Dev Hynes: The Artist That Is Good Enough

Photo: Marina Denisova

LOVE HIM OR HATE HIM, there’s no denying the fact that A$AP Rocky puts out music with some artists you wouldn’t expect him to. I mean come on, Rod Stewart, Miguel, and Mark Ronson all on a single song? Who woulda thought? One artist I’ll forever be grateful for that Rocky’s worked with is British singer, songwriter, producer and man of way too many talents, Dev Hynes -- aka Blood Orange.

The one that put me on was his 2018 album Negro Swan, a project featuring Rocky on the incredibly chill song, Chewing Gum. Throughout the whole album, Blood Orange’s production goes absolutely crazy, but there’s something about this combo that seems to pull the best out of each artist. I gotta point out that the two previously linked on Rocky’s Testing album, combining for another nonchalant banger on Hun43rd, one of my favorites from an under-appreciated album (be aware of my bias). Between the song, the artists have established a clear chemistry, leaning heavily on synths and psychedelic-trap influences, both of which establish an incredible, out-of-body experience, regardless if listeners choose to partake in the appropriate substances or not.

Both those songs are great pieces of work, but Blood Orange ain’t no one trick pony, the rest of his catalog more than speaks for itself. In some ways, his work reminds of Tame Impala (whose Borderline he completely stripped down), in others Toro Y Moi, but more often than not, it’s distinctively Dev Hynes. End of the day, his ability to sing and produce provides him the room to draw from many areas of inspiration, all while creating unique music that’s best suited for his own abilities. On songs like Orlando, Saint, Charcoal Baby, and Nappy Wonder (all off Negro Swan), Hynes runs with this style to create some music you just can’t afford to miss.

Photo: Micaiah Carter/for Vulture

While Negro Swan may be my favorite project, mainly because it introduced me to Blood Orange, Hynes’ has a VERY strong catalog that deserves a deep dive. All of 5 of his solo albums expand upon his experimental music, each bringing something new to the table. Coastal Groove draws from a million different genres. Cupid Deluxe finds Hynes pushing his definition of R&B down a hazy route, resulting in a beautiful album that everyone except Anthony Fantano seems to love. I’d highly suggest listening to Pitchfork over Fantano on this one… PF had it as their 35th best album of the decade. Fantano? A light 2. Freetown Sound is a thought provoking project that starts to jump into the synth sounds he really explores on his Negro Swan follow up. His latest album (or mixtape as he likes to call it), Devil’s Pulse, acts as an epilogue to NS, utilizing a more up-tempo pace the second time around. What’s so cool, at least from my perspective, about these albums, is Hynes rarely tries to provide questions or answers to the social issues he approaches in his work. Instead, he opts to use his music as a public diary, throwing out his thoughts to the world, really humanizing the work he releases.

Some artists like to live in multiple lanes. I mean look at A$AP Rocky… dude is all over the place. Dev Hynes is the complete musical version of that. But when I say he’s everywhere, I mean it. This guy is legit everywhere. He’s written, performed, or produced for what feels like a million fucking artists, ranging from Solange to Florance and the Machine; Carly Rae Jepson to Mac Miller; Harry Styles to Mariah Carey. Not to mention he also currently releases music as Devonte Hynes, as well as previously under Lightspeed Champion and as part of the rock band Test Icicles. To go a step further, Hynes has tried his hand at classical music, collaborating with Phillip Glass, and even going as far as composing the Queen & Slim soundtrack. So, uhhh, yea… safe to say he’s had a “busy” career in music so far. Based on the wild musical path he’s been on, I get the sense he tries any and everything that interests him. Given he’s fucked around with so much, I can’t wait to see what he gets himself into next.

PERSONAL FAVORITES: You’re Not Good Enough, Best To You, Charcoal Baby, Chewing Gum (feat. A$AP Rocky), Dark & Handsome (feat Toro Y Moi)

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