Janelle Monae’s Wondaland label made its official debut last week with the release of The Eephus. The EP gets its name from the baseball term meaning “a change of pitch.”
Eephus is an introduction to “Classic Man” Jidenna, Atlanta-bred female duo St. Beauty, multi-instrumentalist Roman GianArthur, and male funk duo Deep Cotton. It’s also a movement — a venture to change the pitch of music and the industry at large. You might not yet know all of the artists under Janelle’s Wondaland wing, but they’ve been a part of her life for years. Now, they’re family.
Last Thursday, the Wondaland crew gathered at Highline Ballroom in New York City to let their music speak for them. Earlier in the day, their joint protest song “Hell You Talmbout” dropped on SoundCloud at the same time that Janelle and Jidenna were in Times Square speaking out about Black Lives Matter and police brutality.
“[’Hell You Talmbout’] expresses the pain of millions in this country across all religions, all races that are concerned about the amount of murders that are taking place, specifically murders of African-American men and women,” Jidenna says. “It’s time to eliminate murders by vigilantes and police officers who are abusing their authority, and who are not serving and protecting us. This song speaks to that issue. We didn’t lead the march, the march leads itself.”
We caught up with the individuals of Wondaland to get to know more about them and their music. Peep what each had to say below, and get your copy of The Eephus EP here.
Jidenna on the “Classic Man” remix featuring Kendrick LamarGetty Images
“[Kendrick and I] both reached out to each other. We have camps that overlap, word spread, we got on the phone and next thing you know, we had the remix. We spoke about some potential future collaborations. He’s funny. The ’For Free’ interlude that he did, that video is hilarious to me. It showed the funny side that a lot of people don’t know exists, but he’s always been clever. We’re both young dudes, but we have old souls. It’s great to jam with somebody who dances like my uncle ’cause our uncles are fresher than we ever were.”
Songs on The Eephus: “Classic Man,” “Classic Man (Remix),” “Yoga”
Alex Belle and Isis Valentino of St. Beauty on how they got their nameGetty Images
Alex Belle: “[Isis and I] met at a vintage boutique we both used to work at. We got to know each other and started performing at showcases. The first performance we did, people were like, ’Wow, you guys are amazing. You should start a band.’
Isis Valentino: “I’m a big Stevie Wonder fan, and one of the songs I was really into at that moment was ’Bird Of Beauty.’ I wrote a song called ’St. Beauty’ before I met Alex. We were talking about band names and that was the first thing that came to my mind. She didn’t like it at first.”
AB: “I love it now because it has so much meaning behind it. To me, St. Beauty is pure beauty, and I think everybody can relate to the name because everybody has that beauty within them that’s pure.”
Song on The Eephus: “Going Nowhere”
Roman GianArthur on the many instruments he playsGetty Images
“My dad once asked if I could have any superpower in the world, what would it be? I told him I would like to be able to speak any language and play any instrument. I’ve come to realize music is its own language and instruments are their own dialects. I pick up instruments to communicate, to touch people. If I need to learn the flute, I learn the flute. If I need to learn the cello, I learn the cello. The guitar is one of my main tongues. My first instrument outside of the voice was the piano. My father taught me never to be afraid of an instrument, to go into the studio and let God speak through you.”
Roman GianArthur and Nate Wonder of Deep Cotton are brothers.
Song on The Eephus: “iKnow”
Nate “Rocket” Wonder and Chuck Lightning of Deep Cotton on how they make their musicGetty Images
Nate “Rocket” Wonder: “When [Chuck’s] sister moved out, I moved in. I was there for three months making music really loud and he came into the room and was like ’So you make music.’ I was like, ’Yeah, you know I do.’ He told me to turn the mic on, so I did, and he started yelling into it. I tried to make music that felt crazier than what I thought he was saying.”
Chuck Lightning: “The outspoken mission is to out-crazy each other.”
NW: “Our musical process is quick. There’s a lot of energy in the room. It’s like a tornado comes in like ’bam bam bam bam bam’ and we just record as fast as possible and come back a week later or something and try to refine it. It’s really about capturing the initial bomb energy.”
CL: “The big bang.”
Song on The Eephus: “Let’s Get Caught”