Take that, take that, Diddy! Former Danity Kane and ex-Diddy Dirty Money member, Dawn Richard (pronounced Ruh-shard), recently released her first EP, Armor On, and it’s gaining quite the buzz! With its booming visual recently premiered on BET’s 106th & Park, Dawn seems primed for the next step!
It’s safe to say there’s something about Dawn. We won’t go too far, because She has yet to release her debut solo album Golden Heart, but we’ll say she’s on the right path. She’s garnered a fanbase – as noted with her Billboard Heatseekers charting. She can actually sing – if you’ve listened to the Armor On mixtape. Lastly, she can actually dance, as she’s been dancing since three years old – and even had a stint cheerleading in her hometown for the New Orleans Hornets.
AllHipHop.com caught up with Dawn while she was touring in New Orleans, and she speaks on being fearless, leaving Bad Boy Records, and the single and video for “Bombs” that has the nation paying attention!
AllHipHop.com:: You’ve got the #1 joint on iTunes, you’ve got a video on TV, social networks are going crazy. How are you feeling right now?
Dawn Richard: I feel good, I’m excited. They said we couldn’t do it, and I think as a small, independent team, with literally like four of us, to be able to reach number one! People fail to realize this is just an EP. We found out yesterday (April 5), we charted on Billboard at Number 4 for New Heatseekers Album. We’re at #25 overall for R&B. It’s just numbers that we didn’t even expect because we only sold it on iTunes. We haven’t even used any other media outlets like Rhapsody or Amazon.com, so it’s just a big thing right now, we’re excited.
AllHipHop.com: Right, are you guys looking to expand it to Amazon?
Dawn Richard: Yeah, we’re going to do it in the next three weeks, but because of how the numbers have done with not a lot, we’re trying to just milk it now. Now the ball is in our court, because we can actually leave it on iTunes. Right now it’s been like a week and we moved to number 3, now we’re back at number 2 on iTunes again. We haven’t even put that outlet out yet, so I think we will wait a couple of weeks and then do that and see how that does. That means that now we have leverage, you know?
AllHipHop.com: Yep! What makes you call it R&B, and not Pop?
Dawn Richard: I think people want to say Pop, because it’s moving, it’s progressive, like you never stop feeling like you want to dance. I think that’s something that makes people feel that it’s pop. R&B can be that, too. I think it’s just progressive. I call it R&B because the melodies are soulful. The background. In POP music, you don’t have three to four different background harmonies. Usually in Pop songs, there’s a two part harmony, most of it’s one track, it’s never the use of four to five different kind of melodies. When you start talking about musically doing that – that’s R&B. That’s soul music. I think it’s just done on a different vibe. People want to call it Pop because that 808 and that snare is driving you. Every time you listening to it, you want to move. So it makes you feel like it’s a dance record, or it’s techno or electronic music. But really – it isn’t. It’s all soul based. It’s just pushing the limit on what you consider soul to be. At the end of the day, my voice is still a R&B sound, regardless of what kind of track it’s on.
AllHipHop.com: You sound like you’re very technical, you’re talking about the snares. Are you a technical kind of musician?
Dawn Richard: I grew up on it, and my producer, Dru-Ski, is extremely talented. He plays the keys and that was one of the things I wanted to be. I wanted to be an artist that musicians love, as well as the people. That’s what separates you from just being a gimmick or being a true artist. I don’t have a design of what anyone else is, but for me, those things matter. The snare matters. I come from New Orleans and the drum and the snare drives everything. The second line of music we have, I want it to mimic the same feel that I get when I hear a live band. In the streets in New Orleans, I wanted people to feel the same way. They don’t call that Pop music, they call that soul. I think it’s just a different vibe.
From where I come from, we push things. The genres are kind of mashed together, that Afro-centric tribal type of sound is something that’s innate, it’s not something that’s Pop. I think Pop has copied that rhythm from Soul, if you think about it, that movement is African. That movement is tribal. That comes from the drum. Either genre of music is taking something from that soul. For me it’s important not to be technical but just being around musicians and wanting to have the same respect. The people love you, and you want the musicians and your peers to love you, too.
AllHipHop.com: Is that what inspired the “Bombs” video?
