There is a saying that goes: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” DAWN isn’t one of those people. Her ability to create novel art that goes against the grain of industry standards is worth hearing and seeing. New Breed [Local Action Records/Our Dawn Entertainment], her first album release since 2016’s Redemption, attests to this unwavering statement.
As noble as DAWN’s determination is to stick to the guns of her artistic dreams, contemplating to release a new body of work crossed her mind. Like everything in life, there’s a cost; even as an independent artist. But DAWN’s bill of sale to press forward with New Breed wasn’t something she unearthed in industry capitals. She found it in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward on Jonlee Drive, the neighborhood that made her strong enough to survive the “industry, assault, misogyny, racism, colorism, homelessness, and so much more.”
DAWN opens the 32-minute project in a homesick fashion, recalling the good times during bread season, stopping at The Camellia Grill to eat crawfish, and kicking it with her childhood gang in “The Nine.” Her worked up undertones are paired with an iterative backdrop that acts as the soundtrack for the tourist-style intro.
In the first 30-seconds of the title track, a spacey sci-fi throb drowns out the framework until it transitions to an ear-crushing NOLA bounce ritual that suggests beholders should throw their asses in a circle. Though the twisted dance beat calls for a twerk break, DAWN’s demanding lyrics and a fitting soundbite from iconic figure Grace Jones orders those opposed to her boss mood to step aside as she spots a crown to match her King persona.
DAWN builds on notes of women empowerment on “Spaces,” a liberating solo that gives an implied ode to Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long.” While her silent cries in the face of overpowered male executives seemed unheard, she always felt that “deep inside, that girl from the nine said, ‘Fuck them.’”
Still remaining on feminism patrol, DAWN uses the core of New Breed for light declarations. A Ninth Ward folklore proceeds “Dreams and Converse,” an easy groove that hurdles over synth-pop waves and pilots a thrilling night out. On “Shades,” a sweet and quirky mid-tempo cut, DAWN won’t uncover her eyes as she delights in sexually interactive FaceTime with her lover.
“Jealousy,” the era launching track, is by her best vocal performance on New Breed. Behind the cautionary tale aimed at Instagram groupie, DAWN offers a sharp mix of restrained and showy R&B-tinged notes. Meanwhile, “Sauce,” crafted by Human Mohawke and Cole M.G.N., receives the award for top-notch production. The gospel-soul cadences in the rear of this track summons its flock to fall on their knees at the altar, while DAWN’s weekend docket signals them to fall on their knees for more explicit reasons.
Living the good life has its challenges. DAWN reflects on those pain points on the bloodthirsty dual score “Vultures/Wolves.” The A-side of the lamenting ballad hears the songster brooding at the fact her diffidence is weighing heavy on her relationship. On the flipside, DAWN harps on escaping the blind alley of industry jackals who pressured her to sell her soul for ‘dirty money’ and notoriety.
Before concluding New Breed with the “Ketchup and Po’boys” coda, DAWN ends the full track portion of the unified work with “We, Diamonds,” which speaks on the fact she’s an underdog and embraces her flaws as a woman and as an artist. “Stop calling me ambitious when I dream farther than Curry’s three-point range,” she speaks dauntlessly on the prelude of the track. “It’s not a compliment when you doubting my success in a polite way. I’m used to being the underdog, ’cause black girls who have minds and a cause are stifled with leashes and clichés.”
Although DAWN’s past, present or future fate, dreams or barriers aren’t ours, they’re pretty similar. New Breed prods us to look at ourselves as bold and valiant creators that can exist in the space of devils who try to block us from achieving excellence and outshine their expectations.
Looking at DAWN’s winning karma, this narrative doesn’t seem far fetched for listeners. Regardless of how the industry has tried to discredit her as an individual and as an artist over the years, DAWN knows what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. And lucky for DAWN, she has tremendous love and loyal support in her corner (and on New Breed) from those in her home state.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Standout Tracks: “Sauce” and “Vultures/Wolves”
Stream New Breed below and buy it on iTunes here.