Janelle Monáe has been lightyears ahead of civilization since her debut album Metropolis in 2008, where she introduced the world to her alter-ego, an android named Cindi Mayweather. The alias has matriculated through the rest of her catalog, The ArchAndroid and The Electric Lady. But for her upcoming album, Dirty Computer, she's ditching Mayweather's narrative and reclaiming her own. In an interview with Rolling Stone, on the eve of the release of Dirty Computer, she talked a lot about the new pressures that come with dropping the persona, and she also took the time to clear up discussions around her sexuality, describing herself in a way only a protege of Prince could: as a "free-motherfucker."
Though she once responded to questions about her romantic life by saying "I only date androids," Monáe opened up in the Rolling Stone interview, saying that she once identified as bisexual but has since come to identify with aspects of pansexuality as well.
"Being a queer black woman in America, someone who has been in relationships with both men and women—I consider myself to be a free-ass motherfucker," she says.
Recent singles and videos like "PYNK" reignited online speculation around Monáe's sexuality. Though she doesn't address those clips specifically, nor her rumored relationship with their star Tessa Thompson, Monáe does suggest that themes of queerness had been in her music from the very beginning. "If you listen to my albums, it's there," she said.
In the interview, she discussed how hard it's been separating herself from Cindi Mayweather.
What if people don't think I'm as interesting as Cindi Mayweather? I created her, so I got to make her be whatever I wanted her to be. I didn't have to talk about the Janelle Monáe who was in therapy. It's Cindi Mayweather. She is who I aspire to be.
Her mentor, Prince, passed away during the recording of Dirty Computer. He had a hand in the synth lines on "Make Me Feel."
As we were writing songs, I was like, ‘What would Prince think?' And I could not call him. It's a difficult thing to lose your mentor in the middle of a journey they had been a part of.
Janelle Monáe has often called Dirty Computer her most intimate album, and her being able to put her true identity on display in front of the world is an incredibly brave gesture. She's been an activist not only for women, and the black community, but queer communities as well. Her identity is layered and riddled with intersectionalities, which make the gravity of coming out as pansexual all the more validating. Dirty Computer is Monáe's way of shattering the expectations of what a black female artist is supposed to do and she's doing it as freely as she can. Kristin Corry is a staff writer at Noisey. Follow her on Twitter.