Showing respect to your roots has always been Dawn Richard’s M.O. While this was only glimpsed in fleeting moments on past records, new breed is a homage to the sound and people of the singer’s native New Orleans. Full of soundbites from members of the community and spoken word from Richard herself, the album wastes no time making the statement that NOLA — particularly the ninth ward — fosters perseverance in its citizens; the singer makes reference to “the new breed,” diamonds, and other worthy titles for the people she grew up with.
The album explores a more subdued electronic sound in comparison to Richard’s previous efforts, with a greater emphasis placed on drums and chants to achieve a tribal sound with an electric edge. Of course the singer never rests on her laurels, combining various genres such as funk, R&B, trap, and pop, never wavering in her mission to be undefinable. After the ditty of a introduction “the nine,” Richard makes clear her intentions with the title track; she follows with demands for inclusivity (“spaces”), gives her best Prince impression (she nails it, if there was any uncertainty) on “shades,” shows off her playful side (“jealousy” and “sauce”), and calls out predators on “vultures / wolves.” The latter is perhaps the most powerful track, likening those that have abused their power to the titular scavengers, with the singer praying them away from not only herself but for girls that will inevitably end up in similar circumstances.
On a record doing so much so well, it’s only natural it have one flaw. new breed’s singular misstep is “dreams & converse,” an inspirational cut that feels a bit pandering in relation to the rest of Richard’s lyricism; not a bad song, just not an exceptional one. Thankfully it’s an early track, leaving so much redeeming art to lead the listener back to where they need to go. By the time the last note of “ketchup & po’boys” has been sung, any critique is nothing more than a thought long lost to the wind.
Standout tracks: “new breed,” “shades,” “sauce,” “vultures / wolves”