One constant in music has been the draw and appeal of mystique (Sup, Frank Ocean). Artists whose faces we never see or are covered by shades. Those who refuse to do interviews and infrequently use social media. And then the ones who simply don’t deliver in the timeframe we would like. It causes us to wonder, dig deeper into their personal lives, or even @ them on social media asking where they are and if they’re doing okay. (@ PARTYNEXTDOOR YOU GOOD?)
We’re undeniably greedy consumers with selfish motive when checking in on our favorites. The reality is when the music is great you almost can’t help it. In the last 4 years, OVO Sound’s dvsn. has stepped into that sphere. Where we get something and only seem to crave more. Bet you can’t have just one, eh?
Dvsn.’s brand of woozy, emotive Daniel Daley vocals over polished Nineteen85 production, which toes the line between soul and trap, has captivated fans from day one. They’re restoring a feeling many felt was lost in R&B, despite being part of the genre’s new age. The yearning of males and musings over wrongdoings. Exceptional vocal ability. Nineteen85 keeps their sound relevant, entering into the T R A P S O U L niche but carving their own, firm space.
Opener “With Me” from debut album and penultimate cut “Body Smile” are just two of dvsn.’s many powerful performances. They bring out the singer in us all while simultaneously leading us to our contact lists to find somebody to text. “I know you still think about me, how could you not think about me?”
Just Monday, they decided to pop back on Twitter after yet another period of dormancy to ask the simple question “Miss Me?” Duh. We haven’t gotten original music since 2017’s sophomore LP Morning After. Features on labelmates Roy Woods and Majid Jordan’s projects some months after kept us happy. We still sat with the 13-song masterpiece that coincidentally released on Friday, October 13th. Some background vocals sprinkled on Drake ‘s from June 2018 served as a reminder. Even a little bit from Daley can send a song over the top.
Some Instagram posts followed, with a cryptic date making most think a surprise project would come on today. It was just a matter of whether they meant 12:00 noon or midnight. Also, the caption “In Between” threw us all for a loop. We got our answer today at noon in the form of two singles, “Miss Me” and “In Between”.
“I lose myself to find you/cause I see myself inside you.” Ahaha.
“In Between” opens with a calming guitar loop and fuzzy synths. Daley enters apologizing for taking his lady’s time for granted. His cadences often feel conversational, thus more real and relatable. Anyone who has ever loved can identify with whatever relationship hurdle he’s covering.
Daley reflects on how trust is big to her, so he’s intent on keeping it 100. He acknowledges they should be open with each other and working together. So, in an effort to keep nothing between them, he suggests they start by literally removing what is between them — their clothing. “You say I’m closed off/Let’s open up and take our clothes off.”
The production brightens up over the hook, as Daniel ponders whether or not what they have is love. “I don’t want nothin’ in between us/Nothing there to stop the feeling/I don’t want nothin’ in between us/Got me thinking this could be love”.
I admire the use of minimalist production. Sonically there’s just enough to create a mood, yet leaving ample room for the words to be fully heard and understood. Same time, you can really lock your ears into the beats and get lost. Much like what Nineteen85 constructed for Future on “Tricks On Me” and Travis Scott on “COFFEE BEAN.”
These tracks, both closers, received much praise for being Trav and Future’s respective, recent full-lengths’ icing on the cake Nineteen85 is a gem. Dvsn’s output here is for the nighttime, of no shock to anyone. I’m rocking with the sun out though.
“Miss Me” immediately sounded like it was for the car. Perhaps a late night drive, but with the right bass, it’ll hit at any time. It’s slightly more uptempo than “In Between,” sounding a lot closer to “Don’t Choose” than a “Mood” or “Too Deep”.
The imagery here is strong. “As soon as I get you out my system, Girl I relapse/Sweatin’ in the cold, I can’t relax.” This is as much a physical experience as it is mental. Related to a tough love experience, it’s as easy to connect to as they come.
“I wanna show you/Show you that I’m different than before/Wrote this cause you won’t pick up the phone.” This conveys both urgency and a sense of being lost. Daley’s wondering if she misses him in the same way. After all being distraught ain’t so bad when you’ve got company right?
“If you want me back, let me know/Promise I won’t keep it on the low” is an indirect admission of guilt. Perhaps due to a past stint between them where he was a lot more discreet about the relationship. This level of transparency and accountability combined with the punch-like drums and weaving 808s complete the song. Those elements also further its dualistic impact. You can nod your head to the beat, or sit and think about the words. Or, simply enjoy both in harmony.
It’s your choice with dvsn., and you can’t lose because, in the end, it’s all pleasing to the ear. I would even argue that the elements are equal in enjoyment. I know many were hoping for a dvsn. project. Something tells me the time between Morning After and their noticeable silence means there’s much more great music to come. After two well-received albums, it’s time to fully thrust into the mainstream and deliver a blockbuster.
I think no one doubts they’re capable. It’s not just about the music, though. It’s the marketing, the strategy, the consistency and staying on fans’ radars while continually expanding. OVO has shown they can brand the hell out of an artist when necessary, and their eye for talent. Now let’s see how dvsn. takes the next step and blesses us. Especially knowing they’ve been cooking up with Miguel and Ty Dolla $ign.
Also, credit to the creative cover art. “In Between” looks like a butt and a man’s genitalia simultaneously, pushing forward the theme and imagery of things being between the two. “Miss Me” is a literal CD. Given he says he wrote the song because she won’t answer the phone, it comes across as his creative attempt to get her attention. Nailed it.
Originally published at https://kazimagazine.com on July 10, 2019.