Tune Glue 010: Dawn Richard

An interview with singer, songwriter, actress, and dancer Dawn Richard

Welcome to Tune Glue, a newsletter that’s run in conjunction with Tone Glow. While the latter is dedicated to presenting interviews and reviews related to experimental music, Tune Glue is a space for interviews with artists of any kind. These interviews could be with video game designers, perfumers, or musicians who aren’t aligned with what Tone Glow typically covers. Thanks for reading.

Note: subscribing via this button does not automatically subscribe you to Tune Glue. To subscribe, you have to manually go into your account and mark which Tone Glow “sections” you want to be subscribed to. More information here.

Dawn Richard

Dawn Richard. Photo by Petros Koy; Fashion stylist - Oliver Brown; Photo assistant - Leijan Alvarez; Photo assistant - Alfield Reeves; Makeup artist - Kierra Lanice; Manicurist - Jenessa Davis; Hair - Sheila Fisher; Fashion assistant - Safa Haque.

Dawn Richard is a music industry vet—her career spans pop music girl groups to a collaborative album with Diddy, Kalenna Harper, and what feels like all of hip-hop royalty to now six studio albums as a solo artist. Music industry vets, critics, and even fans have described her music with all sorts of genre labels from pop to R&B to dance to electronic and yet Dawn takes a different approach. On her newest album Second Line, which is a reimagining of her hometown, New Orleans, in a post-apocalyptic rebirth, she closes the intro with a declaration: I don’t need a genre. I am the genre.

And listening to her music makes it clearer: genre labels feel limiting because they settle for descriptions when her music wants you to use your imagination, to see color and images, to feel movement and emotion. Richard wants to make sure that you get the breadth, the enormity, the higher order meaning of a project. And yet, her work itself is detailed—meticulously curated and put together—with layers upon layers of meaning and symbolism. Her approach feels almost academic but the end result feels more like a bottled-up essence—a feeling—that inspires less of a college thesis than strutting, uniform, on-beat movement on the sidewalks of her hometown. 

We recently sat down to speak with Dawn, from her home in New Orleans. We chatted about the detail in her audio and visual craft, expanding space in the vast canvas of dance and electronic music, the importance of dance and choreography in her work, and yes, moms. —Crystal Leww

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Crystal Leww: What stands out when I listen to your music is that it’s basically straight-up dance and electronic music but it’s got a heavy vocal element. How do you decide on what sounds you end up using as part of your work?

Dawn Richard: I try to be as authentic as I can to what I normally am. I grew up in New Orleans in soul, in jazz, in blues. I always had a heavier tone, a raspier tone. So, I knew early on, vocally, that people would resonate with that blues-y way. I always loved artists that always vocally had signatures—Dolores from The Cranberries, Florence Welch, Melissa Etheridge, Alanis Morissette—these interesting inflections that were not necessarily in my culture and as vocally amazing, but something that I wanted to embody as an artist. For me, vocals have always been more a part of the instrumentation and less separate. 

And using that with electronic to me is so obviously fun because you have processing and analogue, you have structure that gets broken down in completely different ways when you deal with electronic music. There’s syncopation with vocals that becomes fun. Where normally a run would be analyzed in the R&B world, you’re taking a run and processing it and putting it in a space with padding and synth—that has been more fun. That’s been my relationship when I try to do my music: have fun. Using the vocal as an instrument and seeing the vocal stretch in the syncopation of the electronic structure.

I think that’s really cool. I will cop to being a fan of Danity Kane and girl groups. I remember listening to “Show Stopper” and being like, wow—because a cool thing about a girl group is that you can do many different things with the different voices, and I remember on “Show Stopper” it was like the different vocals were percussion—not just harmonies. It’s so cool hearing you say that.

It’s always been like that! Even the choice of ad-libs when you listen to “Damaged,” which was a huge dance record, just even the runs and the choice of space to utilize the ad-libs was so fun for me—the pocket, finding the pocket and finding how I could create sound that was less about vocal and more about placement and syncopation. I fed it more and more as I got on in my career and the more and more space that I was given as I went from groups where I had to limit it to my section to a soloist where I had a complete canvas.

