There was a whole spate of reactions when future-funkster Janelle Monae signed with Diddy's Bad Boy Records in 2007. Some were happy to see the young mold-breaker get some real muscle behind her. Others noticed from her independent release 'Metropolis Suite I of IV: The Chase' that Monae seemed more organic and evolved than, say, Danity Kane. But Monae says her deal with Bad Boy isn't the traditional label-artist kind. "It's not like, artist discovered by man, artist belongs to man," she tells the BoomBox. "It's a partnership."

Forged by Bad Boy and Monae's Atlanta-based Wondaland Arts Society, the agreement lets the artist keep the one thing she would never give up: creative control. "He's not involved in writing any songs or producing or anything," she says of Diddy's role. "He's just like an endorser. He really loves what we're doing as a company and as a group of artists. He trusts my ears and that's inspiring."

Monae is happy to be a part of what she calls a departure for Diddy, who normally works to develop a more mainstream R&B sound for acts like Cassie and Danity Kane. Until now, he's shunned artists as eccentric as Monae. "We met him at a happy point in his life," she says. "He's trying to grow artistically and get out of his comfort zone. It's cool for someone his age to be in the music industry for so long and really try to come back to where art rules."

As a label owner, Monae is inspired by Diddy's business acumen. "As an artist you have to make sure that you're taken care of," she says, "that you're comfortable, that you're not extending yourself too much as a person." She can certainly learn more about all that from Mr. Combs. Plus, her unique sartorial style makes her a prime candidate for brand extension via a clothing line. But Monae's vision of fashion is quite different than Sean John.

"I may go to Africa or different places with disadvantaged young girls and give my clothes to them," she says. "I think of my outfit like a superhero uniform and I'd like to empower them with it."