Weekly Column: Devonté Hynes is the modern Renaissance man and we couldn’t be happier about it

The Realest Out: A Conversation With Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes. (Photo by Michael Lavine)

Devonté Hynes isn’t your typical popstar. The 32-year-old originally hails from London and is something of a Renaissance man: He’s a singer, songwriter, producer, composer, musician (of at least six instruments), dancer, artist and director, among other things. He played piano at Carnegie Hall for the Tibet House U.S. Benefit Concert as Devonté Hynes and Coachella under his solo project moniker Blood Orange. He’s written and produced music for Kylie Minogue and Carly Rae Jepsen and he’s collaborated with the likes of A$AP Rocky and Steve Lacy. His versatility is astounding and the number of projects he’s had a hand in only grows with time.

Hynes, born David Joseph Michael Hynes, has been creating music for over a decade. Hynes moved to New York City in 2007 and it was here that he began to develop into the full-fledged artist he is today. In 2007, Hynes released his debut album under the moniker Lightspeed Champion.

Hynes retired the Lightspeed Champion project in order to focus on a new project entitled Blood Orange which he continues to performs under. With its ethereal mix of electronica and R&B, Blood Orange is the sound that Hynes is most known for today. His first album “Coastal Grooves” marked Blood Orange as being something fresh and exciting on the music scene. Hynes’ breathy voice mixed with pounding dance beats and often cryptic lyrical content marks his work as unique and exemplary of true artistry.

A lot of early Blood Orange work focuses on the discomfort of transitional periods in life. What’s great about these early tracks is that they’re timeless; Hynes could be singing about the teenage years, the years right after college or even a later transition. I discovered Blood Orange in the midst of high school, so I always associate his earlier albums like “Coastal Grooves” and “Cupid Deluxe” with the feelings of adolescence. During this period Hynes also scored the 2014 film Palo Alto, directed by Gia Coppola, which is all about the trials and tribulations of the teenage years.

The 2016 Blood Orange album “Freetown Sound” marked another breakthrough in Hynes’ artistry. “Freetown Sound” is even more experimental than the previous two Blood Orange albums, as Hynes utilized much more found audio footage, genre mixing and repetition.

“Freetown Sound” is also much more politically and socially conscious than “Coastal Grooves” and “Cupid Deluxe.” He often focuses on his own experience as a black man in both London and New York, but also discusses feminism, homosexuality and other issues. This social consciousness is a trademark of Hynes’ current work, yet he’s still able to maintain catchy beats and well-produced tracks in addition to this important lyric content. Never does Hynes seem to be preaching through his music; rather, his music is appears as a true expression of his thoughts.

This August, Hynes released the fourth Blood Orange album entitled “Negro Swan.” With each album, Hynes improves both lyrically and musically and “Negro Swan” is no exception: it is Hynes’ most polished and thoughtful album to date. The album features other talented artists like Diddy, A$AP Rocky and Steve Lacy among others. Hynes’ ability to pull in artists from other genres into his own genre-defying work is exciting and a testament to his own talent.

Is there anything Hynes can’t do? So far, it doesn’t appear so. His versatility and constant artistic expansion is what makes Hynes a truly modern musician. One day he could be releasing a catchy dance track; the next he could be arranging a cello composition; and still the next he could be choreographing a dance depicting black struggle.

Hynes has been reported to work on multiple projects at the same time, and has two more Blood Orange projects in the works: one that he created alongside “Cupid Deluxe” and another that came about during “Negro Swan.” It’s worth keeping an ear out for anything that Devonté Hynes puts his creative hands on; I’ll certainly be listening, and you should be, too.

Songs to listen to: “Sutphin Boulevard,” “You’re Not Good Enough,” “Desirée,” “Charcoal Baby”


Lucie Turkel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lucie.turkel@uconn.edu.