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Jamila Woods on Janelle Monáe

Jamila Woods (screenshot from "Sula" courtesy of Secretly Canadian, PR)

Jamila Woods (screenshot from "Sula" courtesy of Secretly Canadian, PR)

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In honor of Black History Month 2021, WFUV has invited Black artists we admire to talk about the music they love — which influenced their own songwriting — in our "Album ReCue" series.

This week I spoke with Chicago-based poet and musician Jamila Woods about Janelle Monáe's futuristic debut album, The ArchAndroid. Monáe's expansive concept album explores themes of identity and independence through the lens of an android alter ego named Cindi Mayweather.

"The story is just one that really populates my imagination," says Woods, who only realized in hindsight how much she was influenced by Monáe's album. "It came out before I was even pursuing music professionally, but looking back on it now I can see it as such an inspiration in terms of what an album can be. Just musically, it covers a lot of terrain."

Gracefully organized into two suites, the 18 songs on The ArchAndroid touch on a breathtaking array of sounds: funk, folk, rock, rap, and beyond. "As a black woman in today’s music industry, it’s important that people understand that we’re not all monolithic." Monáe told Pitchfork in 2010, explaining the musical arc of the album. “It’s time that we just break past this notion that if you’re an African American female that you have to stick to one genre."

Woods loves this idea and wholeheartedly agrees. She concluded our discussion by describing The ArchAndroid in six words: "Black, love, futuristic and right here."

Hear my full conversation with Woods in the player above and listen to highlights from that chat, plus songs from The ArchAndroid, throughout the week on 90.7, streaming online.

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WFUV's Album ReCue: Janelle Monáe's The ArchAndroid

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