Drake’s third album, Nothing Was the Same, was a landmark in the merging of hip-hop and R&B when it was released nearly a decade ago. Concurrently, an unheralded rapper and producer named Brent Faiyaz from Columbia, Maryland dropped his debut album, Sunset Avenue, and his debut EP, Black Child. Here you will read about Brent Faiyaz, Drake, and Male R&B’s Ovo-ification details.
They’re both melancholy hip-hop EPs displaying Faiyaz as a rapper-singer hybrid in the same vein as Drake. In an interview recently with the music blogger Yohance Kyles, Faiyaz named his influences.
Included in this group are Tupac, Aaliyah, Lauryn Hill, Sade, Missy Elliott, Kanye West, Pharrell, and, of course, Drake. This list is remarkable not only because it has Drake, but also because it features the exact group of musicians that Drake would have listed if asked the same query in January of 2014.
Only two songs from this time period, “Love Thing” and “City Lights/Worst in Us,” feature Faiyaz hinting at the sultry R&B tenor he would later popularise on the rapper GoldLink’s blockbuster single, “Crew,” with Faiyaz singing the chorus. In the years following “Crew,” Faiyaz developed his own style and become a major celebrity in his own right.
Faiyaz dropped his second full-length album, Wasteland, last month. It’s a gentle but breathtaking reunification of R&B’s pre- and post-Drake eras, and one of the best albums by a male performer in recent years. It’s also a commercial triumph, and one that came as a bit of a surprise: Wasteland launched at number two on the Billboard 200, nearly unseating Bad Bunny’s juggernaut, Un Verano Sin Ti, which is now in its eighth week at number one.
However, here’s the rub: Drake was completely incapable of creating or even performing Wasteland. And certainly not without giving the singing a cold, electronic quality, as is his trademark. He would probably just listen to some Usher samples and give up. Wasteland is one of the few post-OVO albums that even an R&B purist can like.
Besides Drake and the Weeknd, artists featured on Wasteland include Maxwell, Aaliyah, and Babyface. Overall, Wasteland is an admirable attempt to take R&B further than Drake. Faiyaz is a master artisan who has a firm grasp on the present while keeping an eye on the past and the future.
Faiyaz has now reached the level of pure R&B popularity that Drake frequently appears to wish he’d earned instead of rap or even mainstream stardom.
Though generally speaking, Blum does have a point. For the better part of a decade, male R&B has been ruled by the likes of Drake, OVO Sound, and the Weeknd. Drake has so thoroughly appropriated R&B that it is now nearly impossible for a new generation of fans to experience specific eras of the genre without hearing Drake.
This is despite the fact that OVO Sound has a poor roster and has never really outgrown the old jokes about it being a prison colony for Drake’s ghostwriters, and that the Weeknd has relinquished his role at the forefront of prestige R&B in favor of ordinary pop hit-making.
Dvsn, PartyNextDoor, Majid Jordan, and Roy Woods are all part of Drake’s OVO Sound, and they’re all talented vocalists and songwriters. However, they’re all held back by the pessimistic outlook of Drake‘s label and the Weeknd’s XO imprint and are only kept afloat by the words “featuring Drake.”
Exactly what is the nature of this worldview, if any, that you speak about? It’s sometimes misrepresented as unusually crude and spiteful when in fact Bobby Brown and R. Kelly were poisonous on so-called love songs long before the Weeknd and PartyNextDoor.
However, OVO Sound is less of a musical trend in the vein of new jack swing and more of a cartel designed to clean up the boss’s taste in music. The enterprise encompasses the record label’s unofficial associates, like Bryson Tiller, Tory Lanez, and, yes, even Faiyaz. These performers as a group uphold an unrealistic ideal of invulnerability in both appearance and act.
While both artists, Drake and Beyoncé, have recently released dance albums, they couldn’t be more different. While Beyoncé made a massive, exuberant disco record, Drake’s journey into the house was refreshing but ultimately doomed to fail. Honestly, Nevermind’s flaws were destined to be there. Drake’s musical and spiritual strengths are sometimes squandered inside the confines of the OVO worldview, despite widespread praise for his taste and knowledge of Black music scenes around the world.
Wasteland is the kind of R&B that first drew Drake’s attention. Faiyaz seems determined, despite his debts to Drake, to re-establish a connection between the men of the OVO worldview and the legacies they are constantly sampling and shouting out at a far nostalgic remove; to remind himself and his peers that Drake isn’t the sum total of his influences but rather just one name in a long list of musical forebears.
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