Photography by Marley Kate
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How Blood Orange (a.k.a. Devonté Hynes) became an unlikely savior of pop music—and gave us a modern gay classic
“Something I love and am always trying to do musically and lyrically is add in a sense of teenage melodrama, where it’s life or death,” Hynes says. “It might be my arrested development, but I feel like it’s good to allow yourself to feel that way sometimes — that sense of ‘everything and nothing is important and amazing.’ ”
“I wasn’t like the other kids,” he says. “All of my friends were the more openly gay kids in my area. I remember just being outsiders in this really crazy town we were living in.”
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“Everyone was wearing, like, tracksuits, you know? Me and my friends would dress differently, and they just hated it,” he recalls. “It was a crazy time, and it left me with a lot of issues to do with race, gender, and sexuality. It wasn’t really white people bullying me — it was black people. Which really took a long time to get over...I mean, I’m almost positive the people bullying us were closeted.”
Did his parents wonder if he might be gay? “I think my parents definitely thought that for a while,” he says. They never asked him, which he interpreted as a form of acceptance — “their way of being like, ‘Well, if he is, that’s fine,’ ” he says.
His enlightened — and sadly, still quite radical — approach to sexuality stems from his early exposure to queer nightlife, when, in an attempt to flee the bigotry surrounding them, he and his friends would head into central London to gay bars and clubs. “Oh my God, it was just the best,” he says. “It’s still in the music I make, that feeling of being free in a city — liberated. It’s still a feeling I have, just being here.”