For those familiar with the litany of moody R&B acts that have lent creative fuel to the dark side of Drake’s persona, the path that Toronto-based duo dvsn (pronounced “division”) walks seems well-tread. In many ways, it is: The Weeknd, Majid Jordan, Roy Woods, and PartyNextDoor have all made their presences felt in the electro-R&B realm, putting their fingerprints on the passionate-but-detached sound that has come to define Drake’s OVO crew in recent years.
Launched under a cloud of mystery almost as dense and foggy as the songs themselves, dvsn are only beginning to emerge from the shadows. When producer Paul Jefferies and singer Daniel Daley started releasing their first buzzworthy songs online in 2015, the sole mark of authorship was a mere division symbol, sparking a stream of “Who is dvsn?!?!” theories. According to Jefferies, the approach stemmed from being deliberate, not camera-shy: “I think it was taken as us trying to hide from the public, but it was more like we put it out hoping that people would really focus on the music.”
That spotlight on the music has inevitably brought more attention to the artists themselves. There’s Daley’s vocals, with his tender falsetto that cracks and wavers without ceding a sense of control. It’s impossible to not hear the influence of The Weeknd, particularly those early mixtapes, but in Daley’s writing, the unhinged hedonism of House of Balloons is traded for an earnest sentimentality. And if the atmosphere-creating, hair-raising production from Paul Jefferies, aka Nineteen85, sounds eerily familiar, that’s because he has assisted Nicki Minaj and DJ Khaled and produced some of the biggest songs in Drake’s catalog, including “Hotline Bling” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home.”
If 2016’s Sept. 5th proved that the singer-producer team belonged, last year’s Morning After marked their true arrival. On the album’s eponymous track, Daley implores a lover over a shimmering, upbeat instrumental that’s more acoustic and percussive than dvsn’s typical comfort zone: “You’re the one I want, one I want to stay the morning.” It’s a temporary moment of brightness in a sea of heartbreak and frustration. Thanks to Daley’s sultry vocals and Jefferies’ spacious production, the water’s just fine.