Nineteen85’s mysterious project dvsn’s debut album is here, and it’s really good
A few months back, a mysterious Toronto artist named dvsn (pronounced “division”) began uploading promising R&B songs to Soundcloud and all we knew was that they were produced by Drake producer Nineteen85, who’s been behind some of Drake’s biggest hits (“Hotline Bling,” “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” “Truffle Butter” with Nicki Minaj). Today, dvsn’s debut album SEPT 5TH is out everywhere, and it more than lives up to the promise of those songs. In some ways, the project is still mysterious, but we’re learning more. Nineteen85 (real name Paul Jeffries) was interviewed for a profile on FADER that shines some light on dvsn’s process:
The “mystery” of this project doesn’t strike me as a deliberate media rollout plan. If anything, it was a reflection of its low-key mastermind, though you can’t beat a good whodunnit. A quick ASCAP repertoire search reveals just one officially registered dvsn song, the aforementioned “Too Deep,” with credits to Jefferies, Majid Jordan, Timbaland, the late Static Major, Maneesh, and the Toronto singer Daniel Daley.
In any case, Jefferies started dvsn “to explore some stuff that I normally wouldn’t get to do as this quote-unquote pop producer,” he says. He and his mystery bandmates met up and supposedly just jammed it out.
dvsn also played their first-ever concert during the surprise OVO Sound takeover (that also featured a Drake set) at FADER Fort in Austin last month. FADER said the performance “didn’t wholly clarify things, with the singer, a female DJ, and a backing gospel choir enveloped in thick purple smoke. We can tell you this, though: it banged, beautifully.” A short video clip is below.
The whole debut album also bangs beautifully. A lot of Drake associates have been given the spotlight in recent years (PARTYNEXTDOOR, Majid Jordan, etc) but this dvsn album feels like the most exciting release from one since the first Weeknd mixtape. This type of atmospheric R&B isn’t as new or unexplored as it was when that mixtape first dropped — Beyonce, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake and Kanye West have all made music like this in recent years, and Drake’s own stardom far surpasses where he was at in March 2011 — but there’s something refreshing about SEPT 5TH. It’s got belting, soulful singing that even Drake and The Weeknd aren’t really capable of, and it’s impossible to deny the gospel influence on the backing vocals. The downtempo, psychedelic production really takes its time (the opening and closing tracks both hit the seven-minute mark), and it’s got the kind of attention to detail that made defining alt-R&B projects like Kaleidoscope Dream and the Late Nights mixtape feel so special. This sound’s been superficially co-opted by everyone from pop stars like Selena Gomez to supposedly-indie artists like Jack Garratt to faceless (yet suspiciously popular) copycats like Bryson Tiller, but the dvsn album cuts through all that noise and reminds us why we fell in love with this stuff to begin with.
Stream SEPT 5TH here:
— The FADER (@thefader) March 20, 2016