Blood Orange performed four entrancing tracks off of his fourth album, Negro Swan, for NPR’s cozy Tiny Desk on Jan. 29.
The skillful songwriter (born Devonté Hynes) and producer was joined by his band, made up of Jason Arce on saxophone, Eva Tolkin and Ian Isiah on vocals, and Mikey Freedom Hart on keys.
Hynes and his vocalists began by harmonizing to “By Ourselves.” A spoken word performance followed, delivered by Ashley Haze, who told a story of finding herself and searching for confidence as a “fat black girl from Chicago.” It was thanks to Missy Elliot and the unapologetic self-assuredness in her music that she found she could “dance until she felt pretty” and even “be a woman playing a man’s game” like Elliot.
The East Londoner then moved to the keyboard to perform “Jewelry.” “Seek what you need to get by/ Awake with one eye closed, in dark black clothes/ Red and blue lights on my stone/ Go back to being unknown,” Hynes rapped over the upbeat track.
Hynes took a moment to address the room, giving insight to his process of creating such eclectic music. “It’s kinda crazy to play these songs like this ‘cause I don’t write them like songs,” Hynes said. “So it’s kinda crazy to learn them and do ‘em. They tend to all be written at the same time and I gradually build them so that they connect. So it’s cool, it’s interesting. Hope you can feel the vibe in this.”
“Holly Will” and “Dagenham Dream” closed out the set; the latter is a song Hynes has said is about being bullied as a kid.
Check out Blood Orange’s mesmerizing Tiny Desk performance below.