The future world of Janelle Monae 

‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Philip K. Dick mused in his trailblazing 1968 novel that inspired the film “Blade Runner” — a fair question.

But according to futuristic R&B-pop-punk diva Janelle Monae, there’s are even better ones: “When we do live in a future with androids, how are we going to get along? Are we going to teach our kids to be fearful of them or to treat them humanely? Because this future is coming — the future of man having to know everything.”

Monae — who plays Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park on Sunday — isn’t joking.

Heavily influenced by old “Twilight Zone” episodes and Fritz Lang’s German Expressionist masterpiece “Metropolis,” the former Blockbuster clerk has followed her 2007 debut EP “Metropolis: The Chase Suite” with an even more ambitious album, “The ArchAndroid,” in which her robotic alter ego Cindi Mayweather teleports in from the year 2719 to save the world from a repressive cult called The Great Divide.

She already has expanded songs like “Tightrope” and “Cold War” into a graphic novel. Soon, “The ArchAndroid” will morph into an actual movie.

“That’s why I talk about the android, because I think the android will represent ‘the Other, ’ ” says Monae, 24, who sports a “Metropolis”-elaborate helmet and armor on the CD cover.

“And I connect with the Other. I think a lot of people have, at points in their lives, felt like the minority in a majority, and the android represents a new form of that. There will come a time when the android brain will map the inside of a human’s, and you won’t be able to differentiate between an android calling or having a phone conversation with an actual human.”  

Where does Monae fit in?

She cites Lang’s cinematic message — that the mediator between the mind and the hands must be the heart — as her musical credo.

“That’s me — I’m the heart,” she says. “I don’t want to cater to just a red or a blue state, I want to create a purple state.”

That’s why she cofounded her own collective, the Wondaland Arts Society, which licenses her music to Sean Combs’ Bad Boy imprint.

Whatever tomorrow holds, Monae’s doing pretty well at present. Recently, she has: been nominated for a Grammy Award, presented with ASCAP’s Vanguard Award, performed with Prince at the BET Awards; and even dueted with Will Ferrell at the ESPYs.

“I’m from Kansas, and I never thought my life’s journey would end up here,” Monae says. “That’s why I’m very hopeful about the future — I think there are certain things that will surprise us.”


Janelle Monae

Presented by Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival

Where: Sutro Stage, Polo Field, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

When: 3:05 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $75 to $395


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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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