Janelle Monáe as Cindi Mayweather: The ArchAndroid

Date of Event



Janelle Monáe as Cindi Mayweather: The ArchAndroid

Brief Description

Cindi Mayweather represents Janelle Monae's alter ego. Living in the time of 2719, Mayweather's future resembles the tragic history of our own world.

Extended Description

Through her trilogy of concept albums, Janelle Monáe develops a distinct and alien world emblematic of our own, similarly plagued with issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, and more. Monáe’s music tells the story of her life through a range of personas. From a fugitive android rebel to a time-travelling electric lady, her personas comment on how she is viewed, and how she views herself: a commodity to be consumed, abused, and cast out. Monáe plays with this perception of her identity and ultimately defies it, utilizing her lyrical power and hypnotic dancing to emphasize there is no containing or categorizing her. As an Afrofuturist, Monáe projects herself into a futuristic universe and allegorizes her own history evocative of a past devoid of acceptance and freedoms of “othered” peoples. She replicates the experience of Black Americans by establishing a world built upon the same systems of “othering.” By creating a fictional world founded in the same deplorable practices of today’s world, Janelle Monáe lays the groundwork for a future that avoids the tragedies of the past and learns to accept and understand the differences between people, humans, aliens, and even androids.

In 2007, Monáe released Metropolis: The Chase Suite, the first installment of her trilogy. In this album, Monáe introduces her alter-ego, Cindi Mayweather, an android who falls in love with human Anthony Greendown. Mayweather’s act of love subjects her to “immediate disassembly” and forces her to run from the droid control marshals hunting her down. As she runs from the hunters, Monáe creates a parallel between Mayweather’s situation and the experience of the African American throughout history. In the years of colonization, Africans once were “the enslaved-commodified human,” stolen from their land and brought to America for capitalistic and exploitative behaviors. Just as Africans once were, androids now become the main subject for the new “other” (Van Veen 17). As “a slave girl without a race,” Mayweather is aware of her subservience to humans, in which she was only made to be a commodity for their consumption, “a product of the man.” Not only is she enslaved by the elite, Mayweather is alone in her realization. In a repeated line in both “March of the Wolfmasters” and “Violet Stars Happy Hunting!!!,” Mayweather acknowledges that she “knows the rules,” but refuses to be held down by society. In this way, she is isolated from the other androids who “know the rules,” but refuse to ever oppose it. Mayweather represents the fugitive slave, as she attempts to escape and follows the “violet stars [that] will set you free, when you’re running lost and alone.” A reference to the North star that guided slaves to their freedom, the violet stars illuminate a path for Mayweather’s freedom and offer her hope against all odds.

In a modern sense, Mayweather represents the common black experience with law enforcement. Mayweather shares her confusion on how “impossibly, wait it's impossible they’re gunning for me and now the army’s after you” for something as simple as loving. In “March of the Wolfmasters,” the announcement made it clear only “chainsaws and electro daggers” were valid forms in hunting down Mayweather, which on their own emphasize how she is painted as such a threat for loving someone that the entire army was mobilized. “Gunning” for her alludes to the idea that the hunters could be physically gunning her down, a parallel to the excessive use of force against Black Americans. Mayweather’s sin however is not only loving outside of her own race, but loving all together. Androids are supposedly incapable of love or feelings, but Mayweather defies these notions meant to separate her from humans. In doing so, she distinguishes herself as a threat to the norm of society.

By utilizing creative and complex approaches to advance the afrofuturist agenda, Monáe unpacks the traumas of the black experience while entertaining her audience in a manner that is easier to digest. Her “Many Moons” short film puts up a front where she is dancing and everything seems to be upbeat and fun, but beneath the surface level, Monáe/Mayweather is providing commentary. Mayweather dances upstage with a catchy pop tune, electronic synth, and percussion beats stringing her along. She captivates her audience with this front, but her lyrics tell a different story of urgency and eeriness. Mayweather sings “we’re dancing free, but we’re stuck here underground,” alluding to the captivity of the droids. The video shows Mayweather performing at an android auction, helpless to stop the selling and commodification of her people as she sings about her confinement. Her only hope to spread her message is a call to arms within her song, as she sings for them to “revolutionize their lives and find a way out.” Mayweather pulls from revolutionaries like the Black Panther Party, encouraging the androids to fight for justice “like a panther.” Through her short film, Monáe illustrates how the “allegory of the android to blackness, and the real experience of becoming an android, have already met in the historical trauma of slavery” (Van Veen 16).

In her second installment of the trilogy, Janelle Monáe released The ArchAndroid. Cindi Mayweather travels back in time to free the people of Metropolis and undergoes a journey of self-discovery and revelation. Mayweather continues to sing about the conditions of her people, the product of “snatched, genoraped, dexisted” humans like Janelle Monáe whose DNA was used to create the androids (Monáe 1). In her song, “Dance or Die,” Monáe warns “and if you see your cloning on a street walking by keep a running for your life cause only one will survive.” The forced creation of clones and subsequent neglect and exploitation of them shares similarities to Jordan Peele’s film “Us.” Just as Mayweather is a clone of humans, inevitably meant to be subservient to them, the main character Red similarly is the clone of Addy. Mayweather and Red both suffer underground in a society that refuses to acknowledge their worth as people. Both Mayweather and Red represent the black experience of enslaved Africans who were stolen and colonized, only to be “othered” and condemned.

