Janelle Monáe, Mary J. Blige, Salt-N-Pepa's Spinderella and -- oddly enough -- Anthony Hamilton are among the honorees for the fourth annual Black Girls Rock! Awards, which take place Saturday (Oct. 17) in New York and recognize women of color making strides in arts and entertainment.
Monáe, who is currently working on the followup to her debut album "Metropolis, Suite I: The Chase," will receive the "Who's Got Next" award. The alt-R&B singer tells Billboard.com that the honor feels like a call to duty. "Black girls have always been rockin,'" says Monáe. "I just want to make sure I'm also leading by example. I want to continue to inspire other young girls of color to be artists and express themselves creatively."
Monáe also spoke about the progress on her sophomore effort, for which she re-teamed with in-house songwriters/producers Nate "Rocket" Wonder and Chuck Lightning, collaborated with the Emory Symphony Orchesta in her hometown of Atlanta, and recorded in Prague and Turkey.
"It's like a playground of our minds," says Monáe of the album, due out in early 2010. "We didn't hold back or try to be different for the sake of being different. We made sure we stayed true to the jam."
Though Monáe recently dropped a new track "Come Alive" as part of a music initiative for Kia, she hasn't yet chosen a single for her own album. "I would love to let every song be a single because I believe in them that much," she explains. "We want to at least shoot a video for as many songs as we can, so there will be different visuals to go with each individual song."
Meanwhile, other Black Girls Rock! honorees include Blige, who is recognized as this year's "Icon," Spinderella, who picks up this year's "Jazzy Joyce DJ" award, and Hamilton, the first male to be honored as "Soul Brother #1."
The event was founded four years ago by hip-hop deejay Beverly Bond to raise money for her nonprofit that mentors young girls of color. Girls in the mentorship program take classes in mixing and scratching at New York City's Scratch DJ Academy and earn a certificate upon completion.
"When I first came up with the name Black Girls Rock!, it made me feel the way I wanted other people to feel," says Bond. "I want young girls to hear the name and feel that they have role models, too."