Photo by Eddie Pearson for Okayplayer
“I’d like to introduce you to my alleged torn patella, my kneecap…” said Devonté Hynes AKA Blood Orange, gesturing towards the kneebrace that kept his normally exuberant dance moves to a minimum Saturday night, “…from my alleged attack at Lollapalooza.” Dev was speaking to a crowd of some 5,000 music fans assembled in Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield for his headlining Okayplayer SummerStage concert–and judging by the joyful cheers his aside was met with, they were extremely starstruck to be in the presence of Dev Hynes’ injured kneecap. “I don’t mean to take you there, but it’s starting to fucking hurt…because I just want to dance. I got to sing some more. I can’t do this.”
This summer’s events seem to have elevated those innocuous words “I just want to dance” to a sort of theme for the times, the reminder that every space, no matter how insular, young, naive, shallow or privileged feels encroached on by over-policing, police brutality or state violence in some form, ranging from assaults by overzealous club or festival security on performers like Hynes and rapper Black Dave to the choking death of Eric Garner at the hands NYPD in Staten Island. Playing behind it all is the footage of police in riot gear facing off against young, black protestors in Ferguson, Missouri–a touchstone that seems to have affected almost everybody, eliciting songs, protests and action from both the activist (Killer Mike) and anodyne (Frank Ocean, Elle Varner) ends of the musical spectrum.
Dev Hynes is no exception. As he told OKP TV’s cameras in an exclusive interview shot on the grassy knoll just behind the stage, speaking about friends who were present during this week’s “craziness” In Ferguson
“You don’t want it to be real, but it is. And I don’t know what’s happening or what’s going to happen. To me, it feels like I’ve been getting poked all my life…this irritating jab that just keeps pushing…and people are just getting tired. It feels like you associate time with learning. I think in our culture it’s a real shock that that doesn’t add up in everything. Just because the Civil Rights Act was like 50 years ago, doesn’t mean that we’re 50 times past it.”
Dev’s detectably gentle spirit seems matched by a philosophical wisdom beyond his years in the face of the violence of the times: “change can probably come…but that’s a long, long, long process of just planting seeds and hoping eventually that shit grows.” In spite of the deep roots of violence, the intractability and hopelessness that seem to feed it, there’s no doubting the power of this one particular seed: the image of Dev Hynes, a scant two weeks after his assault in Chicago, dancing against all medical advice and common sense in front of a meadow of adoring fans. At his side is his white-skinned lover and creative partner Samantha Urbani–also a target of that alleged assault–rocking a mini-dress that reads “Film The Police 4 Justice + Peace.”