Speaking of the canvas, I’ve heard everything [in your work] from drum 'n' bass drums to vogue, house and that tradition. How do you decide what part of the canvas you play on? Dance music is a huge umbrella, so how do you pick the sounds as you approach a project?

Well you just nailed it. You said that dance is such a huge canvas but we forget that. We think of electronic music as a small linear thing, the same sound. In New Orleans, bounce is dance music. We don’t apply that as dance music but the truth is that dance is so large and it makes it fun. Anything [with] true cadence, especially with the drum, I’m living off of. So when you talk about voguing to ballroom to bounce to go-go to straight-up house—all those have one derivative—the choice of drum, the cadence. It goes, to me, to African and Indigenous drum pattern. Pattern is precise. When you listen to them, the choice isn’t that far off—they all have the same type of cadence and choice even if the timing is different. But the bottom, the root of the base, it drives in a similar pattern, almost in an African and Indigenous way, so it feels almost tribal. 

I get attracted to those types of sounds. I’ll stay with that structure—start there—and as I get hungry, and as I start to listen to industrial sounds, [it becomes], how can I break up those things and take the derivatives and see how far they stretch? So records like “Pressure” where it starts out [with a] super linear structure, it starts to break off into all these fragments. I want to showcase that!

And like you said, electronic isn’t linear—it is vast. How can you play within that spectrum? And it may feel chaotic because we’re showing the versatility of it but the point is to show how versatile and how many subgenres there are in that space because we’ve forgotten. We’ve forgotten. 

We really have. And if you think about that process. Sorry I’m a dork—I love to talk about process.

Now you’re talking about my thing (laughter).

If you think about process, how does it start? When you’re putting together a project, does your songwriting process start with an idea? With a theme? With the drum pattern? Does it differ?

It differs. Most of the time, when I’m sitting down and start writing, I know exactly the theme. It’s always a visual experience for me. I knew coming into [Second Line] that I wanted a post-apocalyptic feel. I just knew. I had been looking at Blade Runner, I had been listening to a lot of film scores—Hans Zimmer, Jóhann Jóhannsson—I had been listening to a lot of cinematic choices. And then I started looking at old Stanley Kubrick and I loved the way that films choose to put color within their films to advocate their choice of how they want to be. How do I put gems and eggs in my music as I build that structure? And as I sat down, I was like how do I make New Orleans this post-apocalyptic world? And how do I take electronic to a place where they can understand and tell culture as the story?

And then I put pen to pad. Then titles start. Just titles. What kind of words apply to that? And then lyrics come and then I’ll play with sound. Sometimes I’ll just do acapella. Sometimes I can hear the entire record without a drum, I can just hear vocally how I want it to move. So the choice of moving with human and machine became the next story. How do I tell the story of me being on a label—being bred and born in a machine—and then becoming DIY and being extremely vulnerable and as human as possible? So many mistakes (laughs).

So many wrong turns! How do I turn post-apocalyptic New Orleans and that robot and that human and make that into a story? That’s how that started. Then I went in musically with that in mind. Pasting it all over the studio. Ex Machina—that visual—was printed out and put on there. Blade Runner was put on there. The titles I was coming up with was put on there. New Orleans as a theme was put on there. And that became the visual. A lot of time I know the concept before I propose something else—I have to see it. If I can’t tell the story I’m not doing that album.

Are you thinking, how am I going to shoot the video? How am I going to perform this live?

Yeah! How am I going to shoot the video? Can I dance to it? And choreography! I have to be able to dance to it, even if it’s a slow record. How can I present this in a form of art in motion? All of it has to work together. If it sounds good but I can’t translate it live and I can’t translate it into the body, I have to revamp. All that is going on as I put the record down. I’m not just putting down the record, the lyrics aren’t just lyrics. It’s like, okay, once I do this, is there a deeper meaning to this and can it be translated for people to feel it?

