Dawn Richard’s career path is an interesting one. She started as a member of Danity Kane, a girlband formed by P. Diddy on the MTV Show Making The Band 3. The group was successful in the mainstream market with hits like “Show Stopper” and “Damaged”. When they disbanded, she started recording solo, but her material was far away from your average contemporary R&B.
Danity Kane reunited again for their third album DK3 back in 2014, and meanwhile Dawn was steadily releasing her trilogy of projects (Goldenheart, Blackheart, and Redemption). She has also come out with some well acclaimed EPs in that time. This new record new breed can be compared to the electronic and innovative Armor On. The difference between that 2012 recording and today is Richard’s confidence, self-love and growth.
new breed opens with an acoustic track called “the nine”. She reminisces on her childhood days while she creates a pulsatory beat in the background. “I wanna go back to JonLee Drive / Where Shanda and Sonja used to kick it every time”, she goes with the details of her Louisiana roots.
The whole project is a huge homage to New Orleans, which immediately reminds the listeners of Beyoncé’s “Formation” vibes. Worth to mention, Dawn’s whole family was displaced after Hurricane Katrina years ago.
The album’s title track “new breed” is a loud anthem of slaying. The opening verse “F**k the heels and dress” is already a huge statement of independence: Dawn Richard is not here to please everybody. The cloudy and dense beat mixed with strong self-confident lyrics is a motto for a whole project. This might be the rawest song on new breed.
“I had so many men in power telling me I was too brave, too confident, too black, too ugly, too thin / That girl believed them / But deep inside, the girl from the nine said f**k them”, she explains at the beginning of the “spaces” track, and at the same time, continues the movement for black girls and women. Dawn changes her sound from electronic, through progressive pop, to dance in her very own, natural way. She sings her truth effortlessly.
On new breed she explores more genres like funk, soul and hip-hop. “dreams and converse” is a uplifting track, disco-funk jam similar to Prince’s catalogue or Janelle Monáe’s recent work.
Continuing the good-time and having-fun feeling, she sings willingly on the next song “shades“: “I might f**k you with my shades on / I know you like it in the daytime”. With tracks like these, she might be considered less ‘weird’ or alternative for mass media. The only thing she is lacking is attention from the right press.
Dawn slows down the tempo a bit and add some reggae vibes on “jealousy”, where she deals with her ex-boyfriend. “I wrote a letter to your ex-girlfriend on Instagram tonight / I shouldn’t post it though, but I really want petty to win tonight / Dear Ms. You-Will-Never-Be-Me”, she shares her bittersweet thoughts. The storytelling has a huge potential. Imagine what would happen if Ariana Grande recorded a number with lyrics like that? Immediate bop.
Dawn Richard also shares her more romantic and vulnerable side on this album. The Hudson Mohawke co-produced smooth track titled “sauce” is like a mix of Ciara and Tinashe’s best work. “I done cleaned the spot and put on your favorite panties / The one you say look like Diamond’s from Players Club, I’m wylin”, she almost moans the sexual verses.
She opens more on her relationship issues on the two-part track “vultures | wolves”. “And I know that I’m f**king up but I’m really hoping to stay / I’m willing to stay, baby”, she cries for help to save her love. The album closes with brightfuls songs “we, diamonds” and “ketchup and po’boys”.
new breed is filled with creative soulful tone but without being overproduced. The project runs at a perfect 10 tracks (a bit more than 30 minutes) that flow naturally, as you will be familiar with, from her previous projects. As Dawn Richard sings on the album title track, she’s a lion, a woman and a… king.
Dawn Richard’s new breed is out now via Local Action Records/Our Dawn Entertainment, purchase it on iTunes here and stream it on Spotify below.
Words by Julia Borowczyk