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?”