If there was a list of “Incredibly talented and creative musicians that aren’t getting nearly as much shine as they deserve,” it would be several miles long, and singer-songwriter Dawn Richard would probably be near top.
Richard thus far has had an interesting career; from Danity Kane to working with Puff Daddy, before ultimately going independent in 2011. Following the disbandment of Diddy-Dirty Money, Richard released 6 solo projects, highlighted by her Heart Trilogy of albums: Goldenheart, Blackheart, and Redemptionheart. It’s through her work as an indie artist that the scope of Dawn’s talent and artistry has manifested itself — from her avant-garde pop/electronic R&B enterprise to her eccentric, impressively-choreographed visuals.
It’s been a while since the “girl from the 9” released a full length album. On instagram, she expressed her reluctance to putting out another project, citing that “being indie is not easy.” However, nearly three years after Redemption, Richards has released her 4th independent album, New Breed.
New Breed, essentially, is a “love letter” to the city of New Orleans, Richards’ birthplace and home. Beyond shaping her identity as a Black woman, her musical influences, and providing her the means of surviving “misogyny, racism, colorism, [and] homelessness,” the city also represents who she was “before the industry shit,” as well as the the roots she alleges to have lost on her journey through the music industry (“Somewhere between Hollywood and Vine / I lost that girl from Jonlee Drive“).
Yet New Breed does not predicate itself on remorse or regret very much at all; in fact, “New Breed” — both the album and the song — serves as a mantra of both pride and empowerment more than anything. About the song, Richards stated, via IG, “I wrote this record to remind women, especially women of color, that you are your own boss.” Undoubtedly inspired by the current socio-political environment, and drawing from the inspiration she acquired from her pilgrimage to her hometown, New Breed finds Richards firmly in her zone.
Richards’ theme of empowerment carries over on album cuts like “we, diamonds”; here, where the New Orleans singer takes the “Black women are superheroes” slogan and adds nuance to it, preferring to exalt the value of Black women/women of color despite being imperfect human beings (“Even though we’re broken / that don’t mean we ain’t diamonds“).
But even when Richards ventures into more “typical” R&B subject matter, she rarely misses a step. The tracklist is highlighted by impressive vocal performances and truly enjoyable moments throughout, like the funky “Dreams and Converse,” the super-sensual “Sauce,” and the reflective “Vulture|Wolves.”
Dawn Richards’ latest album is short, but sweet. We’ll have to wait and see whether this is album will garner her the attention/acclaim that her career deserves, but regardless, this is still some pretty damn good music.
Enjoy New Breed below.