In 2 Big New Songs, Janelle Monáe Chants Down Racism and Sexism

By Sameer Rao Feb 23, 2018

After breaking into Hollywood with roles in "Moonlight" and "Hidden Figures," Janelle Monáe has returned to music with "Make Me Feel" and "Django Jane," two videos from her upcoming "Dirty Computer" album. Monáe, who spoke out against sexual violence in entertainment at the Grammys last month, calls out intersecting racism and sexism in the songs released on YouTube yesterday (February 22).

"Black girl magic, y’all can’t stand it," she raps in one "Django Jane" verse. "Jane Bond/never Jane Doe/and I Django, never Sambo," she spits in another section. In an interview in yesterday’s Guardian, she described the song as a rallying cry against oppression:

[The song is] a response to me feeling the sting of the threats being made to my rights as a woman, as a Black woman, as a sexually liberated woman, even just as a daughter with parents who have been oppressed for many decades. Black women and those who have been the ‘other’, and the marginalized in society – that’s who I wanted to support, and that was more important than my discomfort about speaking out.

"Make Me Feel" is more celebratory. "I hope that comes across," she said. "That people feel more free, no matter where they are in their lives, that they feel celebrated. Because I’m about women’s empowerment. I’m about agency. I’m about being in control of your narrative and your body." 

Monáe also addressed her relationship with the late Prince, who worked with her on "Dirty Computer." "It’s difficult for me to even speak about this because Prince was helping me with the album, before he passed on to another frequency,” she said. "The last time I saw him was New Year’s Day. I performed a private party in St. Bart’s with him, and after, we sat and just talked for five hours.”

Monáe separately confirmed to Pitchfork that "Dirty Computer" comes out on April 27. Watch the music videos for "Django Jane" and "Make Me Feel," the latter of which stars actress Tessa Thompson ("Thor: Ragnarok"), below.