Dawn Richard breezed into our office, braided ponytail coming from the top of her head (which was held high–a sign of unshakeable confidence), her leather jacket hung open, showing off a fashion Balmain T-shirt and she rocked a thick gold chain that reminded me of Versace couture. She was the picture of “It Girl” perfection.

After lusting over her style, I realized she walked in alone. It was almost symbolic. I watched her stand in the doorway as a solo artist whose journey in the music business took a voyeuristic route via Diddy’s “Making The Band” series. She made the band, but after all the flashing lights, the dust settled and Dawn found herself…alone. Danity Kane was no more, but Dawn was still a true artist, dying to share her music with listeners searching for more than typical R&B.

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Diddy scooped Dawn up for his group, Dirty Money and after one solid album that meshed funk with R&B and Hip-hop, Dawn was once again left…alone. But that is obviously how she thrives.

The opinionated, but sinfully sweet songstress is now able to be herself. Dawn claims, “I want people when they listen to me to be like, ‘Yo, she changed the way R&B sounded, looked visually and the way it moved.” Dawn wants to reinvent R&B to the point where you don’t even want to call her music that. With the release of her Armor On EP, we’ve gotten to hear Dawn’s revolution. The first part of her three-part album–Goldenheart will hit the shelves on January 15, 2013 and the second part, Blackheart will be out later in 2013 and we will have to patiently wait for the final part of Dawn’s musical trilogy.

Check out #TeamBeautiful’s chat with Dawn about everything from failing girl groups to being Diddy’s favorite to where her solo music will take us.

HelloBeautiful: You have this trilogy that you’re trying to put out with Goldenheart being the first. So what made you do this music in a trilogy?

Dawn Richard: I‘m a huge fan of series. I felt the story wouldn’t be able to be told with just one album. It is in three parts. I always felt like in a battle it’s never just one fight and then it’s done. You’re always continuously fighting and then you come to a place where there’s a dark moment where you lose people along the way. You have to grieve in that moment and then there’s a redemption moment where there’s a freedom that you realize everything you’ve been fighting for, everyone you’ve lost along the way was for this moment. And I felt like I could break that up into three parts. Plus three is the number of the trinity and it’s got this faith and spiritual aspect to it as well. And the story had a Joan of Arc vibe. So I felt like it kind of made sense to do it in this series.

HB: What would you say is the biggest difference in your music from Danity Kane, Dirty Money to now, by yourself?

DR: I think there’s not a difference. It’s a mash-up of all of it. The sound has totally evolved. I’ve taken everything that I’ve had from sounds of Danity Kane and sounds of Dirty Money, the learning experience and all those beautiful 808’s and kicks. That’s why the music doesn’t have a genre. It falls between this progressive type of R&B sound because I’m taking crossover music that I started with in Danity Kane and the deep lyrics I wrote on Last Train To Paris and Dirty Money. So I think its just the evolution of me.

Check Out Dawn Richard Singing “Me, Myself & Y”:

HB: So where is this evolution of Dawn leading us?

DR: It’s leading us to go back to passion again. [I wants fans] feeling like they need to have love, they need to have the best of themselves be shown. And I want people when they listen to me to be like, ‘Yo, she changed the way R&B sounded, looked visually, the way it moved’ and I wanna be a part of that group of people that can do that. And that’s why I am incorporating the art of dance, incorporating R&B and pushing people to see it is not just something linear, but can be danced to using different sounds.

I want to make you almost uncomfortable with calling it R&B. But the lyrics are so deep and it’s presented in such a way vocally that it makes you feel like this is so epic. I want you to be confused and uncomfortable and then inspired. And I wanna be a part of that. I wanna be the new R&B. I want people to be like, ‘She was a part of this new wave that transcended what anybody else thought.’ And we not even doing it with or music; we’re doing it with our business sense–being an independent artist with no label going number one with an EP that wasn’t even an album. We are charting on Billboard with no features, no label and no budget. We’re creating a whole new way you see R&B. You see it in Rap. You’ve seen it in Country, but you’ve never seen an R&B artist with no label move like that. It’s a different vibe.

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HB: I’m so glad you’re a solo artist, even though I loved Danity Kane, but why can’t girl groups stay together?

DR: I don’t have the answer for that. We were manufactured. We were competitors and then we had to become sisters and I think we did a hell of a job trying to make that make sense. And we were very close to each other. Coming into this, no one gives you the booklet or the memo on how this has nothing to do with talent and most of it has to do with business and picking the right manager and the right team. We came into it with everything given to us.

We didn’t pick our manager; we didn’t pick our label; we got in the line and it came along with us. So I think along the way when we started to realize things, everything started breaking apart and it forced us to break apart. If your core isn’t strong, your group can’t last. And I think that’s what happened with us. Now everything’s different with each group. Sometimes people get pregnant, they meet men, they get married, they choose not to do it, fights, cattiness and messiness. We tried to hold it together as long as we could but I don’t know why girl groups can’t stay together.

HB: What is life like after Diddy?

DR: Great! Just as great as it was when it was with him. It’s just a different dynamic. And I’m learning a lot of the reasons why he was so strong, stern and ridiculous at moments and almost obsessive compulsive moments and now I know why he was so particular and such a perfectionist, because now with my business I have to be. I’m so hands on now. I kinda get the reason I had to go through when I went through. But it’s great. It’s a great feeling.

HB: Did you consider yourself a favorite of Diddy?

DR:  I think he portrayed it as such from a TV perspective. But from our perspective, he never favored me. And it’s funny because when we would get in trouble and things would pop up, I was never the person they called to get things back on track. I was kind of quiet. But I always worked well. I didn’t even know I was a favorite until I watched the show. People don’t even know, when I tried out in the Apollo Theater, I only performed for them once. The other girls had multiple takes, so I assumed I was going home. I thought he hated me. So when I saw the show back I was surprised that he did favor me. Puff was in love with my work ethic. It wasn’t a favorite or who I was as talent. I was hungry, and I’m still hungry and I think that’s what he fell in love with. I think that’s what he favored. I think he favored the qualities I had as an artist.

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