I saw you in Chicago probably five or six years ago. 


No, it was before then. It might have been right around the time when you were first coming out with your solo work. I just remember the show being very red and the color red.


When you think about Second Line, what visually comes to mind? You mentioned the android—the robot and the human part—but what does Second Line feel like to you visually?

Primary colors.

Primary colors? Interesting. 

If you look at the music video, it’s blue, red, and yellow. Primary colors. Why? When you think about primary colors you think of three. It cannot be divided into. When you think of a battle, the second line finishes the fight. That’s the definition of a second line beyond New Orleans, beyond the parade. Once the second line comes in, they’re cleaning house. Whatever the first line didn’t get, the second line is clearing out. Whatever this album is, it’s finishing. Once you get into this album, you’ll know it’s message. There won’t be any hint of question after that. I had to create that within color.

Blue, red, and yellow—to me—for Black people and what it looks like on our skin, it’s such a beautiful visual. That, too, worked for me. The black flesh looked good in that color palette. So having Black women in primary colors, dealing with the word prime that you cannot have derivatives of this idea—this is the idea. That visually to me is what Second Line is. That’s what is what we’ll create live—the blue, red, and yellow. And also in the Haitian flag—the colors blue, red, and white with the gold strip in the middle resonates with what I grew up in, with my culture. There was lots of symbol in that. Color has always played a part. In even deciding and researching what primary colors are.

Let’s talk about moms. I love talking about moms.

(happy yell) (laughter).

Family is so much at the forefront of Second Line. I mean your mom is like, literally in the album, and it’s quite a romantic album with your mom talking about her relationship with your father. What was it like working with family? How did it come together?

It was stressful (laughter). I have a really close relationship with my parents. They’ve always been supportive. They’ve always been in my life. But it was not always perfect roses. I went through what any kid goes through—they didn’t get me when I was growing up and now they get me now—that type of thing. They knew I was always going to be the odd ball, I was always that from birth and that wasn’t always a great thing. I think specifically with my mom, I think her and I have always just not really seen [eye to eye]. We’ve always had what any mother and daughter have had.

But then the pandemic happened and my mom was getting a knee replacement. And I wanted to be her house nurse. I flew to take care of her and I packed for however long it would take and I was there—I helped her clean her stool and helped her urine—I was there. And then the pandemic happened and I got stuck at the house with mom and dad. It was tedious! I was a grown woman and I had rules again. I had to wash clothes a certain way. And on top of that, I was finishing an album, nowhere near where I was originally finishing it. I was between LA and here. Because of the pandemic, I couldn’t get to the studio to finish the things I wanted to do so I was limited to this right here (gestures at computer) on the sofa.

So we would talk a lot. And because mom was at a place where she was vulnerable—she didn’t have her legs, a dancer who didn’t have her legs—we started talking. The things she was saying—I was like, I didn’t know that about you. I realized that I didn’t know my mom as an adult, who she was before being mom. So we would have these conversations and I started taping them. Because we would be having these conversations and this made so much sense for what I was building with my music work. And originally, I was going to do my mom as a narrator in a different way. When I did new breed, my dad was a narrator with his music as a sample. I was going to do my mom visually as dance. That was originally how I wanted to do it but this was too good, the conversations, and how she spoke about her passions, how she spoke about my father, it really resonated with me so I just decided to use it. She had no clue I was going to use it in the album but it just felt so honest and so truthful to why I love music, my love instrument, my passions enveloped into my entire journey as an artist. She became the throughline.

And that point you were just picking out samples that worked for the story that you were trying to tell?

Yeah, I didn’t expect to. I just recorded her and then I listened back and I was like, damn this feels so good here. That resonates with me here. And I just started to put it where it felt good. Way better than I could do dance. It just felt more honest.

