DVSN is Bringing Traditional R&B Into The Modern Era

DVSN is paying homage to the past and only further confirming the 90's impact on their artistry.
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So Anxious” by Ginuwine encapsulated the art of sultry anticipation, impatient lust, and passionate yearning. Sex is at the song’s epicenter, it sweats with desire, but Ginuwine never gives the inevitable climax, just the rising action. Ginuwine was able to make anxiousness arousing, sexy without the sex, and that’s one reason why the single is still a classic slow jam.

It’s not a coincidence that DVSN sampled “So Anxious” for their single “Too Deep,” a song that begins with a woman’s voice proclaiming, “I won’t make you pull out.” It's as if “Too Deep” picks up after “So Anxious” ends, well past the 11:30 rendezvous time and once the two lovers are wrapped up in a moment of heat. You can feel the temptation seeping into the pores of the heavy bass and the seductive vocals. DVSN delivered the climax that Ginuwine teased, but both artists still played on more of an allusion than explicit details. 17 years may separate the two, born in two completely different eras of music, but they are cut from the same cloth of R&B.

DVSN’s debut album SEPT. 5th was a strong introduction to the union of singer Daniel Daley and producer Nineteen85. The Toronto duo showcased the flavor of traditional R&B while connecting to the modern trap-esque era. Daniel has vocals that lay against eardrums with the soft coolness of a pillow, there’s an elegance to his singing that reminds me of Miguel. Nineteen85’s production is superb, you can sink into his sea of sounds like submerging yourself in a pool on a hot summer’s day. The album isn’t perfect, but home runs like “With Me,” “Too Deep,” “The Line,” “Hallucinations,” and “Do It Well” were proof OVO had an R&B act that had potential to be much more than just another signing that would live in the shadows of Drake and Party. Even when songs didn’t stick to my soul, I could see promise in what they made. They won’t be winning a GRAMMY award for R&B album of the year, but SEPT. 5th is still a project worth your time if you’re looking for R&B that’s reminiscent of the past but has a foot in the present.

What I find impressive about DVSN is the music that came after the album. Being signed to OVO allows them access to OVO Sound, a weekly “radio” show on Apple Music station Beats 1. Some months ago, DVSN revealed a remix of “One In A Million” that blended the classic Aaliyah single with Prince’s “Purple Rain.” With the passing of Prince and the void left by Aaliyah's untimely death, I’m certain merging the two classics left many listeners in their feelings. After Aaliyah’s first verse, Daniel steps in and does a redemption of Prince’s final verse, and while it’s impossible to truly capture the magic of what Prince was able to do, the end result is an admirable tribute to the two legends.

Their remix of “One In A Million” was followed by a tribute to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” another legend who is no longer with us but left behind music that will live forever. It’s a short tribute, instead of trying to completely remake the original, it’s more like an attempt to capture the spirit of Marvin if he would sing the song in 2016.

What the Marvin and Aaliyah tributes/remixes showcase are two collaborators who are very aware of the past, aware of their influences, but not a slave to the old masters. Just like with “So Anxious,” there’s a sense of continuity; making the sequel instead of rebooting the original. You can’t reboot Prince, Ginuwine, Marvin or Aaliyah, but you can walk in their footsteps and carry their torches. Sequels are rarely better than the original, but they can still be good, and what DVSN has delivered so far has been good, if not better.

Hip-hop is constantly having a conversation about ageism―the old versus the young, but I don’t see that fight against old R&B with DVSN. They embrace the elders, while not losing their sense of youth. I think that’s the balance that hip-hop desires to see in their artists, but you can’t expect everyone to carry the same desire to pay homage. I’m pretty sure there’s someone who has cursed DVSN for even touching these classic records but, at the same time, there are millions who aren’t aware of these songs—DVSN is a bridge to old R&B and soul for the new generation.

DVSN made a complete step into the present by remixing Frank Ocean’s “Godspeed.” The added percussion adds a bit of character to the song that is almost completely stripped done. Newer production, along with Daniel adding a verse, takes you back to the kind of remixes Diddy invented. I’ve loved the original since Blonde was released, but the DVSN remix is a nice substitute―especially the added backup vocals. It gives off an authentic sense that the remix was a collaborative effort and not simply ripping the song and recording a verse.

My favorite post-SEPT. 5th release thus far has to be DVSN’s “Keep The Faith,” an extended version of Drake’s “Faithful.” My problem with the original “Faithful” is the Pimp C verse, which was an unnecessary edition that doesn’t fit the song’s mood. Removing Pimp, minimizing Drake, and adding more Daniel truly makes the song feel like a strong R&B record. Even Daniel utilizing Kodak Black’s “No Flockin” is done with brilliant smoothness. I would have much rather the extended remix landed on DVSN’s album than Drake’s Views. To be frank, their version is simply better.

The more I listen to DVSN, the more I believe they’re making the R&B that Drake always dreamed of. Drake’s love for 90’s R&B is well-documented, and even though Drake has made some noteworthy R&B records, he hasn’t been able to tap into the sound quite like DVSN. Daniel Daley and Nineteen85 are open-minded traditionalists who have a musicality that allows them to effortlessly weave between eras. Being able to be both nostalgic and contemporary is their greatest strength. It’s a superpower that will overshadow any and all their shortcomings.

I don’t know how OVO will push them in the future, but with the right support system, they could go far. If you’re looking for something new that borrows from something old, modern R&B with a touch of the 90’s, look no further than DVSN.

By Yoh, aka Nineteen91 aka @Yoh31

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