Freetown Sound by Blood Orange
Freetown Sound is a sonic scrapbook layered with crisp instrumentals, stunning samples, and beautiful abstractions. Streaming the album online is one thing, but something about listening to it on vinyl just feels right.
Everything about this record screams old school New York—from the organic production to the samples. Freetown Sound pays homage to the golden era of hip hop when artists such as KRS-One and De La Soul conquered the boroughs of New York with groundbreaking stylistic approaches. Hynes channels this experimental energy throughout the album by layering these very instrumentals with his own unique rhythms and vocals that are hymnal as they are ghostly. I was brought back to this album five years after its release in 2016 to re-experience the vast body of audio that comprises it: spoken word, clips from interviews, and even clips from movies.
The album opens with “By Ourselves” with words from Atlanta writer Ashlee Haze’s piece “For Colored Girls (The Missy Elliott Poem).” It is later followed by “Love Ya” with words from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Is Violence a Function of Our Culture? “Desirée” is specifically poignant. Hynes takes vocals from Venus Xtravaganza, a trans woman interviewed heavily in the groundbreaking 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning by Jennie Livingston. Viscerally political, this sample reflects the artful way in which Hynes weaves social commentary into his musicality. Freetown Sound demonstrates how Blood Orange collages contemporary production with memories of the political and musical past. This analog feeling comes through so perfectly on vinyl and is why it’s an essential album for anyone’s record collection.