(October’s Very Own/Warner Bros.)
If I told you that stuck somewhere between Drake‘s mysteriously potent sound and The Weeknd‘s abstract approach was the extra-terrestrial, psychadelic sound of PARTYNEXTDOOR, who happened to replace The Weeknd–who was thought to be the inaugural signee–on the OVO roster, would you be intrigued?
I imagined you would be.
If Kanye West is notoriously unavailable for press, Drake is similarly unavailable, except he hides in plain sight, as does his OVO collective. Case in point, how many people knew PARTYNEXTDOOR was featured prominently in a still image during the “Started From The Bottom” video, right next to an exuberant Drake? To think we were complaining no one knows what he looks like. Nonsense, says Drizzy.
As we were introduced to PND via “Make A Mil,” a tropical, undeniable club-banger, which features PARTY rapping & singing his way to party-starting success. The Weeknd comparisons began immediately, from his eerie ambiance, moody production and deliberately slurred delivery, but are we really looking at an Abel carbon copy?
If Miguel‘s overtly sexual themes run rampant in his lyrics, rid of metaphorical introductions and facades, PARTYNEXTDOOR’s commentary on his lifestyle, and the lifestyle of the women that make up the majority of his lyrical content is similarly unmasked, with a deliberate indifference to the sexual escapades he so enjoyably examines. On “Relax With Me,” PARTY goes from inviting a female to spend luxurious time with him, to proclaiming “she let me bust it on her a** though,” because of how well he treats her. The duality of the song’s thesis statement is staggering, as he toys with blatant misogyny and tactful placement of the female on a pedestal. The theme is recurring during the duration of the album. Where that OVOXO artist would spend over six, seven minutes laboring over one single idea, this current Drake signee quickly switches between ideals, usually culminating in a message not nearly as entertaining as the steps taken to reach it. On “Wild Bitches,” which sounds like an ode to the Toronto nightlife, PARTY flips the assumed concept, accusing someone of having “wild bitches lying” to them. By the time the song ends, the Toronto crooner would have spent his time lightly cruising over an instrumental landmarked by bruising 808’s, which almost tell a story in and of themselves, and the chorus is really the only part that sticks with you. Which, for all intents and purposes, seems to be his “m.o.”
After hearing “Make A Mil,” and “Wus Good/Curious,” it seemed as if PARTYNEXTDOOR would be somewhat of an acquired taste, and with no previous material to judge him on, this ten track album would be the first brushstrokes on his canvas. However, the music is concise and to the point, in fact, sometimes there is no point. On the cheesy “Right Now” cut, PARTY hits a serious misstep, sounding as if he was struggling to stay as upbeat as the beat was, and his monotone raps were unfortunately unable to match up with his interesting take on the women/spending time analogy. “I can pay you in cash baby, he just pay you mind.” While most would think any given woman would prefer quite the contrary, PARTY confidently admits his preference, and from the sound of it he’s been successful in his endeavors. In any case, “Right Now,” which playfully mentions dancers who resemble Rita [Ora] & Rihanna, the vascillating flows, moods and themes found on the rest of the album are glaringly absent, and on such a short album, this statistic could’ve been more catastrophic than it was.
The great part about the OVO artist’s official debut is his willingness to go for the goal, and the ease with which he manages over the top ballads and choruses with his serene, straightforward persona. “Break From Toronto,” despite its status as an interlude, is one of the highest points of the album, where we find PARTYNEXTDOOR rapping fully-fledged, apparently beginning the segue into “Wus Good,” and as the 808’s seem as if they’re getting ready to overpower the mellow artist, he breaks out into emotionally charged song, banging out “this is what it feels like in the nighttime,” multiple times. The album is full of these moments, from the tempting, Drake-featured “Over Here,” to the sensual, borderline pornographic “Wus Good/Curious,” which effectively makes use of both its titles, tying in PARTYNEXTDOOR’s blatant sexcapades with his notion of intrigue and doubt.
If anything should be taken away from PARTYNEXTDOOR’s debut, it should be this: Drake’s attempt at championing the Toronto sound was short-lived with The Weeknd, despite the alternative R&B star’s knack for creating crowd favorites and impressing crowds internationally. His sound, however, took some getting used to, and the murmurs of his lyrics being inaudible were enough to distill his fanbase down to only the very loyal. PARTYNEXTDOOR on the other hand, is a readily available extension of Drake’s carefully assembled Take Care concept and sound. Hailing from Toronto, he effortly re-ignites the genre’s fascination with the city’s prolifically expressed roller coaster of emotions. Drake once said of his sophomore album, Take Care, “it sounds like a drive down the streets of Toronto on a rainy night.” If that’s the case, PARTYNEXTDOOR is a drive down the same street, except a DUI is issued at its culmination.
-Khari Nixon (@KingVanGogh)