Janelle Monáe in the Dirty Computer “emotion picture.”
Image: Atlantic Records

Janelle Monáe’s most recent album (and accompanying movie) Dirty Computer is a work of art that, at first glance, might seem as if it’s somewhat of a pivot from the ongoing Afrofututuristic tale about the time-traveling android messiah she’s been telling on her previous releases. But according to Monáe, that’s not at all the case.

During a recent interview with BuzzFeed, Monáe explained that while Cindi Mayweather—her android alter ego who is the main focus of her earlier albums—doesn’t appear in Dirty Computer, the album is in fact part of Cindi’s larger story, in part because Monáe conceptualized Dirty Computer long before her subsequent work. Dirty Computer, Monáe elaborated, is meant to be read as near-future, whereas Cindi’s story is distant future:

“Because I had this album before The ArchAndroid, all of these projects are connected. Dirty Computer is sort of a prelude to ArchAndroid and Electric Lady and if you watch the emotion picture, Jane 57821 is involved in all of the albums and the DNA is there. I left little Easter eggs for people to figure [that] out but I’m just saying right now that it’s connected.”

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Monáe pointed out that Dirty Computer introduces the character Mary Apple 53, whose name is something of a callback to a woman named Blueberry Mary from The ArchAndroid track “Mushrooms & Roses”—and that Jane 57821 references Cindi Mayweather’s android number. The exact way that Dirty Computer fits into Monáe’s timeline of events remains to be seen, but it’s more than likely that as her future albums are released, her story’s only going to become even more fantastical and fascinating to watch unfold.