My formal introduction to OVO Sound’s latest signee—the enigmatic group known as dvsn—came during last month’s episode of OVO Sound Radio. The duo of singer Daniel Daley and “Hotline Bling/Hold On We’re Going Home” producer Nineteen85 spent the second hour of the show dropping a collection of both 90s and contemporary R&B, as well as a few samplings of their own music. They even slid in covers of Aaliyah’s “One In a Million” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” It was, however, the former that initially caught my attention—a surprisingly polished homage to Baby Girl that kept most of the elements that made the Timbaland-produced classic such a tour de force, coupled with an interpolation of Prince’s “Purple Rain.”
That same evening, the Toronto upstarts decided to let fans get a taste of their debut offering, Sept. 5th, providing a fresh stream on Apple Music—an entire week in advance. A quick look on social media revealed the project being well well received, despite only being available for a mere hour.
So, how did Sept 5th fare with this self-proclaimed Hip-Hop
aficionado snob, who holds emcees such as Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Nas and Lord Finesse in such high regards, and keeps a devil-may-care attitude for most R&B these days? Well, after letting the album soak in for the last two weeks, I think it’s fair to finally sit down and assess it with you all. So let’s dig into it, shall we?
While OVO Sound has an incredible stable of artists (Majid Jordan, PARTYNEXTDOOR and Roy Wood$), dvsn may very well be their best kept secret. The fact that they are still, for the most part, shrouded in mystery can only help raise their stock. After all, mystery breeds intrigue—right, Abel?
Sept. 5th is a sexually explicit-filled leviathan, which puts a modern twist on vintage 90s R&B music and is largely fueled by the carnal, libidinous sounds provided by Drake’s frequent, go-to producer Paul Jefferies (Nineteen85). As he mentioned in his FADER interview, the Scarborough-born producer is “in the business of making feels” as opposed to “making beats.”
This is apparent right away, and the album succeeds in not sounding like anything else that’s preceded it. Well, aside from the fact that the album’s opening salvo, “With Me” borrows what sounds like the same refrains which can be heard on Ginuwine’s “Wait a Minute.” The unabashed erotica takes course off top, with Daley confessing his desires for his lady to “Fuck with me now,” despite knowing he could have any woman in the world.
“Too Deep” is a slow burner—which seems to borrow Timbaland’s (who is rumored to carry ASCAP-certified writing credits on the song) slow rumbling bassline from Ginuwine’s “So Anxious“—and one which would make R. Kelly Double Up with envy. It’s a boisterously straightforward number about laying down the pipe, and not pulling out. But dig deeper and there are layers to this shit, with an alternate interpretation surrounding the subject of love that is impenetrable.
On “Try/Effortless” and the title track, “Sept. 5th,” the sexual undercurrents are toned down a bit. While the former paints a clear picture of the perfect lover to chase after (all you thirst mongers can relate), the latter—which may or may not be a reference to the date in which they premiered their first single, “The Line”—applies a cosmetic coat of regret and heartache, with contrite lines like “I feel discarded, I feel mistreated. I think of love, and you’re the meaning.”
The spacey, heady vibrations of the standout track “Hallucinations” implants vivid memories of the first few moments when one falls madly in love, contrasted by the sudden realization that those familiar feelings are simply mirages of yesteryear. “Losing my concentration, hearing your voice in my head / Seeing you when you aren’t there.” It’s a mutual, shared experience that we’ve all encountered at one point in our lives—and as maddening as it can sometimes be, there’s a calm, harmonious understanding that brings to the light the famous idiom, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Consider optimism in the face of hardships and misery.
After breathing in the aura of Sept. 5th for nearly two weeks, I still haven’t been able to find a single fault in the project. While most modern R&B albums usually feature lots of high points, punctuated by a cavernous nadir, Sept. 5th succeeds at topping itself on each subsequent listen. Daley’s glossy falsetto and gaudy penmanship, coalesced with Nineteen85’s velvety sound design makes Sept. 5th a perfect college course study in dramaturgy.