Growing up, Janelle Monáe (born Janelle Robinson) felt constrained by the limited resources offered to her in her greater Kansas City, Kansas home.
When she finished high school, she moved to New York to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy with the intention of pursuing musical theater, but in 2004, after performing in a couple of off-Broadway shows and realizing there weren't roles available to her that she wanted, she moved to Atlanta to try her luck there. She soon joined a band and began touring the local college circuit, where she eventually got in touch with her future partners in Wondaland Arts Society (a collective/label that looked to promote experimental arts) as well as OutKast's Big Boi. The rapper was so impressed by what he heard that of her he put two of her songs on his 2005 compilation Got Purp?, Vol. 2. Monáe also showed up on OutKast's 2006 soundtrack, Idlewild, even appearing in the video for "Morris Brown."
In August 2007, Monáe debuted with the first of four planned Metropolis installments, or suites, an EP entitled The Chase, a concept piece revolving around a character named Cindi Mayweather and the year 2719. The album -- which melded cabaret, hip-hop, rock, and soul -- was well received, which helped bring the singer into the radar of Sean "Diddy" Combs. Rumors about a signing were finally confirmed in March 2008, when Diddy announced Monáe as the newest member of his Bad Boy roster. Monáe promised that the move was not going to compromise any of her artistic integrity or creativity. A re-release of The Chase, featuring bonus content, appeared in August 2008. The second and third suites of Metropolis were issued together as components of The ArchAndroid, released in May 2010. It debuted at number 17 on the Billboard 200 and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Contemporary R&B Album. "Tightrope" was nominated for Best Urban/Alternative Performance. Additional Grammy nominations came in 2013 for her guest appearance on Fun.'s "We Are Young." September 2013 brought The Electric Lady. Billed as suites four and five, it featured guest appearances from Prince, Erykah Badu, Esperanza Spalding, Solange, and Miguel. ~ Marisa Brown & Andy Kellman, Rovi