“Abandon your expectations about art, race, gender, culture and gravity” reads the sixth of Janelle Monae’s Ten Droid Commandments, a pamphlet the singer has distributed at her shows for years. But the triumph of Monae’s most recent album, “Dirty Computer,” hinges on that very notion. Monae, who spent years shrouding her brilliance in a sanitized sci-fi aesthetic, finally came out this year — in both the literal and metaphorical sense. Allowing herself a transparency that once seemed to elude her, this new universe was free of constraint, filled with vibrant songwriting and splashy melodies as bold as the colors that replaced the black and white trappings of the past. She found universal appeal in the revelation of her own specificity. July 20 at 8 p.m. at the Anthem . Sold out.
When Laraaji graduated from Howard University in the 1960s, he set out to pursue a career in acting and comedy, but the universe had other plans. As the story goes, he bought a zither, which he tweaked and electrified, and later captured Brian Eno’s ear during a busking performance. Laraaji’s style of meditative music is filled with restorative chants and calming instrumentation that could make anyone forget the politics and perils of the day. He has recent reemerged (in tandem with a rising interest in the new age genre at large), thanks to a string of new recordings and reissues, setting his healing music to new context. While everyone scrambles for attention on Twitter, Laraaji reminds us that hushed tones and somber states can sometimes be the very thing we need. July 21 at 8 p.m. at the Lincoln Theater. $35.
Julien Baker thought she was sharing songs with a few friends when she released tracks from her debut album, “Sprained Ankle,” online in 2014. The lyrics, which rested on adolescent angst and introspective musings set to simplistic guitar melodies, resonated so widely that the Tennessee native landed a deal with an independent label, 6131 Records. But it was her sophomore project, last year’s devastating “Turn Out the Lights,” that really exposed the depth of Baker’s singer-songwriter prowess. In an act of what she calls “radical vulnerability,” Baker writes with breathtaking honesty about the things that plague her, eloquent in her descriptions of the hurt and its side effects. She transcends, though, when she allows herself and her listeners a glimmer of hope. July 24 at 8 p.m. at the Anthem. $40-$60.
After four years, three exceptional recording projects and as many headlining tours, GoldLink is returning to the place where it all began. The rapper (a.k.a. D’Anthony Carlos), who has roots across the DMV, has enjoyed a level of international success reserved for very few in his genre. His latest album, the striking “At What Cost,” yielded the impossibly contagious HIT single “Crew” — which included lifts from fellow DMV natives Brent Faiyaz and Shy Glizzy — and earned a multiplatinum plaque and a Grammy nomination. But before scaling those musical mountains, GoldLink unveiled his bouncy debut, “The God Complex,” at U Street Music Hall, back in the spring of 2014. Now, he returns to the club for an intimate three-night residency that will double as a retrospective and a celebratory homecoming. July 25, 27 and 28 at 7 p.m. at U Street Music Hall. Sold out.