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Prince, P. Diddy and Big Boi were among the marquee names on hand Wednesday night to help celebrate Janelle Monae at the Essence Black Women in Music event at Playhouse Hollywood.
The singer, nominated for Grammys for best contemporary R&B album for The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III) and best urban/alternative performance for “Tightrope,” accepted the magazine’s second annual award in front of a L.A. audience that included Parenthood actress Joy Bryant and gospel duo Mary Mary.
Monae told The Hollywood Reporter, “I’m thankful. I’m highly gratified. This was a surprise for me. For Essence to want to recognize me at such an early stage in my career and give me the award. I’m just thankful. I don’t have that many adjectives to describe how I feel.”
Clad in black pants, white dress shirt, and a black tie topped with her signature bouffant, the Kansas-raised singer performed four songs beginning with “Sincerely Jane.” The second song of her set, “Smile” was sung with only electric guitar accompaniment. Monae’s six-piece band and two backup singers kicked the performance back into revue mode with “Cold War,” a tune reflecting producer Big Boi’s rhythmic sensibilities, and “Tightrope,” complete with a guest rap spot by the Outkast rapper.
Prior to the show, Big Boi told THR he never interfered much with Monae’s sound, “She’s a visionary. I like artists that add to the table, I didn’t have to hold her hand. She has vision and the creativity just flows and I let her do her thing.”
Diddy, who signed Monae to his Bad Boy Records, also confessed to THR that Monae was not subject to his controlling nature, “It was a great time for me and her ’cause I was at a time of evolving, at a time of another level of maturity where I wasn’t such a control freak and it was time for me to recognize that other people maybe had ideas that I didn’t understand and I would still be able to support it and play my position.”
He added, “When you’re with somebody from Day 1 or you’re with somebody when nobody else is there, people look at it a little differently. It’s a proud moment when you start to see people start to notice and recognize their hard work.”
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