Putting all the basement imprisonment jokes to bed, OVO has by far proved to be one of the strongest collectives in 2020. While the world continues to await the release of the sixth album of their label boss, Drake, OVO has delivered quality music on a month-to-month basis throughout the year. Led by the return of PartyNextDoor and DVSN, fans have little to complain about with the music coming from up north. Joining in on the returns to the spotlight, Roy Woods resurfaced with a new EP, Dem Times.
Bundled with six songs, including the previously-heard “I Feel It,” Dem Times steps into a year where R&B has produced some of its best work in recent memory. However, Roy’s latest project does not arrive with the goal of matching the excellence brought forth in the genre. Instead, Dem Times recalls the palette used on his 2017 debut album Say Less and uses it to show the growth – both musically and personally – of the Brampton native.
Roy Woods’ debut was a calculated blend of gritty croons over drowning 808s and energetic rhymes led by uptempo production. While Say Less featured more of the former, Dem Times finds comfort in the quick-paced production. Just two songs in, Roy Woods dusts the three-year-old dirt off his shoulder on “Neva Your Way.” The track brings listeners to hi-hat ecstasy as Roy dismisses the desires of a certain woman in his life who throws a fit about plans not going as expected. “Yeah, girl, you tried but you still a lil’ deceiver / You ain’t none but a lil’ motherf*ckin’ diva.” Bursting through ceilings of confidence on “Cool J,” Roy compares his style and aesthetic to LL Cool J. “I been goin’ everywhere he can’t go / Cool J, n****, with the Kangol,” he raps throughout the song’s chorus. Gliding over the hard-hitting bass, Roy makes it clear he’s one of a kind when it comes to money, hustling, women, and quite frankly, everything else.
Despite the shift in production, Dem Times both begins and ends the album in the pocket fans most recognize him for. Backed by dreamy production, Roy brings listeners on a late-night drive on “2 Me.” As the song unfolds, he opens up about his relationship issues and frustrations with an unreciprocated love. “Why don’t you pay me a lil’ mind, but watch how you talkin’ to me,” he sings. “You keep sayin’ that you’re mine, but you don’t feel mine to me.” Once on different pages, Roy Woods assures his partner that they are both on the same page on “I Feel It.” Putting his feelings of pain and solitude on wax, Woods tells his partner that their frustrations are one and that she should not push him away, but rather bring him closer so they can work it out. “Don’t tell me where to go / I came to win too long for you,” he begs on the song.
Giving listeners more of the uptempo production than what was delivered on Say Less, Roy’s EP brings forth both good and questionable moments sonically. One of those comes on “Like Pascal.” A feel-good record that finds him balling on the level of Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, Roy veers a bit too far out of his lane on the track, even sounding like Playboi Carti at various points. With a sound so distinct and true to himself, the move sounds too out of the box for him. A quick bump on the EP, Roy returns to form on the following track, “What We Do.” The tune finds him looking back at his time back home, both on the streets and with his family. Taking a moment to think about the city he left behind, Roy sings, “I left my city, feel like I just split ways / Said I won’t be back for a while, should’ve seen her face / What can I say? I can’t even leave LA,” proving home is always where the heart is.
After an almost three-year wait, one would expect a full-length project to emerge from Roy Woods as it did with his labelmates. Instead, Dem Times serves as the segway between chapters, one filled with anticipation and energetic sounds that would have performed well in the summer that once was. The EP doesn’t shine as brightly as his debut album did, but its components give hope in the Brampton native’s future.
Dem Times speaks on the relationships in Roy Woods’ life. The lyrics detail the situations with little to no filter, while the production brings listeners a feeling similar to what Roy experienced in his anecdotes. The EP plays like a snapshot of Roy’s continuous growth as it flashes moments of maturity and awareness towards the needs of his partner while seeking to accommodate them. On the other hand, it also finds him a bit dismissive and focusing on flashy things in life and showing them off. Dem Times takes one last look at what once was and what may never be again before one moves on to what lies ahead.
Dem Times is out now via OVO Sound. Get it here.
Roy Woods is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.