Negro Swan is Devonte Hynes’ fourth studio album as Blood Orange. Negro Swan has an eclectic sound that combines R&B vocal styles with 80’s funk undertones and ambient chillwave effects and synths, creating the distinct and unique sound that Blood Orange is so well known for.
Negro Swan focuses on the emotional struggles of not only black people, but queer black people. Dev Hynes worked closely with Janet Mock, a black trans woman and transgender rights activist, as she was the one narrating the album. Her narrations bring the loose and emotionally anxious album together, giving it a sense of empowerment, as Janet Mock is always overcoming society’s negativity toward transgender black people.
This is easily Blood Orange’s most vulnerable album to date. Devonte Hynes reflects on his traumas from his younger days that still affect him today in “Nappy Wonder.” He laments “knowing there’s nowhere to go / And it’s harder to be on your own” as Georgia Anne Muldrow sings “You’re going to be okay,” in the backing vocals along cascading acoustic guitars and synths in “Runnin’” as Hynes struggles to find confidence in being alone and still being himself. In “Charcoal Baby,” the theme of feeling like you were born into a world you were never meant to be in is as strong as ever with the lyrics “No one wants to be the negro swan.” Dev Hynes continues to make high quality albums focusing on social issues with a well-executed collaborative approach, as he gives the sentiment that his music is his community’s music.