Roy Woods

Roy Woods - Waking At DawnOVO Sound/WarnerThe debut full-length from the youngest act signed to Drake's OVO Sound label opens.

Roy Woods – Waking At Dawn

The debut full-length from the youngest act signed to Drake’s OVO Sound label opens with Sonic Boom, a song that references Xanax, weed and alcohol in the first few lines. Self-medication is a recurring theme in the 20-year-old Brampton rapper/singer’s music, which emphasizes numbness and emotional confusion, using a minimal sonic palette that leans heavily on sub-bass and neutral synth tones.

Woods (born Denzel Spencer) introduced his sound on last year’s Exis EP, and not a lot has changed thematically or tonally. Waking At Dawn briefly indulges in playful, flirtatious vibes with the tongue-twisted You Love It and reggae-pop tune Gwan Big Up Urself before going into full-on anxiety mode. He raspily sing-raps about trust issues brought on by his fame (Switch), muses on his ideal woman (Down Girl), the shallow aspects of social media (Got Me) and his own toxicity in relationships (Menace). That song, with its references to depression, feels pointedly personal on an album that mostly keeps its emotional distance through broadly drawn relationship dynamics.

Working with upstart Toronto production talents FrancisGotHeat, Prezident Jeff, Murda Beatz and Krs, Woods effectively plays the trappy hallmarks of hip-hop against his zig-zagging melodies to create a finely tuned and tightly conceived record. But it also feels – and this may be the point – cold.

Top track: Gwan Big Up Urself

Roy Woods plays the Air Canada Centre as part of OVO Fest July 31 and August 1. See listing.

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