansas. Her mother was a janitor and her father was a garbage truck driver who struggled with drug addiction throughout Monáe's childhood. "I come from a very hard working-class family who make nothing into something," she says. Monáe's hardscrabble background and early experiences with the perils of drug addiction inspired her intense drive to succeed.
"I've never forgotten where I come from," she says. "It's crazy, but I really want to be the one to show everyone back home that it can be done. And not by selling drugs but by being passionate about the right thing—and the right things will come your way." She pays homage to her parents with a signature black-and-white tuxedo she wears for every performance. "I call it my uniform," she explained. "My mother was a janitor and my father collected trash, so I wear a uniform too."
From a very young age, Monáe distinguished herself as a highly artistic and intelligent child. She stood out as a singer at the local Baptist church and appeared in local productions of musicals such as The Wiz and Cinderella. In addition to singing and performing, Monáe was also a precocious young writer. She joined Kansas City's Coterie Theater Young Playwrights' Round Table and wrote several full-length plays and musicals. One script, completed when she was only 12 years old, told the story of a boy and girl who compete for the love of a plant—an idea inspired by Stevie Wonder's 1979 album Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants. "I was infatuated with photosynthesis," she offered by way of explanation.
After graduating from F.L. Schlagle High School in Kansas City, Monáe received a scholarship to study musical theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, where she was the only black woman in her class. However, Monáe quickly dropped out of the Academy because she felt creatively stifled. "I wanted to write my own musicals," she recalled. "I didn't want to have to live vicariously through a character that had been played thousands of times—in a line with everybody wanting to play the same person."
After dropping out of school, Monáe moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where she lived in a boarding house with five other women and took a job working at an Office Depot. She self-produced a demo CD entitled "Janelle Monáe: The Audition" and relentlessly toured local colleges to perform and promote her music.
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