Dawn Richard When I first came out, I wanted to introduce people to me as an artist that had everything. At first, I wanted to introduce the ballads and the soul music, so that they know as a vocalist, if they needed for me to stand still and sing, they could see that I could do it. That, to me, is the hardest. An artist can dance around and jump and do all those things, but if you just want to get the record to be delivered, they want that too. I wanted to show the versatility, so I gave that kind of record first.
With “Bombs”, that was the “we have arrived” record, that was the record where I wanted people to see me as a dancer for the first time. Because I think people don’t even really know I dance, and that’s something that a lot of R&B artists – there’s few women doing that right now. There are few R&B artists that are singing soul music, then can give you four to five 8-counts on a record. That’s something that I was excited about because I felt like that’s where my base was. I started dancing, so, for “Bombs”, we wanted that to be the “we have arrived”, “we are coming”, and this is the introduction. It’s really another step for me as an artist.
AllHipHop.com: I heard through the grapevine that your mom owned a dance school?
Dawn Richard Right, that’s where I started! I started dancing before I was singing. I was two when my mom put the tights on me and said “Go!” and from that on I’ve been dancing. Even before “Making The Band”, I was dancing in the NBA for the Hornets. Dancing was always something that came naturally for me, so, that’s the part that I’ve been wanting to do for the longest. It’s the most exciting part and that’s where my roots are.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve got to have a crazy workout regime.
Dawn Richard: I don’t. The workout regime is the art of dance. I like to push myself, so I’ll take different classes from modern, to ballet, to tap. I’ll just keep myself motivated in that. In L.A, I’m always at Debbie Reynolds. My best friend dances. I taught her when I was growing up and now she dances for me and she’s in the “Bombs” video, too. When she goes to class, I go too, just like a student. I think that’s what you have to be. You have to know that you have to be a student to this game. Learn, and take vocal classes, and make sure I’m good on that. I go to take dance classes to make sure that I’m as great of an artist that I can be.
AllHipHop.com: We know you’re not with Danity Kane. No more Diddy-Dirty Money. Now you’re totally solo. Some folks might look at that as, “She’s out there? What is she up to?,” but I think it’s great to come from that background and to have people rooting for you.
Dawn Richard: I think it’s fantastic!
AllHipHop.com: Because now they’re rooting for the underdog.
Dawn Richard: Right! And I think that’s great. But what I think what we’re doing, it’s just different. Even coming from two different groups, people know I’m really coming from two different genres. Danity Kane was Pop. Dirty Money was more Hip-Hop soul, and here we are R&B with the EP. I thought my tone wouldn’t be accepted, so I tried my best to try to figure it out because I didn’t know if they understood my tone and where I needed to be.
We’ve transcended different genres. I’ve literally been in every different genre and we’ve been successful in each way. Whether it was with the Pop, with the two platinum albums and #1 albums with Danity Kane. Whether it was with Dirty Money making a revolutionary album, where people like Grace Jones and all of those people on that album. And then EP doing the numbers that it’s doing, I think people are saying they want something new and refreshing. I just want to make sure that when it does come, I deliver.
AllHipHop.com: Were you scared at first?
Dawn Richard: I’m not scared. Never scared. I’m fearless in the fight. I’m the Devil’s advocate. It’s more like I always play both sides of the fence. I never look at it like “I’m going to be the greatest, you’re going to receive me, that’s it!” I always look at it like “I’ll be great, but then what if they don’t receive me, what’s our next plan?” I’m always looking at both sides of it. There was always the “What if they don’t? We have figure this out!” That’s learning from Puff. Puff, as a businessman, always looks at both sides of it. How will we lose here, how will we win. As a marketing person, you have to see it that way. I never look at it like it’s all just one-sided. I wasn’t scared, I just was business savvy about the way I had to go about it. It had to be strategic.
AllHipHop.com: And you spoke about Puff, so are you working with the same producers?
Dawn Richard: No. The EP was just one. For my album, it’s similar. It’s nobody that anyone knows. That’s the thing. That’s what makes it so brilliant. The EP had no features and no producers that anyone knew. I think that makes it even better, so people know now, there was no favors. No one helped me. It was all done by myself. There was no, “Oh, because this person is great they’re going to help me out.” Puff and Bad Boy were great for letting me go, but they let me go, and that was that. I’m appreciative of them because I asked for that release. I asked for him to see if I could fly, and he believed in me enough to let me go, and I’ll forever love him for that. But once they let you go, you have to figure it out on your own. We’ve proved that we can, by doing this.
