Second Line

Dawn Richard

Second Line

On her sixth LP, Dawn Richard wanted to celebrate the Black DJs and producers who played an instrumental role in developing the early sounds of electronic music. “Dance music has always been culturally from a Black culture,” Richard tells Apple Music. “It’s Detroit house, Chicago footwork, the New Jersey sound, D.C. go-go, and it goes on.” Dismayed by their lack of representation in festivals and playlists, most notably female artists, the New Orleans artist felt the need to speak louder through her art in order to break the glass ceiling. “I have always been a warrior, this Black woman fighting in a space where I didn't think I needed to fight,” she adds. “Conceptually, this album became bigger than just a sonic experience—it became an intention.”
Also driven by a desire to bring her hometown to the fore, Richard wanted to tell the story of New Orleans filtered through a post-apocalyptic lens—an idea that started from some sketches she drew while working as a creative consultant for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Centered around an android alter ego she created called King Creole, Second Line is a futurist, dance-driven voyage intended to narrate her evolution from girl-group reality star to independent artist. “I had to figure out how to stand on my own in a system that didn't look at me as belonging in the genre that I was trying to tackle,” she says. “The android was the mainstream journey. Then the independent hustle comes, and you get to see King Creole as the human.” Read on as Richard guides you on her journey through self-discovery.
“King Creole (Intro)” “It is a call to arms saying, if you thought you knew what this genre or what this electronic idea was, I'm going to show you what it really is. And I'm going to add New Orleans all over it right out the gate. So you know it's going to drip with soul and presence, and electronic is not just going to be an algorithm—it's going to be a soulful experience.”
“Nostalgia” “I wanted to make sure that I paid homage to those who created and started a genre that is usually not recognized. Larry Heard was one of those incredible DJs and producers that I actually loved. I wanted to say, ‘Let's go back to Black, because this genre was started and developed by a culture that is Black.' I'm also introducing the mechanics of King Creole and her build—the first half of the album is the machine version of King Creole. It's the android—so that's why the beats per minute is fast and why we're dealing with a more processed sound.”
“Boomerang” “Now we're playing with the vocals as the instrumentation to bring us through. So out the gate, we're hearing the vocoder, the harmonization between the vocals. And again, paying homage to a sound that was curated by Blacks. So again, disco becomes the next one. We're still in the future, but we're paying homage to the root. And with 'Boomerang,' there are all these messages saying that the love comes back. If you give love out, it'll come back tenfold. So it's the idea that within this space, each record pays homage to the things that came before.”
“Bussifame” “The word itself comes from New Orleans. We talk fast so everything we do is bled together. So really, it generally was ‘bust it for me’—like ‘bust a move’—but in New Orleans that sounds like ‘Bussifame.’ I was paying respects to the accent. I wanted to try to take it to the next level, bring New Orleans to the future. We don't hear New Orleans in this kind of sound, and that was the fun part—to create something that doesn't exist yet.”
“Pressure” “To me, ‘Pressure’ was taking a traditional pop record and completely de-structuring it—adding bits of Chicago footwork, adding bits of go-go, adding bits of drum and bass, like really playing with movement within the bass and the sound. The record constantly moves. By the end of it, it goes into hip-hop. I'm just spitting at that point. Like the cockiness to say that, 'I'm going to give you a record that has four different transitions, and you will never know what to expect.'”
“Pilot (A Lude)” “It's a bounce record. It's an ode to Freedia, Katey Red, and Messy Mya, and I got to show love to my city. If I'm going to talk about dance, I got to show love to where I grew up in. And again, calling the record 'Pilot,' saying that we are the flyers of this. We steer this. Call us the pilots, because we are the connoisseurs of this thing that we do.”
“Jacuzzi” “I always love juxtapositions, like applying something as catchy and melodic to the raunchiest of records. I've always felt like Black women have been severely disrespected within us owning our sexuality. And on every album, I've always had one song that best speaks to that. I really wanted to connect the relationship of one's body when you think about the intertwining of android to human; what that physically looks like sexually to the body, and how machine can make sense to human skin.”
“FiveOhFour (A Lude)” “504 is an area code in New Orleans. You fight very hard to have that 504. The 504 legitimizes you as you're legit New Orleans. I produced it myself, showing that I didn't need a collaborator for this. It is purposely gritty, it is purposely pitched low. You're starting to see the shift in where I'm getting out of android and going into human. But more importantly, I'm showing how culturally important New Orleans is as the narrator of this process.”
“Voodoo (Intermission)” “This is all Blade Runner at this point, the soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic New Orleans. So King Creole comes out, and she’s telling everyone that she's on a mission to give you more. This is the human in her that wants that acceptance and love. She's having the vulnerability to say, 'All I want is your love. If you can just see me, I can give you all of this.'”
“Mornin Streetlights” “‘Mornin Streetlights’ starts with my mom speaking about how the only person she's ever loved is my father. They met when they were 15 and they've been together ever since. I love music, and the reason why I've been so tenacious at it is because I've only known love like that. I've only been taught to love the way my mom and dad have loved. That's what I grew up in, but it also makes sense as to the way I love my art. I love it with a tenacity that I can't give up.”
“Le Petit Morte (A Lude)” “I wanted something that was honest. Even just start with the comment ‘This is the last time I'm going to write a song about you.' It's like going from talking about how I love this music to then saying, 'But I'm tired of talking about my relationship with art and music.' It is my purest and most honest moment and I'm at my most vulnerable. And I freestyled that entire record. I did that as soon as I walked in. My dad played the piano on it and I just wailed. I didn't even know what was coming out.”
“Radio Free” “You see the album now start to transition into hope, because I never sit in that dark place too long. So with ‘Le Petit Morte,’ it felt a little like death. It's acknowledging the death, whereas 'Radio Free' is acknowledging the loss but understanding that you can play your freedom loud.”
“The Potter” “‘The Potter’ is seeing the loss of worthiness but exposing it and saying, ‘Okay. But how do I see myself as worthy?’ It came to me when I was in church. What happens when you rust, rot, and you sit on the shelf? Will you be loved then? Who am I now? They let you go, and then how do you go on? How do you go on knowing you are this sculpted thing that once was so beautiful that is now worthless to those? And how do you find your worth within that place?”
“Perfect Storm” “It’s literally being in a storm—having lost everything and being in Katrina and recognizing that we were homeless. It was beautiful the day before. It was hell the day it happened. And then, the next day, it was beautiful again, as if it didn't happen, and everything in its path was gone. My biggest theme and aim was to make the record as close to an actual storm as I possibly could—and that breath of fresh air that you feel when you realize that you've lost everything and that you're still alive.”
“Voodoo (Outermission)” “So now we're out of it, and now I'm bringing you to what will be the next album in the trilogy. Because we're on album two after new breed. I'm taking myself and removing it out of the art and the music industry, and now it is me as myself. And so I'm trying to maneuver you guys out of that journey, and I'm bringing you into what will be the next phase.”
“SELFish (Outro)” “When people think of selfish, they think of it negatively, and I totally threw that out the window. I've always loved to mess with interludes and make these hidden gems where people are like, 'Why wasn't this song longer?' With this one, I thought it would be really cool to make an outro eight minutes. Black women, especially, we are punished for wanting more for ourselves. And I just want to encourage artists that it's okay to put yourself first in the process.”

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