Since 2012, OVO Sound has existed as the record label owned and created by Drake and his close knit group of friends, artist and producers. Here is a list of all of the OVO artists and their notable contributions to the label and the game in general.
The Weeknd (pre 2012):
The Weeknd in the picture above is the new Weeknd. Forget him. The Weeknd, that we’re after, existed in better times…sweeter times…any time before 2012, to be precise. Not to say that his newer material isn’t good, but it isn’t what is was way back when. Now, The Weeknd was never officially signed to OVO but was a key contributor to their movement and the sound that we’ve come accustomed to hearing from the label.
With a trilogy of incredible mixtapes all falling throughout 2011, The Weeknd was at the peak of his powers when his personal fame was secondary to drugs, alcohol and sex. Since ‘The Trilogy’, what we see as his most prolific body of work, we’ve seldom seen flashes of the pre 2012 Weeknd. Apart from ‘King of the Fall’ and ‘Often’, the last official sighting was ‘Reminder’ from his latest album ‘Starboy’. So although he may not be dead and gone, just yet, The Weeknd before the fame was definitely the most potent form of himself. Able to not only propel himself into a lane but craft one of his own, ‘OVO’ Abel was a cut above his peers and contemporaries when he first garnered attention.
File next to: 2011 – 2013 Drake, PartyNextDoor, Nostalgia Ultra Frank Ocean, Bryson Tiller, Spooky Black, Zacari, Michael Jackson, Prince.
Favourite tracks: The Whole of House of Balloons, Most of Thursday, Some of Echoes of Silence, Often and King of the Fall.
Since signing to the label in 2013, PARTYNEXTDOOR (often stylized as ‘PND’) has been a mainstay of contemporary R&B. Being the first official signee to OVO Sound, after Drake, comes with a certain level of prestige but also a hell of a lot of pressure. Pressure that doesn’t seem to faze PND. Since his debut mixtape, self-titled PartyNextDoor, he has been on a genre defining expedition unseen since his boss did the same a few years prior.
PND’s sound is a sweet blend of a traditional R&B crooner and new aged Travis Scott type rapper. More meticulous with his melodies than his hooks and bit more hood than pre 2012 Weeknd, but just as self-reflective as Frank Ocean, he represents the voice of the lost 20 something trapped in a cycle of women, addiction and insecurities.
Introducing his own sound, style and cadence to the R&B genre, his influence can even be felt in some of the most successful popstar’s charted singles – Zayn – Still Got Time & Major Lazer – Run Up. With two EPs, two studio albums and countless features, songwriter and producer credits, all under his belt in just four years, PND is slowly but surely manipulating the music game with his originality, expert craftsmanship and ability to delivery at every opportunity.
File next to: Drake, The Weeknd (pre 2012), Bryson Tiller, Spooky Black, Nostalgia Ultra Frank Ocean, Roy Wood$
Favourite tracks: Tbh, West District, Her Way, High Hopes and Things & Such.
“Can I hit it with my OVO goose on?” – lyrics I’ve uttered way too many times. And therein lies exactly what OB O’Brien (“OB”) is about. Not as accomplished or as well known as any of his OVO teammates, OB tends to move in deafening silence – except for skits and cameos. But DO NOT SLEEP ON him. He’s only got five songs to his name but all five at are of pretty high quality, for someone who treats music as more of a pastime than a career.
It’s the all-star cast that helps set OB apart from the usual frat-rapper type artists that he’d otherwise be akin to. With playful bars and a this superstar supporting cast of producers and artists, that most rappers could only dream of, OB is the archetypal joker in the OVO card deck – the rebel without cause.
Almost known more for his video cameo shenanigans than the music that he makes, OB is a clear reflection of what OVO is about. Great music made in-house by a close group of friends, musicians and producers, delivering music the way they want to deliver it – whenever, wherever. He may not appear on many peoples ‘Top 10s’ but OB is an integral member of the OVO collective and I’m more than happy to receive his music on an ad-hoc basis, if that’s what he’s on doing.
