The first time I heard Dvsn was on an episode of OVO Sound Radio, when Boi-1da took his airtime to play “With Me.” After that, all I could think about was more Dvsn, so when Sept. 5th came out in March of 2016, it was all I listened to for months. If anyone grumbled about the state of R&B, I would enthusiastically educate them about Dvsn’s existence — the genre was alive and well, I’d argue, just listen to this album.
September 5, 2015 marks the day OVO’s Grammy Award-winning producer Nineteen85, born Paul Jefferies, quietly introduced the world to two songs he created with singer-songwriter Daniel Daly — “The Line” and “With Me” — that would eventually be part of their debut album, Sept. 5th.
I remember when I first saw Dvsn live, too. Someone offered me a last minute ticket to catch them perform Sept. 5th. Not wanting to miss out on a rare opportunity, I drove my way to The Roxy in Los Angeles at lightning speed, despite the fact that I’m a known homebody. The show was all that I hoped: Dazzling, soft purple lights, a choir dressed in robes, and Daly pouring his heart and soul all over the stage. Even more powerful were the hundreds of fans passionately singing and hanging onto every lyric.
Three years after the album has had some time to marinate, I think now is an appropriate time to look back and recognize Dvsn‘s debut album Sept. 5 for its replay value as a project living within the aesthetic of pure, lovemaking-ready R&B, especially with the recent release of the group’s new docuseries entitled Since October chronicling their journey from then to now. Sept. 5th is everything we expect to hear from a soulful genre that centers on desires of love, sex, and relationships.
Sept. 5th is a timeless album, as genuine in popular rhythm and blues as anyone could get in this day and age. Early ’90s DeVante Swing collective Swing Mob, along with Timbaland and Playa are all clear inspirations for the project. This style of R&B is not to be confused with the New Jack Swing sound Teddy Riley and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis popularized during the same period (which is currently experiencing a resurgence of its own). In the ‘90s Timbaland’s sound was fairly new, and even hearing his sound interpolated on Sept. 5TH, Timbo’s technique from this era is certainly ahead of its time. Because of that, anything born or borrowed from him during this time period will never sound old.
For instance, Playa’s “Cheers 2 U” was recorded in 1998 and still sounds as if it could easily fit on Spotify’s Are & Be playlist in accordance with today’s trending R&B sounds — this is also the vibe Nineteen85 successfully taps into for their debut project. After all, Nineteen85 is responsible for the success of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” and that incredible, last two minutes of “Faithful” on Views. With that understanding, it’s easy to hear how “With Me” echoes inflections of Aaliyah and “In + Out” has Ginuwine…The Bachelor vibes to it. Timbaland is even credited on “Too Deep,” thanks to an interpolation of Ginuwine’s 1999 hit, “So Anxious.” Nineteen85’s emulation of Timbo’s ‘90s R&B sound is bravely done, translated precisely from the past for today’s ears. No other modern producer has accomplished this feat. It makes Sept. 5th a true treat to hear and separates Dvsn from other acts within the genre.
The beautiful thing about Sept. 5th is its straightforward bedroom-ready production and bare lyrics, consisting of Nineteen85’s throwback production with dedicated songwriting and vocals from Daniel Daly, as an occasional background vocalist softly croons along with him. The alchemy brewed between these two is magical. Daniel knows precisely how to pair his tone with Nineteen85’s sound, bringing about immediate feelings of pleasure and promises to set the mood. His voice builds up with a flutter of emotions and carefully assures listeners he is the perfect one for this musical jaunt while using Nineteen85’s infrastructure as a canvas.
A song like “Too Deep” deserves an enormous church choir adorned with angelic voices, anointed by God Almighty himself — and that’s specifically what it gets here. Maybe it’s sacrilege, but maybe that’s also what makes the music these two create so special. It clearly comes from a higher source yet we all sexual beings and the songs on Sept. 5th emphasize how sex is akin to a spiritual experience. Sex and spirituality are close allies, so combining gospel energy and eroticism in the form of music on Sept. 5th conceives an ideal environment in which God’s most precious gifts can be enjoyed.
Great R&B takes moments of uplifting love and romantic lyrics synchronized with slow-to-moderate production; Sept. 5th follows this formula to perfection. Tracks like “Try / Effortless” and “Do It Well,” drown you in an inescapable love affair that’s somehow both current and filled with nostalgia.
Sept. 5th concludes with a 7-minute song titled “The Line,” that thrives in pure sexual appeal. At the same time, “The Line” is the epitome of taking yourself to church — a delicate moment that requires closed eyes just to breathe in every second of a song that conjures up the dormant spiritual powers living within. It starts off slow, and gently builds up to a momentum on the back of a steady high-hat tick that floats over the piano melody. At its peak, Daly acts as the leader of Dvsn’s choir, commanding a prompt call-and-response, an action commonly practiced in the Black church. The last minute and a half of “The Line” is a mellow comedown that soothingly implores for another round.
Although Sept. 5th did modestly on the charts (peaking at No. 133 on the Billboard 200) and Dvsn puts on small intimate shows with no real marketing, their mere existence is proof that good music doesn’t only live on the top of the charts, or in enormous arenas. Nineteen85 and Daniel Daly are clear musical soulmates, and it will be exciting to see the rest of the world catch up the greatness that is Dvsn and witness how much of their sound and technique will inspire the future of R&B.
Revisit Dvsn’s Sept. 5th below.