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Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout” is Movement Music that Moves Me

Chile, y’all know I LOVE ME SOME Janelle Monae. Not just because her closet is my spirit animal and her love of suits and feminine menswear makes my heart swell. The lady is a free Black girl whose music has no limits and she has fun with it. Plus, she is incredibly smart. It comes out of her pores.

Now add me to her STAN list. Janelle, Jidenna and their Wondaland crew joined a Black Lives Matter rally in Philly the other day and got on the mic singing “Hell You Talmbout.” Well, it is now a single and I am here for it.


In Hell You Talmbout (you know I love that last word), they yell the names of those Black men, women and children who have been killed at the hands of state-sanctioned violence. Unarmed people whose lives have ended while in police custody, on the streets, in their beds. The song is 7 minutes long and it could have been 20. There is no shortage of names to call and that’s heartbreaking.

Say her name. Say his name. Say their names. We cannot forget them. If you need me, I’ll be playing this on loop for the rest of the day, because YES.

This is what it looks like to use your own power (whatever it is) to speak truth to power. Who are we to have these platforms and fill them with nothing but fluff? This is courage. Thank you, Wondaland. This was incredible.

Related read: Stages of What Happens When There’s Injustice Against Black People

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  1. Mia
    August 13, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    I went to their show in Philly last night and this was the closer. After such an amazing display of talent from all members of Wondaland, Hell You Talmbout was my favorite moment. Beautiful tribute. I hope to hear it at protests in the future.

  2. Rob
    August 13, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    there’s a shorter version on the deluxe edition of the “Electric Lady” album

  3. howlingbanshee
    August 13, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    All the amens, salutes, tears, everything.

  4. alisonnikole
    August 13, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    Just beautiful. Now, if I could just stop crying. Wooooo.

  5. Slimscandal
    August 13, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    This just moved me to tears. I’m on the subway in NYC looking and feeling like someone just gave me the bad news about a death in the family. And, tbh, they kinda did. Any one of us could be one of those names. Too many feels. Sharing immediately.

  6. Tiffany
    August 13, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    This is Nina Simone epic. Use your influence the best way you can!!! Electric lady indeed!

  7. Angel Adeyoha
    August 13, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    I’m in love with this song. An aside though: I really wish people that I love as writers and activists (like you, Luvvie!) would quit with the “spirit animal” bullshit. It’s super disrespectful and makes me feel like Indigenous people are invisible to you. It makes me sad.

    • niksmit
      August 13, 2015 at 7:17 pm

      Yes, what Angel said.

    • August 13, 2015 at 11:06 pm

      What Angel said. As Black people we don’t have to assimilate into the mainstream paradigm that marginalizes & disrespect Indigenous folx.

    • emily
      August 15, 2015 at 7:56 pm

      Hi,I’m definitely very ignorant about native american culture.
      Would you please mind explaining more what you mean? I can guess saying ‘spirit animal’ is some sort of cultural appropriation, but I’m not sure of the specific meaning behind it.

    • StahpItGurl
      August 16, 2015 at 11:44 pm

      Actually, indigenous cultures use “totem” not “spirit animal” and although totem is an ojibwe (Native American tribe) word, similar symbology to totems are also found in other places, including Himalayan, Korean and Chinese cultures. Plus, “totemistic beliefs are found in regions of Africa, Arabia, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Arctic”. If anything, “spirit animal” is a more modern invention. So, look it up wikipedia & co. and get informed before getting offended on the wrong premises.

    • October 1, 2015 at 11:40 am

      I use the term “My Patronus”

  8. shimarella
    August 13, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    Angel, thank you for the reminder. I am guilty of mis-using the term myself on occasion.

    This song? Epic. Simply epic. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Joy n' L.A.
    August 13, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    I can see Alvin Ailey Dance Theater all over this… I think Imma think this into existence!

  10. YvMarie
    August 14, 2015 at 12:56 am

    This was powerful! Reminded me of the protest songs from the 60s w/a little bit of gospel. Damn shame we still need those. Saying their names made me remember their stories. I’m sad, angry, depressed and hopeful and proud all at the same time.

  11. rachel
    August 14, 2015 at 6:33 am

    I’ve been listening to this for two hours straight. It’s so powerful. So strong. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  12. August 14, 2015 at 11:29 am

    I’m curious about why the #SayHerName style tag was used in the song when mostly male names were sung first. I thought sayhername was specifically about the idea that we already know and remember the names of all those black men, but people never know the names of the women.

  13. Nj
    August 14, 2015 at 11:55 am

    The spirit and intentions of the song are great. It is wonderful that she is using her platform to speak on these issues…..But the song itself….leaves a lot to be desired. Songwriting is mediocre.

    • Kali
      August 14, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      Ugh, you just had to rep nj with that mess. I’m from Nj too and you’re making us look bad.

      The songwriting is fine because it’s not just a song. It’s a protest, a rallying cry! Not a poem with subtle intricacies.

      It’s supposed to be simple, so people can pick it up with ease and the movement can spread.

      • Monique
        August 14, 2015 at 8:34 pm

        YES! I can I like your comment a 100 times? Kali, now YOU are repping NJ!

  14. Monique
    August 14, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    I know it’s a protest song that makes one feel…but I is FEELING that beat!

  15. T
    August 14, 2015 at 9:59 pm


  16. Simon Fieno
    August 14, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    She was here last weekend. Missed it. Sad. This is strong.

  17. Justin
    August 16, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    What does “hell you talmbout” mean? I looked it up in the dictionary but it’s not there. I’m confused.

  18. rachel
    August 16, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    Justin, it’s short for “What the hell are you talking about?” From the stage, in her recent concerts, Janelle Monae has said she means it as a way of encouraging people away from talking about frivolous things like who’s dating who and what somebody’s hair looks like, when there are other, vitally important matters impacting the African American community — like our people being killed. She said: We need to change the conversation in our community. Turn it around and tell people, “what the hell you talmbout?” I would add that it also means we need to change the conversation in the NATIONAL community, to keep people focussed on the importance of valuing and protecting Black and Brown lives. Don’t let the movement be squashed by distraction.

  19. notconcinvedgranny
    August 17, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    I see the Today show decided to cut her off at the end of this song, and have been showing clips from the performance – except for this song, of course.

    • Shay DeShade
      August 18, 2015 at 9:19 pm

      That has me feeling some kinda way…..it’s fine for them to have Kathie Lee Whatserwig go on for DAYS about her cheatin’ ass old dead husband but they can’t play two damn minutes of this rallying cry?




  20. samuel w.
    October 5, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    This so goog