“nappy Wonder” By Blood Orange Review
If Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound was Dev Hynes finding and mining the spaces where the personal and political overlap in his progressive R&B music, Negro Swan deepens that project, offering an even more intimate rumination on the endless weight of otherness. It’s an album that wrestles with a conflicting duality: being alienated for the very thing that makes you magnificent. At its center is “Nappy Wonder,” a moving freedom song featuring singer and cellist Kelsey Lu. Its two-and-a-half minutes are in search of an elusive balance, evoking an experience where everything else falls away and you can just—free of pretext, free from how the world sees you—be as you are.
Hynes started skateboarding as a child to avoid riding the bus, where people would spit on him, and it soon became an outlet. “Nappy Wonder” is a gorgeous tribute to those liberating moments of sweeping through London as everything rushed by—a tribute to motion as “escapism.” It’s a slow-building catharsis with Hynes’ wispy but lithe vocals carrying like a streaming wind. The fluorescent keyboard chords, fastened by drums that inch along underneath, shimmer around him until they suddenly give way to buzzing, washed-out guitar thrums and he stumbles into an epiphany: “Feelings never had no ethics/Feelings never have been ethical,” he cries, over and over as if finding his mantra. Hynes has already mastered pained expressions of beautiful sensations: Here, he is at his most evocative, making a personal ritual into a universal retreat. On “Nappy Wonder,” he imagines a place unbound from the stigmas we bear.