Blood Orange takes elements from Kendrick Lamar and D’Angelo to make a masterful album about everything.
Dev Hynes. This is a name you have probably never heard of before. He is the mastermind behind Blood Orange. Dev is the executive producer, lead singer, master mixer, arranger, and composer of Freetown Sound. Dev pours his whole heart and soul into this record. He covers topic from love to racism to religion.
It is clear that Dev is not ashamed of his heritage. The opening track of this album, “By Ourselves,” includes a spoken word poem by Ashlee Haze dedicated to Missy Elliot about empowering young black girls to be true to themselves. He uses various clips from the documentary Black Is…..Black Ain’t to further his point about race throughout the entire album. Dev also samples an interview of Ta-Nehisi Coates, writer for The Atlantic, on the song “Love Ya.” The sample talks about waking up every morning as a black man and deciding what he was gonna wear that day.
“Now every morning I lie, was gonna wear my backpack, was I gonna strap it over one shoulder or two shoulders. How was I gonna cock my baseball bat? Was I gonna wear it straight, cock it to the left, cock it to the right? How was I gonna wear my pants? Cause I don’t wear ’em really baggy, or not? Which shoes was I gonna wear? Who was I gonna walk with to school? How many of ’em we’re gonna…”
This seems like every day stuff that everyone goes through, but when you are a black man that is constantly under the watchful eye of everyone around you. You need to be conscious of how you are dressed because one wrong choice and you are perceived as a thug. On, “Hands Up” Dev references the shootings of Trayvon Martin. “Keep your hood off when you’re walking…Sure enough, they’re gonna take your body.” Dev sings over the chillingly happy beat of the song. However, this isn’t an album that is super depressing and makes you ashamed to have ever looked at another human in disgust. It has happy moments deep inside.
Songs like, “Best To You,” “Desire, “Juicy 1-4,” “Better Than Me,” “E.V.P.,” “But You,” and “Thank You” are all up tempo songs that pay homage to the greats of yesteryear. The late Prince and Michael Jackson influences are very apparent on these songs. Whether it be the harmonizing vocals on “Best To You,” or the mumbled talk singing on “E.V.P..” Dev has figured out how to use his talents and turn them into something super special.
One of the better things about this album is that fact that Dev can only take the hook of a song and allow the featured artist to step in and take full advantage of the sonic stage that he places them on. Songs like “Hadron Collider,” which features Nelly Furtado, Dev can only be heard on backup vocals on the chorus. The same can be said for “Best To You” where Dev lets Lorely Rodriguez of Empress Of take the lead and form arguably the best song off of the album.
Freetown Sound is not for everyone. In fact, most people will probably hate it after only listening to the first few songs. You will not find a single “Banger” on this album. But if you find time to actually sit down and really listen to the album and try to understand what Dev is trying to do on this album. You will not only be suprised but also extremely pleased with the final results of this album.