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32: Roy Woods

Photo by OVO Sound

"Knock, Knock, Boy, Is You Ready?"

The last decade saw Toronto burgeon into the frontline of pop culture. Music and sports are the obvious testimonies, but the overall boom and dramatic increase in spotlight was shared amongst real estate, culinary and tech scenes to name a few. The 6 has always been a melting pot of aesthetics and no stranger to birthing stars that are household names. The past 10-15 years was a true embodiment of all things cool that the city has to offer. Maybe it’s in the nickname?

Drake, The Weeknd, Toronto Raptors and Keanu Reeves might be the first names you associate with the 6 side, but beneath that surface is an economically vibrant, metropolitan powerhouse amongst one of the highest rated for quality-of-life indexes. The pull of Toronto can appeal to superstars, humble folk, and tourists in equal measure; plenty to boast about for all intents and purposes.

Toronto’s charm is familiar territory, as we explored and covered in an earlier issue profiling PARTYNEXTDOOR. It further hammers home its evolution; there are so many of its brightest sons to choose from whom wave the flag loud and proud. In Roy Woods,they have a unique artist whose fearless in pushing boundaries. He’s formed hisown eclectic spin on the Rap, R&B and Dancehall inspired vibe of what’scome to be the signature Toronto sound.

Born Denzel Spencer, Woods’ formative, teenage years would coincide with Toronto’s blast-off into being - or at least competing with - the trend. An avid football player, Woods would pursue music despite his academic (and cheffing) abilities. Woods started the grind early, understanding the challenges he’d face at home and externally. In the above Power 106 interview from last month, he would detail the lack of infrastructure and support for artists trying to make it, despite the USA being a short flight away. Social media would play a significant role in Woods building his reputation before he grabbed OVO’s attention. Woods would sign to Drake’s co-owned label and generate more buzz with airplay on OVO radio and gaining access to the tools that would help him grow and refine his music. His debut EP would be boosted with a Drake feature, where Woods formed a distinct sound comprising of R&B and Hip-hop elements. His lyrics would address his emotions in a highly melodic manner, weaving in and out of harmonising vocals or smooth rap flows.

With this first experience of putting an albeit short body of work together, Roy Woods would really take off and arrive with his debut album and sophomore project.

Cover Art for Roy Woods' "Waking At Dawn"

What Woods displayed in this EP would be upped a notch, as he would fuse his style with dancehall and electronic style beats to compliment his prior expertise. Some would say that this is a somewhat conventional formula, especially considering PND, Majid Jordan and ILoveMakonnen’s breakthroughs on OVO’s roster in the years prior, but rummaging through the building blocks of Woods’ album, one can find a more reserved format and style in comparison to the more extravagant productions his labelmates would favour (or be assigned).

Woods would follow these two debuts with another mixtape and album within a year. His hunger for success and creating was evident, carving a pocket and niche for his fans and adopting a “if you know, you know” type of following. He would continue making music in his own lane and double down on his bubbling pot of influences in his music. “Say Less,” his second album, would be a particularly enjoyable listen despite the slightly toned-down celebrations in comparison to his first. Woods would alternate his flows and patterns more whilst conveying his trademark sound. Bear in mind, he would achieve this with a mere couple of features, all in house at OVO, to build his projects, keeping it authentic and true to his hometown. While many will say other artists on the label were being strung along to be Drake’s supporting cast, Roy Woods appeared to keep himself occupied making music that he felt was true to himself, with plenty of encouragement, as he told Hot 97 earlier this year in the video above.

“I do what I say when I'm ready, You check my steez, do me at ease…Knock, knock, boy, is you ready?”

Evidently, the pandemic period would disrupt Roy Woods’ progression, as he told Hot 97. He had dropped another EP prior to the inactivity and uncertainty of this period, and history tells us that an extended play and album go hand in hand with Roy’s output. Woods would eventually get over his personal struggles and distractions and drop his third album, “Mixed Emotions,” in July of this year. He comes across as reserved and being in a happy place, and a prolonged period of gardening has possibly shown him how to adopt a long-term approach to his career. With such an oversaturated market nowadays, Woods seems to be in prime position to forge his way back into the limelight and hang around at the forefront of Toronto’s scene. He looks up to the task, as he has articulated on many occasions in his art. Roy Woods is due to arrive again, and you better not miss the magic.

Written by: @WhosAria

Edited by: @Arriver

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