Last week, Janelle Monae sat down for a special interview and lecture at the Red Bull Music Festival in Berlin. The 90-minute interview, now available to watch on YouTube in full, is one of the most in-depth and intimate conversations Monae has had about her new album, Dirty Computer.
Monae elaborated on what “dirty computer” means to her. The title of the album is meant to evoke the kind of language that oppressors use against disempowered groups. “Imagine someone using language to degrade you,” she explained. “That’s what a dirty computer means in this society. You spend those first four songs reckoning with the fact that, in this society, you are less than, you are not enough. and you need to be cleansed and re-programmed into what our society thinks that you would be most beneficial as.”
But individuals can’t be programmed, and groups are even more powerful to stand against forces trying to erase their difference. Monae also spoke about Afrofuturism, and some of her favorite examples of Black science fiction and fantasy that came out this year, including Black Panther. “You get to see us in those worlds,” she said. “Sometimes we’re depicted in very stereotypical roles (…) we’re not monolithic. There are so many things we can do. In Afrofuturism, you get to see us, all of us, and you get to hear it from our mouths.”
Monae is currently on tour for Dirty Computer. She told the Red Bull stage that her performances are two hours long, high energy — she’s dancing for the entire two hours. But it’s not tiring, it’s therapeutic. “I feel like dancing can cure a lot of negative thoughts that you might have,” she said. “I feel like dance is transformative. I use it as a weapon to fight off patriarchy, and sexism, and toxic masculinity.”
Watch Monae’s full interview at the Red Bull Music Festival below, and check out the tour dates for Dirty Computer here.