Exploring Black Existence with Blood Orange’s New Album ‘Negro Swan’

Dev Hynes, better known as his alias Blood Orange, dropped his fourth album Negro Swan and it may be one of the most personal and influential works yet.

Courtesy of Turntable Lab

Hynes has described Negro Swan as a look into “black depression, an honest look at the corners of black existence, and the ongoing anxieties of queer people and people of colour”, such as himself. With his 2016 hit album, Freetown Sound, Hynes joined the list of black millennials who challenge the perceptions and assumptions that the world makes about people of colour.

Negro Swan illustrates the harrowing nature of being a marginalised person in the current political climate. Between songs, there are snippets included from his interviews with Janet Mock, the first black transgender woman to write and direct an episode for the show Pose. Mock’s monologues throughout the album further demonstrate the point that Hynes is getting across to the listeners: the trauma and struggle for queer people and people of colour.

Hynes shifts between multiple styles and genres throughout the album as he continues his storytelling. Each track explores a different issue faced by people of colour. Throughout each track, he captures both sides of the story equally and delivers to his listeners: it’s what makes the album so undeniably powerful. In the opening track, ‘Orlando’, Hynes opens up about the insecurities he developed due to bullying. In “First Kiss was the Floor”, Hynes sings of the bullying and physical violence he endured during high school. ‘Hope’ is another central song for the album, featuring Puff Daddy and newcomer Canadian singer, Tei Shi. Hynes considers it to be the central theme of his album: “the underlying thread through each piece on the album is the idea of HOPE, and the lights we can try to turn on within ourselves with a hopefully positive outcome of helping others out of their darkness.” The album concludes with the acoustic ‘Smoke’. This song offers hope as the same lyrics repeat again and again, “the sun comes in/ my heart fulfilled within”.

This generation needs a voice like Dev Hynes. In a world full of hate and prejudice, with the undeniable presence of white privilege oppressing the marginalised, Hynes’ album is influential and a spiritual experience. The weight of the lyrical subject matter is as deeply personal as it is relatable. Hynes manages to offer a safe place for his listeners, and provide inspirational self-love. Through the beautiful narration of his emotional personal story, he manages to make aware that people are not alone, and that they belong.

Listened to Negro Swan yet? Let us know what you think in the comments below.