Dev Hynes, the Man Behind Blood Orange & Your Favorite Alt Artists

Dev Hynes, the Man Behind Blood Orange & Your Favorite Alt Artists

Here, the singer and producer talks about his latest album and why dance will always take priority

Here, the singer and producer talks about his latest album and why dance will always take priority

Photography: Charlie Engman

Styling: John Colver

Text: Whitney Mallett

“I really love mixing different textures. That’s always been my favorite thing in music,” says Devonté Hynes, the British musician, composer, and producer whose name has become synonymous with a certain 1980s pop lacquer, gleaming with spacious synths, snapping drum machines, and breathy vocals. Hynes’s latest release, Freetown Sound, under his current moniker, Blood Orange, expands this sonic vocabulary by weaving together its angst with jittering horns, spoken-word samples, and R&B crooning, over a layer of Caribbean and West African pop rhythms.

Raised in East London, where he was classically trained in cello, Hynes relocated to New York in 2007 after a brief stint in the dance-punk band, Test Icicles. Stateside, Hynes recorded two albums for his self-consciously quixotic indie rock project, Lightspeed Champion, before morphing into Blood Orange and releasing the seductively sparse Coastal Grooves in 2011. He slipped onto the mainstream radar over the next couple of years after masterminding hits for Solange Knowles and Sky Ferreira.


The third Blood Orange album, released this July, engages with the urgent issue of police shootings in America. One of the songs borrows its title from Black Lives Matter’s slogan “Hands Up,” while another, “Love Ya,” samples writer Ta-Nehisi Coates talking about having to make the choice, as a young black man, to wear baggy pants or not, to cock his hat or not. “There are some very literal moments on the album,” explains Hynes, “but the way I think is very scattered. I’ll think about my dad being born in Sierra Leone in 1939 and then I’ll think about parallels to when Algeria was under Roman occupation. This whole record comes from wondering about what different time periods were like. A lot of the record is me knowing that I’ll never know what my parents’ lives were like when they were younger.”

Some of the music videos supporting the album are still trickling out. Most feature the dance collaborations that have come to be expected from Hynes. “I love dance,” he states matter-of-factly. He grew up taking ballet, tap, hip hop, and contemporary, inspired by Alvin Ailey and Billy T. Jones, as well as legendary voguer Willi Ninja. This past December, Hynes collaborated with artist Ryan McNamara on an installation combining improvised dance and music at the Pérez Art Museum Miami. It’s not unusual to catch him in the back row at a dance performance in the Lower East Side. “Releasing Blood Orange music isn’t necessarily my life,” continues Hynes. “It’s very important to me, but whatever I do, dance will always be involved. It’s a part of my life, just like playing sports.”


grooming (devonté hynes and years & years) Ayami Nishimura (The Wall Group) and Tomi Kono (Julian Watson Agency)  grooming (vic mensa and lil yachty) seong hee park (julian watson agency) and tamas tuzes (l’atelier nyc)  Digital technicians Kasandra Torres and andrew katzowitz  Photo assistants Chris Smith, Kiri Wawatai, Jon Ervin   Stylist assistants Sophia Torres and Coco Campbell   Makeup assistants Debie Kim, Mika Shimoda, Kathy Moon, Rie Hirabayashi Hair assistants Levi Monarch and Alina Friesen onset Production Jessica Gullo and edward sturtevant Location ROOT studio retouching twothreetwo


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