If you think about the story that you had described—a post-apocalyptic New Orleans—this feels very soft and warm compared to what feels like a post-apocalyptic world. So tell me a bit more about how those two pieces fit together.

When I think about post apocalyptic New Orleans, we are not going to be like New York and LA. It’s going to have more soul, be honest. When I think about the end of something, a clearing when something horrible has happened and in the midst of it, the Black woman evolves into that story—why wouldn’t it be vulnerable and soft and honest? Because to me, that is my mom. That is the definition of a strong-ass woman. That softness isn’t weakness. That softness is strength. That honesty and vulnerability is what New Orleans will be—the first thing you see after the clearing and tragedy and desolated New Orleans will be the Black woman as honest and true and beautiful. And that’s how I wanted to portray it.

Even with the visuals—“Bussifame”—it’s always Black women with the same hairstyles. It’s truthfully being purposeful. When I think about this new-age sci-fi world, in Terminator it was a young boy to save this android. In Mad Max, it was Charlize Theron—a woman—she saved Mad Max in that world. And then going to Blade Runner, the idea that the oracle, the daughter, was the symbiosis of all of it. It would not shock me that a Black woman—the softness of it would be the true beginning of a new New Orleans.

If I think about setting in general for the album, when I think of dance music, it’s very associated with the club. There was an interview that I listened to with you where you said that the second line is actually about hearing the beat on the street. I thought it was fascinating, the idea of dance music being anywhere. Tell me a little about setting—how it challenges the notion of where dance music can happen.

It only makes sense. Where I come from, dance is on the street, music is on the street, life happens on the street. When you see Mardi Gras, I feel like the Mardi Gras Indians rival any vogue house for Fashion Week because they sew with dental floss and tiny beads—[it’s] these massive pieces that take years to make. And they don’t have a runway—their runway is the concrete. It’s under the bridge.

It’s no different for when you hear music. In New Orleans, the club does not happen on the inside. You walk around and you hear a trumpet and that’s natural here. I’m bringing what’s already included and I’m bringing it into the possibilities for the future. If this happened [the post-apocalypse], what would that feel like? It would still feel like a club outside. In this world that I created, it’s the same. 

It also speaks to what people think electronic music is. You think the club, but that has never been the case. Dance music started from Detroit, Chicago, so that type of essence, that drum, that feeling—that’s not a club, it’s a lifestyle. Dance music is a lifestyle more than just on a dance floor. Culturally, we forgot. We took it back to this linear idea that oh, that’s trance, it’s electronic, it’s dance, it’s rave. That’s part of it, but the bottom of that, it’s a lifestyle.

The club is the street where we know dance music, when we hear bounce, that’s where we do it anywhere—whatever moves us, we dance. 

When I think of dance music, people generally picture a DJ, he is usually wearing huge headphones behind the decks.

Say it, say it—usually a he.

You do something very different from that. Visually and just style-wise. What do you think your place in dance music to be? It’s so contrary to the guy behind the decks... 

But isn’t electronic supposed to be that? Like how can R&B and hip-hop and country be all this? Like [in country], you have Lady Antebellum and Rascal Flatts and Dolly Parton. How can you give [other] genres so much width and bandwidth to be things? And then you give a genre like electronic one thing—this space of white male DJs or producers with featured artists? I mean they exist there but if you’re going to call it dance music, why can’t the 8-count be present? Why aren’t artists that can actually dance a part of dance music?

I just want to bring a different avenue to be a part of my peers. I find it crazy that because I dance, because I produce, because I sing, I now have to be in pop or R&B because I’m not a DJ.

I wanted to be a part of it. When you look at the awards shows, 90% of the people who are nominated are producers or DJs and most of the time, they’re men. There are featured artists on produced albums. [But] that’s not realistic to what the genre is. There are multiple artists that exist that do all of it—they sing on it, they dance on it, they produce it. And especially women, we truly get the short end of the stick because as soon as we put our mouths to the mic, we are no longer producers, we are no longer DJs. If you’re a Black female DJ, god forbid, good luck to you because you’re not even getting booked. All I want to do is open the spectrum a little bit. I’m just one of many, like Jayda G, all these incredible, cool Black females, females in general, also queer artists who are just cool artists. We should have more of that because isn’t the queer culture a part of the dance realm anyway? I just want to open the spectrum.