AllHipHop.com: Are you looking at other major labels?
Dawn Richard: Yeah, we’re definitely are. Like I said the ball is in our court now. We can make the decision whether or not, it’s a good choice for us or not. Right now, we’re proving that as an independent team of four people, we can push forward. You’ve just got to work a little bit harder but if you love the craft and you put hard work into it, I think anything’s possible. Yeah, we’re definitely looking at labels but we’re also looking at the idea of us standing alone. The numbers (for the EP) were delivering with no one. It’s amazing for something that isn’t even an album.
AllHipHop.com: What about Dawn Richard on Roc Nation?
Dawn Richard: I love them. I think what they do is amazing. They’re a powerhouse. If the offer is right, that’s fantastic. I love what they’re doing with the females in the game. For us, the aesthetic is different because they have a plan of action that they’re doing. It’d be great to see if they did want to rock with us, what they would do with that.
AllHipHop.com: SWV just got back together after 15 years, with a new album coming out. Do you think we might be waiting that long for a Danity Kane joint?
Dawn Richard: I don’t think that would be too long to wait for that! I think that’d be kind of cool. I just think timing has to be right, and I always believe in delivering a product that is better than what you’ve already done. If you’re not exceeding what you’ve already given out, you shouldn’t do it because you shouldn’t damage something that was so great. For me, I want us to be great, but it has to be at the respect and level that the fans deserve.
AllHipHop.com: And you went to college in New Orleans, right? Did you join a sorority?
Dawn Richards: No, I didn’t, but everyone in my family is, but me. I was really into school. I was taking 21 and 18 hours each semester because I was in Marine Biology, so I didn’t have time for anything else.
AllHipHop.com: That was the passion before music?
Dawn Richard: Yeah, I was concentrating in Manatees and Dolphins. When I left, I had to make a choice – to stay in the city, or go far away. I moved into UNO to go to school, and I had to change my major because they didn’t have marine science, so I went into music marketing with a minor in marine science. That was a cool experience, that was just a choice that I made. I choose to go into music marketing at the end because I knew that I had choose music.
AllHipHop.com: And for someone who’s in that battle between Marine Biology versus what they really want to do, what do you say to somebody who really wants to pursue their dream?
Dawn Richard: You do what you love. I don’t have any advice, because at the end of the day, I had to fall to be here. Do what you love. Don’t do something for someone else, do it for you. When you get to the point when you realize your life is your life, because you don’t realize your life is all you have until you get a certain place, and you’re like “Okay, this is my life!” You want to make sure that it’s what you love because you’ll have that realization and then you’ll be trying to fight to go back to the place where you wanted to start. If you love something, go for that.
AllHipHop.com: And the Golden Heart Trilogy. It’s coming?
Dawn Richard: It’s coming! It’s actually done. It was done before the EP, but like I said, everything is strategic. It has to make sense. The sound was so innovative, we had to bring people to that space. You can’t just say, “Okay. Like me. I’m here.” You have to sell a product, you have to sell a brand. Just like you have commercials. You have to give people enough, so that they love you and then you go forward. I think that’s what we did with the EP, so it’s definitely ready to come!
AllHipHop.com: It seems like you’ve really been learning!
Dawn Richard: If I didn’t, shame on me!
AllHipHop.com: Right. And that might be the difference between some people who may have been in a group, and didn’t become as successful, or been with Bad Boy who may not have been as successful?
Dawn Richard: Yeah, well, I don’t blame Bad Boy. That’s the thing. They gave you an opportunity. A person can only give you a crack of a window. It’s up to you to open it all the way up, just break it. I’d just rather break it than try to pry it open and I think for me that’s why I never used an excuse. They gave me the tools, it’s up to me to figure it out.
AllHipHop.com: That’s it for me! Do you have anything that the folks need to know?
Dawn Richard: Yes, go get the EP. It’s on iTunes! It’s been really great because the hearts are making it so. Make sure you go on 106th & Park and vote for “Bombs”. That video is really dope. I’m really grateful for the choreography. Come see me on tour! I am on tour right now. Check out dawnrichard.tumblr.com to see the dates.
Follow Dawn Richard on Twitter (@DawnRichard) and visit her personal fan blog, www.dawnrichardblog.com.