Unlike a lot of black artists, Janelle has no problem being unapologetic about her blackness. She doesn’t dismiss her experiences as a black woman or make light of them. Nor does she water down the reality of what life is like for her. That’s one thing that often gets left out of the conversation in terms of Dirty Computer. Mainly that happens when non black critics of color and white critics mention the album: that Janelle is being vocal about her struggles as not only being queer but being black too. Since her identity is intersectional – it makes life that much harder.
The intro of “Crazy, Classic, Life” is very important for the song itself. It’s an interpolation and excerpt of “The Declaration of Independence.” Following that is one of the boldest lines in the song – “Young, Black, Wild and Free,” then “Naked in a Limousine,” which highlights nakedness as freedom. The idea of actual freedom is lost, especially for those of us who are black. The world consistently reminds me that I’m not really free. It dangles that idea and the idea that we live in free countries (US + Canada).
In Verse 2, Janelle highlights her lack of desire for marriage. She just wants to live her life without being held back and told by the world that she can’t be herself. To live in this world means a lot of compromising of self, and this world becomes more and more dangerous for black bodies. The world in Dirty Computer’s short film, while fictional, is a depiction of the world. And how it treats “dirty computers.” We’re only “free” if we conform and suppress what makes us “dirty.” Unapologetic blackness is seen as wrong.
Yet here Janelle is, here a lot of us are, not suppressing our blackness. Not silencing ourselves. Even if we may not be completely free.
Vanessa Maki is a queer writer,artist & other things. She’s full of black girl magic & has no apologizes for that. Her work has appeared in various places like Really System & others. She is also forthcoming in a variety of places. She’s founder/EIC of rose quartz magazine & is involved in other spaces as well. Follow her twitter & visit her site.