With the resolve of an afrofuturist determined to forge a path for freedom, Cindi Mayweather becomes the ArchAngel of the androids. Like Malcolm X, Mayweather urges for “freedom necessary and its by any means,” aligning herself with the civil rights movement in the frame of android emancipation. She warns there is a “war in all the streets, and yes the freaks must dance or die,” encouraging the androids to dance in protest, as it is a form of expression that’s freeing and liberating. Janelle Monáe finds a more personal connection in her song “Cold War,” in which she describes how lonesome and isolating it is to be the ArchAndroid, the savior of the android race. In her music video, she breaks down and cries at the line “I’m trying to find my peace, I was made to believe there's something wrong with me and it hurts my heart.” Although Mayweather sings this tune to represent her struggles, the line between fiction and reality fall apart here as Monáe is pained by the realities of being “othered.” Mayweather is a new face in the same cycle of oppression, in which differences to the established norm are targeted and unwelcomed.

Janelle Monáe’s “The Electric Lady” studio album, the third album of the trilogy, introduces an agency over “unmaking, remaking, and ultimately staging alternate ways of being in the world,” as well as defying the established norms and perceptions that oppress (Aghoro 1). Monáe becomes the Electric Lady in her album: a non-conformist, free-spirited pop star that “defies every label.” As the queen of funk, Monáe lets loose and allows for the music to take over, singing and affirming her freakish behaviors to “act a fool, twerk, dance, and get down.” Through her self-affirmation of love and acceptance of being seen as a freak, Monáe asserts agency over herself and “taps into the positive potential of change, rupture, and revolution” (Aghoro 10). The Electric Lady dance troupe introduces steps for change beyond their own acceptance as freaks, but also in their choice of dress. The Electric Ladies are known for their black and white tuxedos and revolution in gender fluidity and androgyny. In numerous interviews, Janelle Monáe makes it clear she doesn't believe in menswear or women’s wear, but instead challenges those around her to help “redefine what a woman can wear.” Her black and white uniform serves to commemorate blue collar workers like her parents (English 6).

In her afrofuturistic approach, Monáe’s body of work mirrors George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic in creating futuristic characters and narratives. Both share similarities in their ensembles that deconstruct the barriers of the modern world and travel into a limitless futuristic realm. Monáe however differs from P-Funk in that they envisioned a black masculinity free from the oppressive eyes of society, but continued to look down upon black femininity and androgyny in their song “Handcuffs”: “Do I have to put my handcuffs on ya mama?” or do “I have to keep you barefoot and pregnant / . . . to keep you in my world?” (English 5). Monáe believes in a revolution for women that defies the hetereonormative black feminine and dismantles the patriarchal view of womanhood. In Q.U.E.E.N (Queer, Untouchables, Emigrants, Excommunicated, and Negroid), Monáe accomplishes her goal to empower women in addition to marginalized groups like the LGBTQ+ community and others in mentioned in the song title. Monáe carefully constructs within her manifesto, a call to flip the script and bring dramatic change not only in Q.U.E.E.N, but throughout her album. By “subverting dominant paradigms about poverty, race and racism, equality and equity,” Monáe challenges power structures and paves the way for a new ideology to intervene and improve the lives of everyone (Murchison 12).

Janelle Monáe utilizes afrofuturism to share her narrative for Cindi Mayweather, a stand-in for her own experiences as a black queer woman. Monáe builds a world that transcends the grounded reality of today, a reality influenced and tethered to the past. afrofuturism offers multiple venues for realizing the black experience, either through binding those experiences to a past or redefining a future untethered from that past. Monáe uses these venues in afrofuturism to project herself into a future that is connected to black history, but does so as a means to warn and prevent a repeating history. Monáe created the Cindi Mayweather trilogy because she believed in the inevitability of androids and robots existing. By engendering a possible future that replicates the past, Monáe addresses the likelihood of social structures and identity formations to repeat in relation to black people and androids. Monáe fears the repetitive nature of “othering” and raises a valid point of what's to come with the constant advancement of technology.

Van Veen, Tobias C. “Vessels of Transfer: Allegories of Afrofuturism in Jeff Mills and Janelle
Monáe.” Dancecult, vol. 5, no. 2, 2013, pp. 7–41.,

Murchison, Gayle. “Let's Flip It! Quare Emancipations: Black Queer Traditions, Afrofuturisms,
Janelle Monáe to Labelle.” Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture, University of Nebraska Press, 17 Oct. 2018

English, Daylanne K. and Alvin Kim. 2013. "Now we Want our Funk Cut: Janelle Monáe's
Neo-Afrofuturism." American Studies 52 (4): 217-230,5.

Aghoro, Nathalie. “Agency in the Afrofuturist Ontologies of Erykah Badu and Janelle Monáe.”
De Gruyter, Sciendo, 1 Nov. 2018


Kansas City, Kansas

Student creator name(s)

Ebyan Abshir

Afrofuturism Canon



Through her trilogy of concept albums, Janelle Monáe develops a distinct and alien world emblematic of our own, similarly plagued with issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, and more. She replicates the experience of Black Americans by establishing a world built upon the same systems of “othering.” Monáe inevitably believes there will be a day where technology advances to the point where humans will have to address what will become of androids and their status in society. Through her music and concept art, Monáe lays the groundwork for a future that learns to accept and understand the differences between people, humans, aliens, and even androids.

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