Since shedding the skin of her former band memberships, Dawn Richard — who switched to the mononym D?WN — has relished in the freedom of steering her own ship and released her debut EP Armor in 2012. She went on to release two albums Goldenheart (2013) and Blackheart (2015) — which makes up two-thirds of the Heart trilogy — and the projects revealed two pivotal periods in the singer’s life. Preparing to reveal the third and final installment Redemption via Local Action/ Our Dawn Entertainment, D?WN finds solace after a dreary chapter in her life. Redemption is slated for release on Nov. 18 and the first taste of the forthcoming album comes today with “Renegades”– which Billboard Dance is premiering exclusively below.
A self-assured D?WN introduced herself on Goldenheart — the warrior-inspired record which drew influences from erotic painter Gustav Klimt and female warrior Joan of Arc — and served as a 16-track message to everyone who doubted the New Orleans native’s talent. Progressing as an independent artist and often being told she was “over-ambitious”, Blackheart chronicled the downside of the music industry. “Once you get to a place where you’ve fought this battle, you look up and you’ve lost all these people along the way”, she told Billboard Dance of her “black era”. “At the end of that, there was a hint of hope because the recovery was coming.
D?WN’s hometown New Orleans is one of the major driving forces behind Redemption as she merges NOLA’s live instruments with her signature futuristic sound, further solidifying the singer’s place as an avant-garde musician. While guest appearances on her past albums have been absent, the genre-bender taps Grammy award-winning musician-producer PJ Morton and Trombone Shorty — both New Orleans artists and the only features on the upcoming album.
Even though electronic music is often euphoric, D?WN touches on some of the issues that torment African-Americans in a song she calls “Black Crime”. “The amount of crimes that are happening, they seem to love to kill us, so I call them love crimes, they love killing who we are as a ‘people’.” Understanding her diverse fan-base, her album also features a record that speaks on gay rights and feminism. “They are the work of art. They are built to be beautiful and no one can really take that from them.”
2016 has brought about a slew of visual albums such as the critically acclaimed Lemonade and Frank Ocean‘s Endless but D?WN isn’t looking to follow suit. The “Calypso” crooner is stepping into the tech world and aside from a traditional album release, D?WN will gift Redemption to fans in an unconventional form: a USB. The USB will be in the form of a triangle — a symbolization the Heart trilogy — and can also be donned as a chain. The USB will include the the entire album along with photos, lyrics and virtual reality visuals — an innovative approach to music videos which D?WN is no stranger to.
Her newest single “Renegades” comes as a gritty electro-pop “rebel” anthem. The Machinedrum-assisted arrangement features a skittering rhythmic base line laced with D?WN’s rich soulful vocals. “[“Renegades”] it speaks of the rebels. We are the glitter of this community and I kind of wanted to make an anthem where it felt like there was an overtake happening.”
Redemption is available for pre-order here. Check out the exclusive premiere for “Renegades” below.