From Arrested Development to Liberated Soul: Dionne Farris
Dionne Farris’s debut solo album, Wild Seed-Wild Flower, is bound to become a classic for those of us who know that the slogan “It’s a black thang, you wouldn’t understand” has more to do with variety and complexity than with some secret, unified code dictated by melanin. This one’s for the cool in all of us who understand the mix: living in the ‘hood and summering in the Hamptons, rocking both the bob and the baldy, and growing up on steady diets of Aretha, the Eagles, the Police, and the Chi-Lites.
For those of you who still insist on viewing black music (and by extension, the black community) in tired, myopic terms, well, Dionne’s got something fo’ yo’ asses. Wild Seed-Wild Flower is an unprecedented melange of funkabilly (think Thelma & Louise black-girl style), blues, gospel, rock, Sweet Honey in the Rock-inspired a cappellas, a li'l lite FM, and a whole lotta soul.
If her voice sounds familiar, it’s probably because we’re still experiencing flashbacks from the sweet aural caress Dionne blew on Arrested Development’s 1992 chart-busting single “Tennessee.” Her powerful, haunting vocals helped bring the group from underground sensation to worldwide multiplatinumdom,
Dionne, engaged at the time to AD drummer Rasa Don, broke ties with the group just as its success was looming. More than a few friends told her she was crazy and that she should apologize and beg her way back, but Dionne felt she had to listen to her heart. She decided that her dream of a solo career was more important than being an “extended family member” of her fiance’s group—or even than being married.
She second-guessed herself more than once. “Back then I thought that breaking up with Don was the worst thing in the world,” Dionne says with a chuckle and a knowing smile. “But when I look at it now, I have to thank him. I was about to jump into that whole marriage/baby thing without really knowing who I was."
Now, with Wild Seed-Wild Flower, Dionne’s confidence is unshakable, though she’s a little annoyed by black radio’s tendency to dismiss music (like Me'Shell’s and Joi’s, for example) that can’t be easily classified. "It’s scary that black radio is so narrow,” she says. “I’m black. My mama’s black. So for anyone to tell me that I don’t do black music is bullshit. I do music for black people and anyone else who wants to listen.”
With the help of David Harris, her co-writer and producer, Dionne just wants to sing her songs. “Music is really music.” she says. “Why do people have to label it? Are they so afraid that we’ll ail just go free and there’ll be too much love in the world?”
I pray that he is gentle and careful with your heart. That he touches you in ways that slowly pry your shell apart. So he can reach that part of you that truly is your core. And you have found in him more than you’ve been planning for.
Though I have fallen short,
My song, one day, will rise
Against your concrete backdrop,
Above your smoggy sky.
And I will say it loudly,
“I have been set free!
I have taken flight because
There is a king in me!”
And I’m gonna fly…
Seeking Lady Brown Mixtape vol. 3 warm summer nights
01. Mos Def x DJ Deckstream - Life is Good 02. Talib Kweli x Norah Jones - Soon The New Day 03. Goapele - Closer 04. Common Kings - Wade In Your Water 05. Frank Ocean - Sweet Life 06. Kendrick Lamar x Dom Kennedy x Murs - She Needs Me 07. Lauryn Hill x Siik - The Sweetest Thing 08. Calvin “Joonie” Gary Jr. - You Got Me 09. Sade - Lovers Rock 10. Tupac Shakur x Nujabes - Happy Home x Aruarian Dance 11. John Legend x Pusha T - Heaven 12. D'Angelo x Smokey Robinson - Cruisin’ 13. Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli x Hi-Tek) - Too Late 14. John West x Pusha T - Lovely 15. Musiq x Ayana - Girl Next Door 16. David Ryan Harris - For You 17. D'Angelo - When We Get By 18. Lupe Fiasco x Nas x Celeste Legaspi - Kick Push x It Ain’t Hard To Tell 19. Blackstar (Mos Def x Talib Kweli) - Thieves In The Night 20. The Roots - What They Do 21. Justin Timberlake - Still On My Brain 22. Common - Love Is 23. Andy Allo x Bob Marley - Waiting In Vain 24. A Tribe Called Quest - Electric Relaxation 25. Esthero x Freddie Joachim - Thank Heaven 4 You 26. Calvin “Joonie” Gary Jr. - Sunshine 27. Common Kings - Fly 28. The Roots x Big K.R.I.T. x Dice Raw - Make My 29. Ebrahim x Frank Ocean - Swim Good