the black feminist power of dawn richard’s “new breed”

November 9, 2018
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The story of how Dawn Richard built the next chapter of her musical life — after a starring role in the made-for-Diddy, reality-TV pop group Danity Kane — will never get old. Because, as the New Orleans-born singer/producer’s work since then has continued to get hotter and odder, her cookie-cutter-music origins seem more and more curious. Messing with alternative soul, bounce and electronic dance vibes, Richard is like the modern coming of Nona Hendryx and Grace Jones — the latter of whom she samples on her latest single, “New Breed” — building a sound free of genre and identity stereotypes.

new breed by DAWN

As both its title and cover photo suggest, “New Breed” sees Richard using NOLA’s Mardi Gras Indians culture to explore her strength as an artist and human being. It’s also an anthem of independence and self-reliance. All of her musical and songwriting qualities are on display here: A meditative analog-synth line becomes swamped by the sample of a classic New Orleans booty-bounce provocation, (“pump up the beat”), and Richard starts listing all the ways in which she’s in control.

Among those is a declaration of sexual freedom, a natural part of her Black feminist ideals. From the song’s opening line (“Fuck the heels and dress/It’s nothing, I can do it in a suit”), through the sample of Jones famous saying that she “find[s] women attractive — if I didn’t, I wouldn’t find myself attractive,” the song sees Richard blending all her powers. No wonder she ends “New Breed” by invoking all the superheroes she’s about to turn into — including Missy Elliot. When Richard sings “your crown don’t fit me,” she is 100% on point.

Dawn Richard’s album, The New Breed, will be co-released by her own Our Dawn Entertainment, and the Swedish house music label, Local Action, on January 25, 2019.