Let’s go back to 2005–the early days of reality television–when P.Diddy introduced the world to Making the Band and the resulting girl-group, Danity Kane. With two Top 10 singles and a platinum-certified album, the foursome erupted onto the music scene and were destined to be an immediate commercial hit. Yet the scantily clad pop stars struggled with the one key to success: longevity. Not long after their newfound fame, their creator, Diddy himself, disbanded them. But of the four original members, one has not only risen from the ashes of Danity Kane’s legacy: she’s carved out a spot for herself in a very different space.
Dawn Richard has taken the the stage in the form of some very different characters throughout her career. And from Danity Kane to Diddy’s passion project, Diddy-Dirty Money, Richard has finally found her lane.
“I think my story is a bit unconventional. I started in mainstream music and wound up being in a huge girl group,” she says of her musical journey. “Danity Kane was a phenomenon. It was a whirlwind and I loved every second of it but it was difficult being a woman in the industry,” she recalls. “Nobody believed we were writers or that we could carry the weight of a respected artist.” Richard made it a point to evolve into a well-respected artist, beyond the scope of a cliché pop group.
When Danity Kane was no more, Richard began working with Diddy on his Dirty Money project, as a behind-the-scenes writer. “Puff realized that my vocal ability really lent itself to the group,” she says. “The sound was what intrigued me. It had an electronic edge that reminded me of Ibiza and I loved it.”
After working with the likes of Swizz Beats, Jay Z and J. Cole, Richard felt reinvigorated and ready to be transformed into the artist she always wanted to be. “I had the ability to explore so many different sounds that most artists aren’t allowed to have,” she admits. “Because of that, I know what kind of artist I want to be.”
Richard has now reintroduced herself to the pop world as a unique artist with a bold on-stage persona involving a cage installation, a light show and of course, her impressive pipes. “I’d say I’m genre-neutral. I don’t color inside the lines,” she says of her newfound musical identity. “I have my own drum, my own beat and my own aesthetic. It wasn’t necessarily the plan,” she adds. “I kept being rejected or being misunderstood until finally I looked up and I had built this hub where I can exist as an independent artist.”
The artist speaks candidly about her independence and the ordeals that come along with that. “In the electronic music space specifically, there are very few women of color represented. We’re there but we aren’t the focal point,” she says. “When I performed at Sonar Festival, there were only two women of color there, myself and Princess Nokia, a Latin artist. I want to push us to the forefront,” she explains.
Richard is an ambitious performer, eager to reach a diverse audience and have her voice heard. “I want my fans to feel free to be who they are. I’ve heard a lot of stories from my fans, people who might be a little more unconventional, like me,” she says. “I want my shows to be their utopia. A place where they don’t have to conform. They can be as extra as they want, there is no judgment,” she says.
With a genre-neutral sound and explosive performances, DΔWN is in her own lane, driving the car, and taking all of her unconventional fans along for the ride.
All images courtesy of the artist.