PARTY NEXT DOOR

MEET THE OVO SOUND R&B IM­PRE­SARIO 905 PUTTING THE ON THE CHARTS

NOW Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - By KEVIN RITCHIE

PARTYNEXTDOOR at Rebel (11 Pol­son), Thurs­day and Fri­day (Novem­ber 24 and 25), 9 pm, all ages. $45-$75. ro­tate.com, sound­scapes­mu­sic.com, tick­et­mas­ter.ca.

Three Cana­dian al­bums topped the Bill­board R&B/hiphop al­bum chart in the U.S. in the last year, but only one be­gins with a shout-out to the 905.

“The 5 made me,” sings ris­ing R&B star PARTYNEXTDOOR on High Hopes, the opener on his se­cond stu­dio al­bum, PARTYNEXTDOOR 3 (or P3). “905 made me.” The lyric is easy to miss, but it’s sig­nif­i­cant. The cities that make up the Greater Toronto Area have his­tor­i­cally been ma­ligned as sleepy cul­tural waste­lands de­signed around high­ways, big-box shop­ping and un­con­trolled sprawl. But a new gen­er­a­tion of hip-hop pro­duc­ers and artists is com­ing of age in the burbs, and rather than claim Toronto as their de facto home­town, they’re keeping Mis­sis­sauga and Bramp­ton in the bio.

Of those, PARTYNEXTDOOR, aka 23-year-old Jahron Brath­waite, is the most suc­cess­ful.

“All I knew was Mis­sis­sauga – Mis­sis­sauga friends and Mis­sis­sauga at­ti­tude. I was never in Toronto un­less I was go­ing to see my fa­ther,” he says over the phone from Mi­ami. “I vis­ited those other places and saw that they talk dif­fer­ently. Toronto slang is a lit­tle bit harsher. In Bramp­ton, it’s also dif­fer­ent.

“There’s a dif­fer­ence wher­ever you go in Canada, On­tario and the GTA. Peo­ple don’t fully grasp that yet. Hope­fully more artists con­tinue to rep ex­actly where they’re from so it shows that peo­ple do sound a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.”

Like Drake’s Views and The Weeknd’s Beauty Be­hind The Mad­ness, P3 shot to the top of Bill­board’s R&B/hiphop al­bum chart upon its re­lease in Au­gust. It also hit num­ber three on the Bill­board 200 al­bum chart, mak­ing PARTYNEXTDOOR the most com­mer­cially pop­u­lar act signed to Drake’s OVO Sound la­bel.

Party writes, pro­duces, sings and en­gi­neers his mu­sic. His suc­cess comes at the end of an event­ful year that saw him pen a num­ber-one hit for Ri­hanna, push his own mu­sic in more per­sonal and ex­per­i­men­tal di­rec­tions on P3, and set off a so­cial me­dia storm that demon­strated the per­ils of get­ting per­sonal on­line.

Grow­ing up in the neigh­bour­hoods around Mis­sis­suaga shop­ping mecca Square One, Party fos­tered his love of mu­sic at home. His mother sang in a church choir and played all man­ner of R&B, hip-hop, soul and reg­gae in the house.

“I was one of those guys who was, I guess, so­cially pop­u­lar in school,” he says with some hes­i­tancy. “How­ever pop­u­lar you can get in fuckin’ Mis­sis­sauga in high school.”

The mes­sage he heard from teach­ers was “Learn a trade,” but all he wanted to do was hang out with his homies and make mu­sic. Ev­ery­one knew mu­sic was his thing, but paid no mind. In ’sauga, a vi­able mu­sic ca­reer seemed a dis­tant dream.

“No­body re­ally cared be­cause it wasn’t a real thing to make it,” he says. “There was only Kar­di­nal Off­ishall to look up to. Drake was only just bub­bling.”

He con­nected with a man­ager via MyS­pace, which led to op­por­tu­ni­ties to meet with record ex­ecs in Los An­ge­les in­clud­ing In­ter­scope’s Jimmy Iovine. With his mother’s per­mis­sion, he quit school with three cred­its left to grad­u­ate at age 17 and moved to L.A. At 18, he had a pub­lish­ing deal with Warner/Chap­pell.

