Five Years Later: The Story Behind 'PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO' And What It Means Now
One year and 29 days after his self-titled debut mixtape, PARTYNEXTDOOR would release PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO, the 12-track debut studio album, on July 29, 2014.
His ascension would fall between Drake’s Nothing Was The Same and If You're Reading This It's Too Late, amidst an onslaught of OVO loosies ("2 On" with OVO Brian, "Draft Day," and "Trophies," to name a few), and after the introduction to Majid Jordan after “Make A Mil” was posted on the OVO blog in April 2013.
Complex first described this second project as not being “life-changing,” and Pitchfork claimed it “doesn't have its eyes on anything original.” While some—casual listener to music critic—may argue his first project was objectively better than the second, the sound that PARTY birthed does not get cemented without this second project.
Artists like Bryson Tiller and 6lack wouldn’t have a lane to dominate without it. “Trey Songz was one of the bigger R&B artists in that style at the time, kind of like Chris Brown. August Alsina was on the chart, too. He came in at like six or seven,” Neenyo, long-time friend and PARTYNEXTDOOR collaborator, tells VIBE. He’s reading off a screenshot of the Apple Music R&B and Soul chart that PNDTWO topped.
Following PND2, the bubbling popularity of Travis Scott (à la Days Before The Rodeo) and Ty Dolla $ign’s rougher-around-the-edges, auto-tune heavy music, there were a few years where nearly every artist was mimicking a combination of the three sounds only to eventually co-opt Migos’ flow a year or two later.
In PARTY’s first interview with The Fader in 2015, OVO’s Oliver El-Khatib says, "He's the rare breed that writes, produces, engineers, performs, sings—all in one artist. He's pulling all of the strings, he's doing everything, so you hear his final production exactly the way he envisions it,"
Knowing this, there’s no surprise that PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO released with very little contribution from anyone else. El-Khatib did the artwork, and only two producers worked on the music with PARTY, Neenyo, who was living in Miami with PARTY, and G-Ry who reconnected with them between the release of the debut EP and PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO. He worked on the project from L.A.
For the five-year anniversary, we spoke with Neenyo and G-Ry about the making, the release, and what it’s like to look back on PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO five years later.
VIBE: What was your involvement or role in the making of PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO?
G-Ry: PARTY was really new to the scene and it was just the new sound and everything about him at that time was really fascinating. He's this new serious artist I just happened to have some past history with, and we reconnected. We were communicating all just through Twitter and just email. I never pulled up on him during the process. It was all through texts, back and forth, emails.
Neenyo, you and PARTY were living in Miami through the making and release of the first EP. What were those 13 months like in between the two releases?
Neenyo: When the first one came out, we just really enjoyed the music and were not sure if anyone else was going to get it. Being in Miami, we were so far away from the industry and everyone we knew because we were all from Canada. It was a group of us, but we didn’t know too many people in there.
When 1 [PARTYNEXTDOOR] dropped, we realized maybe we weren’t crazy. There was a relief like people would get what we’re doing. And that relief of knowing what we were doing made it so we go 10 times more in the direction we were going and still experiment. There was less pressure to prove ourselves. We could have fun with it. There was no label pressure or expectations or if there were, we didn’t realize it. For myself, and because we were out in Miami kind of isolated, at the time, I didn’t realize how big the songs were and that people were like listening, listening to them.
What was your day-to-day like in Miami?
N: (Laughs) Being young and having a little bit of money to do the things we wanted, we just really… partied, everyday.
The removal from the industry alleviates a lot of pressure socially, and despite having a big records out, everything in Miami was a little behind then, so you guys are so relative unknown, but you're making money. There aren’t a ton of up-and-coming artists that spent a bunch of time in Miami in that era.
N: Yes, during that time it was like Young Money, only, but we would go test out unreleased music driving down Collins [Avenue] and Ocean Drive. We just bumped the songs to see if the girls were f**king with it. Mack Maine used to do that as well. I forget what he was driving, maybe a Bentley or something at that point. He’d just be by himself doing the same thing, driving up and down Ocean Drive playing new Young Money music.
