janelle monáe celebrates the release of new album ‘the electric lady’ w/ diddy & big boi

September 10, 2013

Last night at Pier 84 in Hudson River Park (NYC), a dock tucked to the westernmost point of 44th St. in Manhattan, Janelle Monáe celebrated the release of her latest studio album, The Electric Lady.
A day prior to its September 10 release date, the momentum of popular singles and critical acclaim buzzed amongst attendees while clusters of CoverGirl models outfitted in Monáe’s signature white shirt, black high waters, penny loafers, and suspenders underscored not only the impact of her music, but her style.

By Justin Allen, AFROPUNK Contributor

The stage, covered with pristine white carpeting and linked to a boat docked behind it, undulated on the water as special guest Diddy entered to a roar of applause. “It’s a feeling hard to describe,” he recalls sticking a wire hanger into a plug as a child. “It’s electric,” he continues. “I say this in a way to describe Janelle Monáe.”

As the band entered, momentum built. The members sported matching white dress shoes with two black horizontal stripes slashed across the toe, and each outfit was either belted, bow tie’d, or suspender’d respectively. Two back-up singers, with matching black bowl cuts, wore vertical-striped black and white mini-dresses, black tights and white platform wedges. They ticked their shoulders and bounced their hips as the upbeat intro to “Dance Apocalyptic” crept from the speakers. The stage lights fell blue. Monáe jogged forward from the deck of the boat. She wore tight white pants, a white shirt, black riding boots, and sported her signature pompadour. A silver chain hanging from her waist and hot pink nail polish completed the look.

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Distinct to Monáe’s musical style and onstage presence is her ability to reinterpret classic music genres such as funk, rock and soul with a contemporary spirit. Throughout a kinetic and animated performance of call and response, chanting and harmonizing, not one member of her band stood still, miming her lyrics, lifting their knees and jumping at moments in which their instruments where at rest, and both her cover of The Jackson 5’s “One More Chance” and her closing performance of her song “Come Alive” from The ArchAndroid exuded a dance-inducing energy most often expected, now, of club music.

Other notable moments included an appearance by Big Boi—outfitted in a black blazer, white fedora and aviator shades—who laid down a verse during the performance of “Tightrope” as well as Monáe’s dedication of the album’s lead single “Q.U.E.E.N.” as a “song for the marginalized,” citing people discriminated against for their sexual orientation and those excommunicated from their churches.

Toward the end of the night, Big Boi took to the mic to describe the moment he discovered Monáe. “I saw you at [an] open mic night,” he says to her before turning to the audience. “The first night I heard her, I said, I got to have her. Signed her on the spot.” Through his recollecting, the audience learned where Monáe’s journey in the music industry began. There’s no telling where she’s going.

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* Banner photo and photo below via

* Justin Allen is an undergraduate writing student at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts. He currently works as a contributing writer for AFROPUNK as well as writes for a zine, BAD GRAMMAR, that he produces in collaboration with friends Yulan Grant and Brandon Owens.