D∆WN, a.k.a. Dawn Richard, who is one of the most consistently interesting and creative musicians of the past several years, has released the first full-length video from her 2016 stunner REDEMPTION—one of the best albums of the year—and it’s characteristically innovative, soulful and lovely.
The clip for the Richard and Machinedrum-produced track “LA,” which we’re debuting here, depicts her taking up space and claiming the streets of Los Angeles through dance, reflective and explicitly redemptive of the lyric “These LA streets are killin’ me.” While she doesn’t explicitly specify how, we can perhaps infer it—“We just wanna know if we really matter,” she sings, mirroring her intent in the video with a raised fist.
There’s also, perhaps, an element of displacement. Los Angeles is her adopted home, and she was born and raised in New Orleans (also “LA”). She pays homage to her own and the city’s history in the song, maybe both melancholy and proud when she sings, “We been friends since Wayne was a Hot Boy... he said we should keep drivin’ for the sake of survivin’, now we hot, boy.”
“‘LA’ is such a personal record and visual to me. It explains the parallels of the struggle and beauty I’ve encountered in both Louisiana and Los Angeles,” says Richard over email. The stark, contrasting crimson overlaid periodically on the black and white background was a studied choice for her and director/frequent collaborator Monty Marsh. “Red signifies the redemption I find in both the grit and the glamour,” she says.
The act of Richard’s dancing through various landscapes across the city of Los Angeles—in both street vistas and among impossibly pristine architecture, wearing sweats and gowns and glitter on her face—is a visceral way to assert herself among it, to assert control over her surroundings and to place herself as belonging within them. It’s the antithesis of the way suppression can manifest itself in how women take up space, and why it’s always so heartening to see women litefeet (“Showtime”) dancers on the subway: by moving so freely and so outside of typical norms in a public space is a way of making it your own. Richard’s power as an artist is embodied in this, rooted partly in her confidence and partly in her ability to subvert convention. Her music is so innovative because she makes herself free.
Redemption is out now on Local Action/Our Dawn Ent. She is touring the East Coast in July, dates below, and will announce EU dates in the coming months.
East Coast tour dates:
July 13 - Our Club, Detroit
July 14 - Pitchfork Festival, Chicago
July 15 - Drake, Toronto
July 19 - Port City Music Hall, Portland
July 20 - Great Scott, Boston
July 21 - Coda, Philadelphia
July 22 - Knitting Factory, Brooklyn
*also playing Sonar Fest