I like that you brought that up. If I think about New Orleans and bounce music specifically, you got Big Freedia and Katey Red…

Big Freedia, Messy Mya, 5th Ward Weebie, Katey Red—and we never acknowledged that bounce music is dance. It’s rap music to people.


We don’t look at Freedia as an electronic artist or a dance artist. We don’t put her there but she’s always been, to me, a dance artist. Just the idea that we haven’t even acknowledged New Orleans, which is so small. The only reason why it’s popular is because other artists who are not from around here have used the sound to make it mainstream and now it’s a mainstream thing. But the truth is, before that, we were not seen as dance music but it totally is.

Totally an aside, the best New Year’s Eve I ever spent was at a Big Freedia show (laughs).

I’m so proud of Freedia, too. It took so long, there were so many before her that have given this realm of world and finally to see it come to fruition, it’s deserved. And I just wish for more and more artists—not just to have a token one—but to have many, many appreciated cause there have been so many before that have paved the way.

Dawn Richard. Photo by Alexander Le’Jo; Photo assistant - Kaelyn Jackson; Post Production - Olya Yakovleva; Wardrobe Stylist - Omega Lewis; Custom Pants - Dwayne Collections; Makeup Artist - Tamara Camille Soublet; Hairstylist - Kasii Mimms; Set Designer - Christiani Nix.

And if you think about the relationship between the LGBTQ community and dance music and Black women, how do you think about that? Specifically, in New Orleans too…

It’s underappreciated. If we go back to when you choose to be soulful on electronic music, all I can think about is Crystal Waters and all these incredible toplines that were soulful to begin with, when we think about disco and Donna Summers, there has always been a Black woman’s voice or a queer person’s voice on the topline of every incredible dance record. So the fact that we [still] have to give due to the LGBTQIA for all the contributions that they have given to dance music, that’s mind boggling to me. That’s something we have to start speaking about more. For every white man we give props to in electronic music, we should be having three more queer [people] as a part of that conversation.

We also need to stop putting electronic and dance in one thing. That’s what we’re doing—we’re smashing two together and trying to put everything into one thing to get rid of it when there are so many sub-genres. And I just think ballroom and queer culture specifically should have its own time, its own moment because it shouldn’t be pegged with everything else. Because ballroom culture, bounce, dance, that type of style of music doesn’t need to be smashed with electronic. It needs to live in its own world, to live and breathe and have its own space because now the vernacular we use—films, TV shows, the vernacular we’re using, the way we speak, that’s all from gay culture. Now it’s become a trend and if we’re going to steal it and monetize it as a product, we need to acknowledge it for what we’re doing in the music space. It’s getting a larger voice and platform, it can’t just be film, it needs to be in music as well.

Interesting. So for you, electronic is a musical genre but dance is like a broader spectrum…?

No, I think they both are! I think electronic has like industrial, trance, experimental, soul, house, and that all sits within electronic but dance does, too. But when we think of dance, we think of one thing—the four to the floor. We don’t put “dance” into other realms—we don’t give it subgenres, too, and when you listen to a dance music playlist that’s curated, it’s the same sounds as if dance music doesn’t have a broader realm. Just as electronic has that space, dance does, too. Be careful that we’re giving everyone the space—especially with LGBTQIA, they should have their own shine instead of just lumping it into something as if it doesn’t have multiple sounds within that space. 

Changing gears just slightly, I want to talk about dance and dancers inside of your work. How do you use dancers? Who do you work with? What is that collaborative process like? How does the dance part of it come together?

