Going into 2016, there was no way we could’ve known the amount of pain we were in for – as it usually goes with life itself. We go through the motions, day in and day out, all while the world has been on fire and diminishing to ashes all around us. There is no way around it – it will be remembered as the year racism won. In times like these, we often turn to music as a source of comfort, and perhaps a source of hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There’s been a burning question at the front of my mind and one question only – where do we go from here?
The answer came in the form of Freetown Sound, the third album under Dev Hynes’ alias Blood Orange, as a power fist in face of the injustice and police brutality against Black people. June 28, the album’s official release date, comes three days after what would’ve been Tamir Rice’s fourteenth birthday, had he not been shot by Cleveland police for possessing a toy gun. There are too many names – Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland – and too many missed birthdays, too many lives lost that float on through the album in their memory.
The tracklist is host to a number of collaborators like Debbie Harry, Nelly Furtado, and Empress Of, as well as spoken word by writer Ta-Nehishi Coates and slam poet Ashlee Haze. “Hands Up” floats clips of protestors chanting “hands up, don’t shoot!” in regards to the shooting of Michael Brown. “Augustine” is the first single as well as one of the album’s most pivotal tracks, a synth-ridden dance track that spins it’s head on the topic of Black youth. It is named after Saint Augustine of Hippo, a Christian priest and philosopher who served in an Africa under Rome’s ruling at the time – he notably believed slavery to be an egregious sin.
As a persecuted minority but not being Black myself, it is hard for me to say that I completely feel Hynes’ pain – it is not my place. What I can say is that I understand it, honor it and truly, truly treasure it, for being the record that paid homage and respect to Black people during a political and social context where it could not be less felt. Whenever I needed the reminder to fight, I turned to Freetown for its answers, its questions, its existence rooted firmly in its resistance.