“It’s a completely different sound,” Richard tells Billboard of Blackheart in an exclusive interview. “Lyrically and storytelling-wise, it is in the same fashion of Goldenheart. … But I wanted each album to stand on its own, and have a cohesive story. The story in itself is about my journey throughout the music industry, and the love, the hate, the redemption and the whole thing in between.”
Indeed, it’s been quite the journey for Richard, the 31-year-old New Orleans native who began her mainstream career as a member of Danity Kane and then transitioned into the trio Diddy-Dirty Money before embarking on a solo career. Two EPs, Armor On and Whiteout, were released in 2012, and Goldenheart earned critical acclaim for its mix of elastic R&B and medieval iconography.
In August 2013, however, Richard announced that she would put her solo career on hold to reunite to Danity Kane, telling Billboard earlier this year, “My girls asked me to come back, and I had to pay homage to the fact that there wouldn't be 'Goldenheart' if there wasn't Danity Kane." The reunion produced a tour and a new album, DK3, that was released earlier this week, but a physical altercation in the studio last August put an end to the lineup of Richard, Aubrey O’Day and Shannon Bex.
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The abrupt disbandment came during a rocky period for Richard last summer: her grandmother passed away, and her father was diagnosed with cancer. “All of the craziness happened at once,” says Richard, “and I hit a place where it was a do-or-die moment for me. I really wanted to prove that I had a story to tell, and not only that, but that I wanted to make people that I lost proud.”
Blackheart was originally conceived right after the release of Goldenheart in early 2013, but was put on hold for the Danity Kane reunion; with that project completed, Richard quickly returned to finishing her next solo effort. The new album will feature more production work from Richard herself along with close collaborator Noisecastle, and move away from the R&B sound of its predecessor. “Blackheart is purely falling into the electronic world, and pushing the envelope,” she says.
Along with the album, Richard will concurrently launch a footwear collaboration with Lust For Life that is available for pre-order. And although Richard says that she hasn’t spoken to her Danity Kane co-members since the incident in August, she says that she will always be part of the girl group known for hits like “Damaged” and “Show Stopper.”
“I’m still a part of the other five — I’m never turning that down,” says Richard. “I just think I’ve done the best that I possibly could. I did my part in releasing the [Danity Kane] album, so now all I can do is support whatever’s out there and wish everyone the best, and now continue to make great music that doesn’t affect my group. We’re not promoting it, we’re not even doing videos or anything for it, which was the decision that wasn’t my own. So I have to move forward.”