I love to collaborate. I could totally do it on my own because I’ve been dancing for so long but I think it’s important to work with others to always find new body movement, to find new importance to motion. I grew up loving, as a dancer—and this is separate from what I loved as a musician because I’ve had different loves for different things—what Janet [Jackson], Madonna, and Missy Elliott did for dancers. They shed a light on not just the artist but what it means to be excited for a dancer. And I wanted to be that kind of artist. I was in a group where we had to dance as much as we had to sing so I already came into my career with dance being important from Laurieann [Gibson]. So for me, I can’t create a record without knowing that the dance will be respected just as much as the music is. And I want to be an artist that shines light on the art of dance and why it’s still important to still have it with the choice of music I do.

“Pilot” shoot. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Especially with this album, it was important to use and give money to all local girls because some of them can’t even get out of New Orleans to go to Los Angeles and New York to show the talent there. To have my choreographer be my best friend who I’ve known since she was born and I knew because of my mom’s dancing school—my mom’s dancing school birthed my choreographer. So to have my choreographer come from my mom’s dancing school and then create this project was powerful. And again, to show the movement of what we are in New Orleans—footwork, the way we move, the freedom of the way that we move, there’s no rules to us. We choose to move the way we want, and to put that into the majorettes style, the drill team style—those are all things that are very vibrant in New Orleans, when you think about parade season—the structure of having everyone dress the same, styled the same, move the same—that was all present in this space. 

The 8-count has always been important. And it is mind boggling that we don’t celebrate that more within this space of electronic and dance. How do you call a genre dance and not have the 8-count and have artists that respect the 8-count? I wanted to bring new light to that in a genre that has neglected it a little bit. Because most of the time, pop music is where we see the 8-count shine.

Oh, fascinating.

Well think about it!

Yeah—they got to dance!

Pop music! When you see Madonna, Dua Lipa, all these artists, it’s always pop culture where you see it and you think that it belongs there, it couldn’t exist in the world [of dance music.] And you said it, you think about the headphones and the DJ and then everyone else is just dancing. But that’s only one form. Why not show the 8-count, too? I just want to bring the 8-count back by taking a sound and showing choreography to that sound.

So if you think about this most recent project, you wanted to show New Orleans and the 8-count. How does that come together? 

It comes together because it’s been going for eight years! It wasn’t just Second Line where it just happened. My last album, every show I’ve ever done, choreography is a part of it. I don’t do the music unless I know I can form it. For example, when I did my later albums, I knew I wanted to put a lot of Black women behind it because I didn’t feel like I had the opportunity prior—I was with a predominantly white girl group. I had a mission. Then when I did Blackheart, I knew I wanted men. I wanted males behind me. I wanted to show strength with men and I wanted my body to move differently. So with each album with a theme, it decides how I’m going to have my dancers behind me. So if I want to show the androgyny and hardness, I’ll have men behind me. If I want to show a vulnerability but strength and women in their own, I’ll just have that. If I want to show diversity like when I did “Faith,” I’ll have a diversity of girls—white, Black, whatever. 

I’ll choose a story then pick the dancers to help tell that story and then put the choreography behind it to also tell that concept so you see it within each movement. So every era that I’ve done since I started as a solo, the choreography has told that story down to the people I pick to help me with that look.

Are there electronic or dance music sounds that you’d still like to explore? How do you think your story continues both sonically and production-wise and what do you think is left?

I’m always dwelling on how I go further. For me, I tend to gravitate towards things that are the most difficult to piece together (laughter). I really loved when I was working with Machinedrum. The more trivial and industrial the records became, the more I fell in love. I really would love to play more in industrial spaces—I’m looking at a building being made in such an abstract way, how do I apply my vocal as an architect, and [how] it would be so cool to build in that space. It’s very hard to find pocket when there’s so much going on and I enjoy that. 

I also enjoy soundscapes. I’ve been working with Spencer Zahn—he’s a really cool member of Kimbra’s band—and we’ve created some really cool soundscapes that could be really cool in the ambient space. I think I would go those two routes and play in spaces that you just wouldn’t expect me to play because that challenges me. How do I apply soul and vocal presence in places that would never, ever be seen? That’s where I like to play the most.

