In her saddle shoes, zoot suit, necktie, Ray-Bans and huge pompadour, rock-R&B newcomer Janelle Monae might be Col. Sanders from another freaky dimension. Her music is as futuristic as her look: Her first two EPs revolved around Fritz Lang’s classic film “Metropolis,” and her upcoming full-length recording “The ArchAndroid” (on her own Wondaland Arts Society imprint) finds her going even more “Neuromancer” cyberpunk. She’ll preview new tracks such as “Tightrope” and “Cold War” at a two-night run in The City next week.
You hail from Kansas City, Kansas, where not much was happening, art-wise, right? You’re right. There wasn’t. So ever since I can remember, I’ve always searched outside of my environment, always asked questions, always found a way to track down the resource that was limited in my community — even merely by going to the other side of town sometimes. I’d go over to the Missouri side and just speak with people. And until you ask questions, you never know how an answer can basically just change your life.
Visually, you’re quite striking. Did you fit in as a kid? I didn’t worry about fitting in. I’ve always wanted to be a strong leader. Lots of my family were involved with drugs, and they took over my father very, very badly, so I’ve always had to be strong and not cry about things; I’ve always had to be very hopeful and have a lot of faith. So I was pretty fearless from standing up and getting my things back from various drug dealers, and that most definitely matured me at an early age. And as a result, I’ve always felt ahead of my time — even though my influences come from the past, like James Brown, Elvis and Judy Garland.
You seem proficient in every music genre imaginable. Did you plan it that way? There is so much musical diversity around the world, and I want to celebrate those differences. I’m all about bridging those gaps. One of the things I wanted to do as an independent artist was let other indie artists know that we don’t have to stay underground. I feel like my art is to be shared — it’s selfish of me to say that it’s only for this audience. And I feel like these superpowers, if you will, that I was given by God can easily be taken away if I’m not doing what’s right with them. As in, “Poof! They’re gone!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Café Du Nord, 2174 Market St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Sunday-Monday