Incomparable performer Janelle Monáe is adding music business mogul to her aliases now, as it has been announced that she has partnered with L.A. Reid and Epic Records in a joint venture deal for her Wondaland imprint. The Atlanta-based custom label is home to artists Roman GianArthur, Alex Belle and Isis Valentino of St. Beauty, Jidenna, and Nate Wonder and Chuck Lightening of Deep Cotton.
The partnership will bow in May with a 5-song compilation EP called The Eephus, including tracks from rapper Jidenna (whose “Classic Man” hits radio Feb. 16), Roman, St. Beauty, Deep Cotton and Monáe herself. The artists appear on each other’s tracks, and they and the label staff have worked together under the Wondaland umbrella for years.
“It’s not just one type of artist, but there’s a connective tissue,” says Monáe manager Mikael Moore, who also heads up the five-person label. “It’s about the collective rather than individuals — Janelle is the proprietor, but they’re partners with her.”
The label-as-family vibe is no accident. “We looked at what Puff and Jay Z have done, Jack White and Prince as well,” Monáe says. “But I’m also really inspired by strong women in business, like Mellody Hobson and Queen Latifah.”
Monáe has run Wondaland as an imprint for several years, but began to ramp up late in 2013. She and all the artists met with several majors and got interest from many — including Monáe’s home label Atlantic — but collectively made the decision to join forces with Epic after meeting with CEO L.A. Reid and president Sylvia Rhone.
“I walked into the studio and all of Janelle’s acts were in there together, they all looked like stars and they were ready to go,” Reid says. “I actually met her many years ago when she was a background singer for one of Big Boi’s artists. I wasn’t fortunate enough to sign her at the time, so I wasn’t going to let Wondaland get away.”