I’d really like to play with scoring. I love film. I love the idea of building a movie and creating music beyond that. I think that’s the space I’m going to play where I take this, what I’ve done, and then make it so grand and so large. It’s going to require more work from me but I’d like to pit my brain and see if I can put the Black voice in that space and show the possibilities of what it can be because we’ve limited it so much. The more powerful you sing, the more you become this (narrows hands). And I just thought it was so unfair because if a non-Black artist does it, they just have so much more room. The better they have, the more room and growth they get. I want to expand my culture to places where it’s never been received.

Stopwatch” is an incredible song.

That’s what I loved so much about working with Machinedrum—every time he gave me something, it was like putting on my hard hat and figuring out how to maneuver, and it became so fun. 

It’s the warmth of your voice and there’s an iciness about his production that’s incredible.

And I’ve always loved the iciness! That’s what made me love Björk—and I don’t know if that’s an Icelandic thing because I love Jónsi as well—but there’s a chillingness and iciness and this choice of pattern and synth that moves and just does something to me. With my heaviness, it brings this cool balance.

I do like how you described the two sides of the spectrum—industrial and ambient—those two things that are very different from each other (laughs).

Yeah! And why not? And it may not work. But that’s the playtime. That’s the way I’m going to push myself because that’s what I love and personally what I’ve wanted to delve into but I’ve been told I couldn’t. I just want to find out if I can because it moved me

You recently just celebrated the tenth anniversary of Last Train to Paris. The best thing I think about the album is how you both had a sample of “Pon De Floor” by Major Lazer and then Grace Jones also appeared. There’s all these guests on this album but the Dirty Money piece of it was the heart and soul and spine. How did that album come together? Would you want to revisit it again?

Best time of my life in the industry because as a creative, I just felt like I was given candy and I was just eating it like this is so great. I would do it in a heartbeat. If asked to come back, I would totally do it. It was too great—I would have never stopped. That process, for me, as a writer, was so stimulating. I had come off Danity Kane where I was limited to getting all this access to greatness. As a songwriter, it moved me. You constantly got a beat that was so insane and you were like, holy shit, I get to write on this and then share it with Grace Jones, Nicki Minaj, TI, Bilal. We had Justin Timberlake, Lil Wayne and Bilal on one track—that was just insane!

That carried me and fueled me when I left. Because when you come from something and you get exposed to something so vast, it only motivated me to keep mad scientist-ing it, to keep getting in there and creating incredible sounds because I saw the possibilities in that moment. That’s really what that creative process was—giving an artist not just a canvas but like, tarp, and saying go off, live your best life. That was what that experience was.

There were no boundaries! We heard “Ass on the Floor” and were like this is great but you know would be great on this? Grace. And Puff was like, aight (laughter). Grace just walked on in! There were no limits. That’s how music should be. That’s how art should be. It was a renaissance album—Black people at their finest. All this greatness put into a space where they were like, do whatever the hell you want and dream however big you want and let’s just make some incredible shit. To have been a part of that was really cool. I know Kalenna [Harper] and I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

It’s incredible. It’s one of those albums where if you’re a music nerd, you love that album.

Yeah, it created the sound of today. Because we were all in the room with all the people! Swizz, Rodney Jerkins, Kanye—all those people were there! It makes sense that it created a precedence for today.

Purchase Dawn Richard’s Second Line at the Merge website.

Thank you for reading the tenth issue of Tune Glue. Get your ass on the floor.

If you appreciate what we do, please consider donating via Ko-fi or becoming a Patreon patron. Tune Glue is dedicated to forever providing its content for free, but please know that all our writers are paid for the work they do. All donations will be used for paying writers, and if we get enough money, Tune Glue will be able to publish issues more frequently.

Donate to Tune Glue

Become a Tune Glue Patron