By Jacqueleen Eng
Denzel Spencer, known as Roy Woods (sometimes the unoriginal Wood$), is a twenty year old Toronto rapper signed to OVO Sound. With co-founder Drake as its figurehead, OVO is known for its signature “Toronto” sound that Drake popularized most recently with the arrival of Views. With the incorporation of dancehall and Jamaican and Toronto slang, (ex. “ting” as opposed to “thing”) Roy Woods’ debut album Waking at Dawn is consistent with the catchy OVO beats, but struggles to stand out enough.
I’m not a fan of most R&B—I didn’t like Bryson Tiller’s T R A P S O U L, and I consistently complain about Ne-Yo’s whiny voice whenever Z100 decides to play “Miss Independent” to remind us of 2008. I do think that the genre and this type of R&B is seeing a resurgence of sorts with the popularity of “sad Drake”, The Weeknd, Tory Lanez, Tiller, and fellow OVO labelmate PARTYNEXTDOOR. Spencer’s 2015 EP Exis, featured the hit single “Drama (feat. Drake), which was repetitive and annoying to put it frankly.
I find Waking at Dawn easier to listen to and even enjoyable for the most part even though it does retain the melodic OVO sound. Tracks like Gwan Big Up Urself” feature a heavier dancehall influence like some of Drake’s recent hits, and Spencer sounds even more authentic than Mr. Six God himself. The opener “Sonic Boom” sounds very much like The Weeknd, and the overall album reminds me of The Trilogy more than anything else. Spencer also sings with Michael Jackson influences as The Weeknd does, but the tracks on this album don’t make it as obvious as Abel’s Beauty Behind The Madness does.
While catchy tracks like “Down Girl” and “Switch” managed to catch my attention, a lot of these beats could have featured any of OVO’s signees. That doesn’t mean that this album is any harder to vibe to, but I think that Spencer has a more flexible sound than anyone else on OVO but will continue to get overshadowed if he doesn’t make himself stand out.