Rapper, singer, actor, awards-show host, Toronto Raptors ambassador… Drake holds nearly as many job titles as he does house parties. But one we’d be foolish to overlook is talent scout. The man himself is a more superior spitter than balladeer, but his track record for pinching young fresh voices out of the Greater Toronto Area and giving them a push under his October’s Very Own umbrella has been impeccable. Turns out, The Weeknd is no anomaly.
— Drizzy (@Drake) July 26, 2014
Within a span of days, both PartyNextDoor (PartyNextDoor Two) and Majid Jordan (A Place Like This EP) dropped sophomore releases that smartly showcase their respective talents in tight running time and without the distraction of featured artists. To the unfamiliar, one act sounds like it’s a group but is a soloist; the other sounds like a solo artist but is a group. And, much like The Weeknd, background info and interviews from these new artists is scarce. There is power in the enigmatic, OVO teaches us. PartyNextDoor is Jahron Anthony Brathwaite, a 21-year-old Mississauga dude cut from the Abel Tesfaye mold of Music-To-Drunk-Dial-To. Majid Jordan is the mashup of Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman, a Toronto production duo formerly known as Good People and best known for co-producing and handling the hook of a little ditty called “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” So how do you follow a double-platinum joint, one anointed by Pitchfork as 2013’s best single? By dropping five tracks of unfiltered deep-house seduction. The more romantic voice of OVO 2.0, MJ is all honeyed ecstasy. A Place Like This is what rose petals lapping a Jacuzzi would sound like if they could sing. A giant leap forward in sophistication from the duo’s first EP, Afterhours—released under the Good People moniker after meeting at University of Toronto—A Place Like This is bookended by its best tracks. “Forever” is a dreamy slice of optimism best served to a dance floor at 3 a.m. while the set’s title song and lead single/video connects on an ethereal plane, with its hypnotic refrain of “Uh-huh.” “Go on, take my hand/There’s nothing left to do,” goes the courtship. “Brings a tear to my eye when you remind me/How you came to my side and you stayed by me.” Consider the ladies won. More confused and way more interesting is the rough-around-the-edges writing of PartyNextDoor, whose music sounds like August Alsina’s might if he were trapped in a basement with DJ Screw, the Eurythmics and a two-month supply of cough syrup. Brathwaite, who produces as well, puts wonderful melody to his pain, but there is a harshness here that can’t be found in Majid Jordan’s work. By turns horny and tripping, hopeful and resentful, PartyNextDoor is in no rush to turn the lights out, content to drink in his pain until the wee hours. There is an unsettling wooziness that pervades the molasses beats, often muddied by scratches or static or cuss words or blame. “I got money/I don’t need a bitch,” PND deflects on “SLS.” But of course he does. Else we wouldn’t be here. If Majid Jordan is silk sheets on a king-size bed, PartyNextDoor is an afghan tossed on a futon. But to paraphrase Drake’s line on PND’s fantastic “Recognize,” both OVO acts are freaks. Now their cover’s blown. —Luke Fox