“I’m like the young hot boy of OVO: stub­born, very step-out-on-his-own and do-his-own-thing. I might wanna do pop. I would call my­self the Phar­rell of OVO. There are no rules for me.”

“I’m very happy and grate­ful that my mom took that risk,” he says, but cau­tions oth­ers against drop­ping out of school. “I wouldn’t sug­gest that to any­body. It was very much cir­cum­stan­tial. I felt like if I did not get on that plane I would miss my op­por­tu­nity.”

In 2013, Party be­came the first act signed to OVO Sound af­ter Drake pro­ducer Boi-1da sent his mu­sic to la­bel head Oliver El-Khatib. When he met the OVO camp and played his al­ready com­pleted self-ti­tled (and self­pro­duced) de­but mix­tape, its GTA ref­er­ences in­stantly res­onated.

The sign­ing was ap­pro­pri­ate, given that he’d named him­self PARTYNEXTDOOR af­ter a Fruity Loops pro­duc­tion fil­ter that re­minded him of OVO pro­ducer Noah “40” She­bib’s sound.

Unashamedly boast­ful and bass-heavy, that de­but tape nod­ded to ’sauga through the fil­ter of South­ern rap son­ics and strip-club cul­ture – Mi­ami, At­lanta, Hous­ton – that had also cap­ti­vated Drake. He was also liv­ing in Mi­ami at the time, but has since moved back to L.A.

“Toronto is so small, as you know,” he says. “Af­ter the first year of be­ing an artist, ev­ery­one pulls you left and right. You’ve been to ev­ery club. You’ve popped ev­ery bot­tle. It’s cool, but I almost feel played out even show­ing up.”

Last year, Party took a break from solo work to con­cen­trate on pop song­writ­ing. Still new to the mu­sic in­dus­try, he wanted to prove he could do more than write freestyle verses over ex­per­i­men­tal beats. The gam­bit paid off.

Draw­ing on his Caribbean her­itage, he penned Work for Ri­hanna and Drake. The song spent nine con­sec­u­tive weeks at num­ber one in the U.S. (He also wrote RiRi b-side and fan favourite Sex With Me.)

He’s proud of the song – his Ja­maican mom even more so – but has shifted his fo­cus back to “writ­ing songs for my­self and keeping the songs about me, for me,” he says.

Still, he’s con­stantly in the stu­dio with oth­ers, par­tic­u­larly Drake.

He’s left his melodic mark on Drizzy’s cat­a­logue via Preach and Wed­nes­day Night Interlude, off 2015’s If You’re Read­ing This It’s Too Late mix­tape, and With You, off this year’s smash hit Views LP.

“I com­pet­i­tively want to pro­duce just as many records for Drake as Kanye West did for Jay Z,” he says. “I want to write just as much as Kanye may have for whomever Kanye has writ­ten for. I want to do as much as I can do while I’m young.”

He also wants to re­lease a joint project, Late Night Party, with Chicago R&B singer Jeremih. The two are co-head­lin­ing their Sum­mer’s Over tour – though Jeremih re­cently dropped off the Toronto shows – and plan on hit­ting the stu­dio in Party’s tour bus.

“We’ve made a lot of mu­sic to­gether, but mu­sic has been leaked that wasn’t of­fi­cially ar­ranged right,” Party ex­plains. “So we’re let­ting that cool out and we’ll hope­fully put to­gether an of­fi­cial project for the peo­ple af­ter this tour.”

In Jeremih, he sees an­other R&B singer/ pro­ducer ig­nor­ing in­dus­try rules by pro­duc­ing and re­leas­ing mu­sic on­line quickly. The press has framed PARTYNEXTDOOR as part of a new wave of artists who blur bound­aries be­tween singing and rap­ping while tak­ing a more au­teurist ap­proach to slow-jam at­mo­spher­ics.

Like Drake and The Weeknd, Party of­ten pares down pro­duc­tions to skele­tal beatand-voice, and lay­ers in the emo­tions via vo­cals and tex­tures.