It was always a good test of how things should feel, driving around Miami just blasting it, ignorantly. There’s only certain songs we could, kind of, do that with. You know what I mean? If we’re driving down Collins in a convertible or something, there’s a certain sound songs you can play in that situation that embody that energy.
Can you remember any songs that you played that got a reaction?
N: One was “West District,” but I can’t remember the timeline. I think that was between projects.
That dropped on April 2014 on SoundCloud, three to four months before PND2 dropped.
N: Yea, I remember we were playing in Sunny Isles [a neighborhood north of South Beach] and playing it extremely loud from the car. There’s a car with like two or three girls that pulled up and were asking about the song. I think we just didn’t tell them about the song, so they started to follow us from the light. Later, I realized they recognized PARTY in the car. They tried to take photos. For me, that was a big memory, playing “West District,” and we were so excited knowing it was going to be something special.
We actually went to my friend’s in Hollywood [Florida] to a barbecue and then PARTY was just like, “Oh, we should just drop this now, while we're having a barbecue.” So, he literally pulled out his laptop. I always had my 35mm camera, and I had a photo of ‘Sauga, gave it to him, made the cover in Photoshop right in the backyard waiting for our food, and just uploaded to SoundCloud. Right there.
I know that a lot of this sound you guys created is specifically attributed to Mississauga and Toronto. I don't think Miami's musical influenced the project so much, but I think the Miami lifestyle influenced the project a lot. I feel like I can hear it, but what are specific things from making the project there that you’d reference influenced it?
N: We never would’ve made a song like “Sex On The Beach” in ‘Sauga. My lifestyle totally changed from being in ‘Sauga shoveling snow. It gave a different perspective and I think that came through in music. I think most of the songs that are sort of darker were made in ‘Sauga or Toronto, and the songs that feel more airy and open and kind of carefree are the products of the day-to-day in Miami.
We were just having fun during the days like going to beach or... (Pause) going to the beach. (Laughs) At night we would make songs based on the situations or the feelings of what happened during the day or the night before. There is a very literal connection between the songs and the day or the days leading up to making the song. There’s nothing on that project that was for the sake of storytelling or whatever. Everything in the songs is based on things that happened.
It's easier for me to produce, like just being there with artists or with PARTY. Being in joint experiences and then making a beat or starting an idea based off of a specific situation where we’re both present, it's so easy to make a song like that.
G-Ry, you were in L.A. when the project dropped, do you remember the first time you all saw each other in person after it released?
G: There was a time after the release that PARTY came to L.A., and he basically set up shop. He wanted to move out there. We met at the studio and started working right away on records. We did “Kehlani's Freestyle” [now known as “Things And Such”] a day before we went to Toronto for OVO Fest. We did that record, bounced it, uploaded it, and then flew directly to Toronto next hour after that song dropped.
We put the record out on SoundCloud, everyone's going crazy, got to the airport, flew to Toronto, and then there was like one day before OVO Fest for us to settle in. It was just a movie, you know? Will Smith, Kanye [West], Travis [Scott], Skepta, everyone was at that OVO fest, it was a huge party. PARTY performed records off PNDTWO. He performed the record I produced on there. So that was crazy. Being on the stage with him performing and you see Kevin Durant, you're seeing other NBA players bobbing their head to our music, it was a movie.
Was there a specific time period or circumstance after PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO dropped that you felt a significant shift in your career or lifestyle? Like a feeling of, we made it?
N: Just seeing the influence of it. I think seeing people like Bryson [Tiller], I think Bryson was the one that took the influence the most directly, successfully. Like with him, 6lack, Tory [Lanez], who switched his style to more similar to PARTY than what is was doing before, it was seeing the influence more than anything. That’s when things became the most real to me. I think that’s one of the hardest things to do, to switch people’s approach to music. I think that’s when I recognized that gravity of what we were doing.
What would you say PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO has done for you and your careers?
G: Oh, man. It's so humbling looking back. That changed everything. Like, that was one project alone that opened every nearly every door that I've walked through since. I’ve been able to work on Drake’s More Life, PND projects after PND2 like Colours, Colours 2, P3.
N: I have freedom. Before that, people would bring me references of other artists or songs they wanted to create. Now, people come to me for my sound that I established for myself.