The Landscape Of OVO’s R&B Singers

R&B acts ready to emerge from Drake’s shadow

A single pop song can inspire a thousand lesser clones. Millions of dollars are devoted to the creation of facsimiles, torpedoing wayward careers unsure of the right trend to follow. Drake's “Hold On, We’re Going Home” deserved to do all of that. Instead, the only clear heirs to the 2013 song's success are Majid Jordan, the duo featured on Drake's hit. Last month, they released their self-titled debut album, which hints at a world where their first hit made wider cultural ripples.

The Canadian duo of Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman came into the public eye with the release of “Hold On,” a song that evoked a pastiche of '80s R&B that could’ve come from Dev Hynes but instead climbed Top 40 radio. The young duo, like fellow Drake-affiliated singers The Weeknd and PartyNextDoor, were plucked from obscurity but don't feel indebted to Drake’s morphing musical aesthetic.

Earlier this week, OVO cryptically announced the signing of another mysterious R&B artist, dvsn. The still relatively unknown act first appeared on OVO Sound Radio with “The Line” and sent Internet sleuths scrambling to discover their identity. Since then, dvsn have released three more songs on SoundCloud, and now officially have the much-sought-after OVO stamp of approval. The languid pace of songs like “Too Deep” gives their music a quiet-storm mood, even if the content is just as raunchy as The Weeknd or PartyNextDoor.

Majid Jordan is decidedly not the brooding mix of R&B and rap that’s defined Drake’s other descendants; instead, the album exudes warmth. Opening song “Learn From Each Other” leans closer to deep house, in both the 1991 Chicago and 2014 Ultra senses of the term. Last year saw the rise of tropical house into the pop mainstream, but the first couple of tracks on Majid Jordan hint at what different styles of the genre could sound like if urban radio, not SoundCloud, was the end goal.

The duo retreat into post–new jack swing ballads once they stop dabbling in house. “Love Is Always There” is a strong deep cut that would’ve worked well with any post–New Edition solo act, even if it trades in familiar stylistic tropes. That they have a down-tempo track called “Day and Night” that sounds like a negative copy of Al B. Sure!’s “Nite and Day” reveals the album’s real mood board.

OVO signing dvsn shows that there might be a bit more variety within Drake’s camp than his initial co-signs suggested. While Majid Jordan and dvsn both make obvious nods to '90s R&B, the former occasionally stumbles into house and the latter treads into gospel. That kind of wiggling away from the genre is different from another Drake co-sign and almost OVO signee, Bryson Tiller, who ducked away from that circle and is sticking to his core hybrid of R&B and rap. None of these acts could exist without Drake, but after a few years, OVO's roots are beginning to diverge from those of its founder.