“When I first came out, some­thing me and Drake were al­ways say­ing was ‘wave gods’ – the new way of rid­ing now,” he ex­plains. “The new rush of young R&B singers who have no rules.”

P3 is his most am­bi­tious ef­fort in that re­gard, with opener High Hopes clock­ing in at over seven min­utes. It’s full of some­times caus­tic in­tro­spec­tion and un­ex­pected tan­gents. Os­ten­si­bly, his mu­sic is the stuff of baby­mak­ing, but reimag­ined with ir­reg­u­lar rhythms and over­lap­ping melodies that sug­gest un­der­cur­rents of anx­i­ety.

He also gets su­per-spe­cific, in­cor­po­rat­ing Caribbean in­flu­ences and pa­tois on Not Nice and Don’t Know How. On Don’t Run, he name-checks Pick­er­ing, Drake’s restau­rant Fring’s and Carib­ana.

Mean­while, the gold-cer­ti­fied sin­gle Come And See Me is a straight-up R&B slow jam that takes on the sub­ject of re­la­tion­ship give­and-take with a de­cep­tive sim­plic­ity. It in­spired one of the genre’s greats, Erykah Badu, to a cut a remix, and he’s flat­tered “the queen” (“That’s what I call her when I text her”) took no­tice.

Asked about song in­spi­ra­tions, he keeps it sim­ple: “Women.” The an­swer is a bit de­cep­tive. Although his im­age is the mys­te­ri­ous Lothario, and the gos­sip press has ro­man­ti­cally linked him to re­al­ity star Kylie Jen­ner, he makes his love life out to be less glam­orous.

“I’m get­ting so busy, like, I lit­er­ally have to get some­one to tell me, ‘Jahron, you can have fun,’” he ex­plains. “I know I said it all comes from women, but be­ing by your­self also gives you a great imag­i­na­tion.”

The ques­tion leads him to muse about ne­go­ti­at­ing pri­vate and pub­lic life. On the one hand, Party has done only a hand­ful of in­ter­views – this is his first Cana­dian one – and is fre­quently char­ac­ter­ized as a loner pro­ducer type. On the other, with P3 he en­tered the realm of con­fes­sional Mary J. Bligestyle R&B that echoes per­sonal dra­mas chron­i­cled in the press.

To that end, he views the tour with Jeremih as “a huge in­ter­view.”

“I def­i­nitely feel I owe peo­ple an ex­pla­na­tion on cer­tain things, and maybe this is the time to do that,” he posits.

De­spite his ret­i­cence to speak pub­licly, his love life blew up in a big way ear­lier this year when he posted an In­sta­gram photo of him­self loung­ing in bed with his ex, R&B singer Kehlani.

“Af­ter all her shenani­gans, still got the R&B singer back in my bed,” he wrote.

As Kehlani later ex­plained, she had just split with NBA player Kyrie Irving – but the pub­lic didn’t know that. So­cial me­dia users in­un­dated her with sex­ist vit­riol and branded her a cheater. Days later she was hos­pi­tal­ized fol­low­ing an ap­par­ent suicide at­tempt.

Is that sit­u­a­tion some­thing he feels he owes an ex­pla­na­tion for?

“Not at all,” he replies, chalk­ing up the back­lash to mis­per­cep­tion. “I’ve learned the only way I can be happy is by peo­ple know­ing me.

“They prob­a­bly think I’m such a se­ri­ous per­son. I’m not al­ways be­ing se­ri­ous. Don’t hang me for ev­ery­thing I say,” he con­tin­ues. “I’m not just go­ing to jump in front cam­eras and act a fool, but I def­i­nitely want to show more of my­self.”

And he’s con­fi­dent he can keep de­liv­er­ing – in what­ever genre or style he wants.

“I even said this on the phone with the la­bel yes­ter­day. I think ev­ery­one has their roles, and in my opin­ion, I’m like the young hot boy of OVO: stub­born, very step-out-on­his-own and do-his-own-thing. I might wanna do pop. I would call my­self the Phar­rell of OVO. There are no rules for me.”

“I com­pet­i­tively want to pro­duce just as many records for Drake as Kanye West did for Jay Z. I want to do as much as I can while I’m young.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.