Following a short and combustible run with dance-punk band Test Icicles and two comparatively conventional singer/songwriter-oriented albums as Lightspeed Champion, Devonté Hynes changed course again with a second solo pseudonym, Blood Orange. Since debuting the project in 2011, the year Coastal Grooves was released, Hynes has developed a progressive mixture of several styles including soul, funk, post-punk, and chillwave, all the while incorporating lyrical themes of identity, sexuality, belonging, and spirituality among other issues that have the shaped his existence and those of his peers. Despite enlisting extensive supporting casts on later albums Cupid Deluxe, Freetown Sound, and Negro Swan — all of which registered on Billboard's R&B and independent charts — Hynes' output has been resolutely individualist and deeply personal. Concurrent with Blood Orange's evolution as a collaborative outlet, Hynes himself has been sought out by a varied multitude of fellow artists such as Sky Ferreira, Solange, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Philip Glass.
The London-born, New York-based Hynes debuted Blood Orange in early 2011 with "Dinner," a single that showcased a softer singing style necessitated by an emergency throat procedure he underwent the previous year. "Dinner" became the prelude to the full-length Coastal Grooves, which arrived that August on the Domino label, the musician's home dating back to the Test Icicles era. Having previously assisted the likes of the Chemical Brothers, Diana Vickers, Florence + the Machine, and Theophilus London, Hynes' extracurricular work became increasingly high profile through the completion of his second Blood Orange album. Beside Coastal Grooves producer Ariel Rechtshaid, he worked with Sky Ferreira on "Everything Is Embarrassing." He also assisted Solange in the writing and production of the True EP, and for Mutya Keisha Siobhan he produced and co-wrote "Flatline." Coastal Grooves' follow-up Cupid Deluxe arrived shortly after the latter in November 2013. Featuring contributions from Skepta, Clams Casino, Kindness, and members of Chairlift, Friends, and Dirty Projectors, the willfully wayward set became Hynes' first album to reach the R&B and independent Billboard charts. During this flurry of activity, Hynes carved out time to compose and record the score for Gia Coppola's Palo Alto. The drama premiered at the 2013 Telluride Film Festival and the following May received a limited release, after which the score, credited to Devonté Hynes rather than Blood Orange, was made available separately.
FKA Twigs, Jessie Ware, Kindness, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Le1f account for just some of the artists who released Hynes-aided material from 2014 through 2016. In June 2016, Hynes released Blood Orange album three, Freetown Sound. Named after the capital of Sierra Leone, the home country of Hynes' father, it was inspired by Hynes' West African roots, both genealogically and musically, with material that resonated deepest with marginalized black and queer listeners. Kindness and Jepsen reciprocated with their presence at the sessions, while Hynes added Debbie Harry and Nelly Furtado to his extended musical family. The album debuted at number six on the Billboard R&B chart. Hynes' name popped up on releases from Blondie, Haim, A$AP Rocky, and Mac Miller into the latter half of 2018. During this period, Hynes performed with Philip Glass at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and with help from Diddy, Project Pat, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and A$AP Rocky, put together the alternately comforting and startling Negro Swan. Issued in August 2018, it became the third consecutive Blood Orange LP to chart on Billboard's R&B and independent listings. ~ Andy Kellman