File next to: Drake, Mac Miller
Favourite tracks: Hamilton, Steve Nash, 2On/Thoful, Schemin’ Up.
Majid Jordan is a Canadian R&B duo, composed of Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman.
Signed to Drake’s OVO Sound label at Warner Bros, this pair’s effort falls in line with overall OVO output by being just left of centre. Far detached from run in the mill R&B crooners Chris Brown, August Alsina or Trey Songz. Their work is darker and more mysterious, yet still maintaining a soft touch of soul that aligns it with acts like The Weeknd (another OVO affiliates).
Majid Jordan’s best quality is its intimate feel. Synth pop meets R&B and soul in the most gracious manner with vibes vibes vibes echoing throughout their self-entitled debut album. Also worth mentioning is their production credit list which already boasts the likes of Drake’s ‘Feel No Ways’ (which may be one of our favourite songs ever) and ‘Hold On We’re Going Home’, DJ Khaled – For Free.
File next to: Prince (especially on Love Symbol)
Favourite tracks: Her, Pacifo and Summers Over Interlude
Roy Wood$, real name Denzel Spencer began his career under the moniker Pression (a ‘clever’ play on depression) signed to OVO Sound in 2015. First developing his songwriting skills at the age of 16, Wood$ was lighting up YMCA clubs in his hometown, Brompton, Ontario when he was spotted. The Guyanese-Canadian musician has made significant progress since first signing to OVO Sound and has already developed an impressive body of work, namely ‘Waking At Dawn’ his first studio album released in July 2016.
To OVO, Roy Wood$ represents a more modern and youthful R&B approach than the likes of DVSN and PARTYNEXTDOOR. Often supported by trappy boom bap instrumentals, he manages to subvert this genre type by refusing confinement, his music borrows influences from R&B, dancehall and pop at times.
File next to: Michael Jackson, The Weeknd and PARTYNEXTDOOR
Favourite tracks: Drama, Gwarn Big Up Urself and Love You
The last artist(s) to garner as much interest with a mystery identity was another former OVO Sound affiliate, The Weeknd. Introduced to the world on OVO Sound Radio’s 7th Episode in October 2015, with their first album, ‘Sept. 5th’, soon to follow in March 2016, their identity remained secret. However, we now know that Dvsn are a duo comprised of Paul “Nineteen85” Jefferies (long time friend of Champagne Papi) and Daniel Daley whose falsettos are unique and far ranging.
Using contemporary sounds as its reference point to explore the progressive and meaningful aspects of love. Dvsn’s sound feels much more adult compared to the casual, hip-hop-leaning nods of R&B up-and-comers Tory Lanez and Bryson Tiller,
File next to: D’Angelo and Ginuwine
Favourite tracks: Too Deep, With Me and Keep The Faith (Faithful extended mix)
Noah “40” Shebib:
It wouldn’t be an OVO article without mentioning Noah Shebib, professionally known as 40, one of the founding fathers of OVO Sound, the Canadian hip-hop producer, audio engineer and mixer from Toronto has played a pivotal role in the progress of the OVO wave. He has played a significant role Drake’s success in the music industry, and is one of his best friends. He is known for his downtempo and ambient style of production, and for real fans it doesn’t need a “If Metro don’t trust you… Imma shoot ya” type signature to identify his work.
Monumental in creating Drake’s music, and together their “atmospheric, brooding sound has revitalised hip-hop.” 40’s production is described as “sparse, ambient, slow-jam-like tracks dominated by brooding synths, minimalist piano or guitar parts, stripped-down, often muffled drums, and cinematic atmospheric treatments.” Marvin’s Room is perhaps the best example of this where Shebib mixed the record so that it is very dark, quiet and muddy with the vocals cutting through its bassline frequently.
OVO is 40, 40 is OVO
Favourite tracks: Everything he touches turns to gold, but particular favourites include: Marvins Room, Cameras and Houstatlantavegas