Celebrate Mardi Gras with Dawn Richard

Celebrate Mardi Gras with Dawn Richard

This Mardi Gras, you can celebrate like an amateur with beads and Hurricanes, or you can take a deep dive into the culture of Carnival with a custom-made playlist by Dawn Richard, New Orleans native and the artist behind New Breed, out now.

You might know Richard from the band Danity Kane, which formed in 2005 during a season of MTV’s Making the Band. Soon after, Diddy signed them to Bad Boy Records. Before going the reality TV route, though, Richard was living in New Orleans, the daughter of Frank Richard of the funk/soul band Chocolate Milk. And now, post Danity Kane, she has a solo R&B that career that reaches back to her roots; she’s part of Washitaw Nation, also known as the Mardi Gras Indians.

In celebration of Mardi Gras, Richard put together a playlist of all the classics and bops you need to dance your way through Fat Tuesday. Plus, she spoke with TIDAL about her hometown, her inspirations and what we need to know about New Orleans.

You grew up as a part of the Washitaw nation. What aspects of their culture contributed to your musical development? 

The voice layering. Chanting is a huge part of the tribes. I’ve used a lot of countermelodies based on the overlay of chants. You can hear it in a lot of my records.

How did growing up in New Orleans influence how you make music? 

It’s a way of life. You hear music reverberating in the streets when you wake up and go to sleep. It’s a gumbo of sounds that mix genres and cultures. My art is the same. A blending of genres and sounds. Like gumbo.

What was it like growing up in New Orleans when Cash Money and No Limit exploded nationally? 

It was dope. We knew we had a flavor that was different than everyone and it was the first time the world saw the way we spoke. The way we moved.

What do you want people to do when they listen to your music (sing or dance)? 

Have an outer key experience. Sing and dance.  Shit. Catch the Holy Ghost. I want them to be moved.

Tell us about a few of your selections from the playlist. Why did you decide to include them?

Chocolate Milk’s ‘Groove City’ is an anthem for New Orleans. All the old heads love this record and play it every Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, Essence, etc. My dad has contributed a lot musically to the city. I’m proud of him and his band.

New Breed is dope to me because it takes bounce culture and flips it on its ass. It takes a futuristic approach to bounce that I had fun doing.

‘Iko Iko’ is a record that, as soon as you hear it, you know it’s Carnival time.

As a New Orleans native, what do you think outsiders need to know about the city and Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is just the surface of what New Orleans is. The city is so damn rich in heritage and culture. The small piece of what the world gets to see — like bounce, Jazz, Mardi Gras, the food — that’s only a piece of how incredible the city is. We have our hand in the future as well. From electronic music, to tech startups, to innovative art, to the story of the black Indians. We have so much more story to tell to the world. I just want to be one of the storytellers telling it.

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