dev hynes and kindness talk freetown sound, the black experience, prince and more
After Adam Bainbridge invited his longtime collaborator and friend Devonté Hynes on his RBMA radio show to discuss Dev’s forthcoming album, their conversation spanned from Sierra Leone and Sandra Bland to Prince and To Pimp a Butterfly. Here are five...
Freetown Sound takes root in Sierra Leone: For Chamakay, the lush lead single off Dev's sophomore Blood Orange record Cupid Deluxe, he and Adam traveled to Guyana — where Dev's mother is originally from — to shoot its music video. During the visit, Dev met with members of his family for the first time, including his 92-year-old grandfather. Freetown Sound, however, explores his father's roots on the other side of the Atlantic, in Sierra Leone. "It was basically a town where freed slaves were sent to live a comfy, Christian life," Dev explained of his father's hometown. The record will explore issues specific to the community — "for example, there's a song on the album where the underbelly of it is audio of a woman in Freetown, speaking in Krio, discussing when the rebels came in and destroyed her village" — as well as Christianity's complex evolution in Western Africa.
But it also explores the experience of being black in America: Though Freetown Sound traces Dev's lineage, the record promises a powerful consideration of the black American experience. Adam and Dev discussed the making of Sandra's Smile and Do You See My Skin Through the Flames, two songs Dev released in response to Sandra Bland and Eric Garner's unjust deaths at the hands of police. "Now we're looking at black culture and heritage, your own heritage, personal heritage, the wider heritage," said Adam, offering a thoughtful contextualisation of the Blood Orange trilogy: "if [Coastal Grooves, Dev's first album as Blood Orange] was defining identity and [Cupid Deluxe] was interpersonal relationships and that identity, I think [Freetown Sound] is your identity in society, maybe? It's now where you stand in relationship to the universe as opposed to just a smaller group of people." Dev agreed. "Definitely. That's very interesting because the last album was more, 'This is me and the type of person I am amongst this certain corner of the world,' and this album is taking a step out and being like, 'Oh, I am a black man living in America.'"
Dev needs a headphones deal: "I'm never gonna be a person where you come to see me and I'm playing 10 new ambient drone songs," Hynes joked. And yet, even his most up-tempo, dance-inducing tunes aren't designed for his live shows: "When I make Blood Orange music, I only ever think about people listening to it on headphones — on the train, walking around." Adam then called on any powerful headphone executive that might be tuning in. "We've got your next big concept: Dev Hynes wants to do a live show where everyone in the audience is wearing headphones…" "...and we're all on the subway," Dev laughed. You heard em', Dre.
Obama made Dev reconsider his favourite Kendrick track: Throughout the hour, Adam spun a mix of songs Dev composed, as well as others that inspire his work and process. This selection included The Beastie Boys' "B-Boy Bouillabaisse: 59th Chrystie Street," a cut from the trio's sophomore album Paul's Boutique — the cult, experimental record Hynes already revealed shapes his approach to sampling on Freetown Sound. Yet the pair also dedicated some airtime to Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, discussing their favourite tunes from the Compton rapper's opus. "It always changes," Dev said of his top TPAB song, "but after Obama said 'How Much a Dollar Cost' was his favorite song, I reevaluated that song...and it's fuckin' amazing!"
Dev got an invite to see Prince perform in a casino via a mysterious DM: While Adam expressed his total devastation for never having been able to see Prince live, Dev had a heartwarming story to share about watching the Purple One reign. He received a Twitter DM from a woman claiming to be Prince's manager, who invited him to a show inside a London casino taking place that evening. The woman only had about 30 followers, so Dev — after accepting the offer immediately — did some Googling to try and find out if she was legit. With no further contact or confirmation from the mysterious manager, Dev and then-girlfriend Samantha Urbani showed up anyway, told the bouncer their names, and strolled right into a small back room with no more than 50 others. "It was in-fucking-sane, he came on with 3rdeyegirl and they played for over two hours. After the first hour, he was just like, 'Do you know how many hits we have? Going to be here all night!' I was like, 'I am down to be here all night.'" Dev recorded full voice memos of Purple Rain and Nothing Compares 2 U, and — after waiting around for hours — caught a glimpse of Prince's fro and flairs as he strode by Hynes and Urbani, frozen in their tracks. "It was the craziest thing, there was no sound or anything, we just looked... The presence, the purple presence."
Text Emily Manning
Photography Beau Grealy
Styling Andreas Kokkino