In 2012, after step by step dropping curiosity, Combs broke up the group over electronic mail, and Richard efficiently requested a launch from her contract. (She and Combs stay in contact.) She met with a number of main labels, which all handed. Undeterred, she dedicated to going unbiased, and commenced engaged on a trilogy of idea albums with experimental digital producers equivalent to Andrew “Druski” Scott, Noisecastle III and Machinedrum.
“I used to be immediately shocked by how gifted she was, and the way she gravitated in direction of the stranger beats,” Machinedrum mentioned in an interview. “Numerous artists as of late are sucked into social media; they appear like they’re not all there. However you can inform that she’s there to work.”
After almost a decade of getting her creativity dictated by others, tapping into this freedom was like uncorking a bottle. “I used to be a grown one who had by no means been in a position to say ‘I wish to put on what I wish to put on,’” she mentioned. “So I simply began doing what felt good. I had been rejected a lot, I didn’t care if individuals received it. I simply wanted to get it out.”
Whereas she obtained essential acclaim, there was a slight backhanded component to the reward for her post-girl group profession. “It made me really feel like perhaps Danity Kane was a joke — like all the pieces that I had achieved earlier than had been seen as some bubble gum factor, and now I’m a official artist,” she mentioned. “I used to be thoughts boggled by that as a result of I hadn’t modified something; I simply actually received a possibility to write down extra.”
Over the following few years she labored incessantly on full-length information, unfastened singles, characteristic appearances, remixes and ornate music movies — most of it self-funded, which made it much more disappointing if it didn’t make the influence she had hoped for. Drained, Richard decamped to New Orleans for an prolonged interval for the primary time since she’d moved away. There, she reacquainted herself with town’s inventive rhythms, which had modified dramatically post-Katrina, and settled on translating that into her music. (As a substitute of dialing down her manufacturing values, she covertly audited a finance class on the College of New Orleans to raised handle her funds.)
“You’ll be able to take individuals exterior of New Orleans, however you’ll be able to’t take New Orleans out of them; regardless of the place we’re, the tradition lives within us,” mentioned the jazz musician Trombone Shorty, who’s recognized Richard since childhood. “She needed so as to add her style and her model to what we have already got right here and transfer it ahead, whereas on the similar time respecting the tradition and the place it comes from.”