Movement: Trap, Alternative R&B
Lane: Young Thug, The Weeknd, Tyga
Roy Woods has lost the plot. When the Brampton rapper/singer/crooner joined OVO’s RnB stable, he stood out amongst label-mates like PARTYNEXTDOOR, dvsn and Majid Jordan. With the rest of the label stuck making R&B, Woods has spread his wings far enough to touch hip hop and even scratch the edge of afrobeats. There’s a distinctness to Woods as he reaches across genres, yet his messaging has remained steadfastly the same. Women and where Woods has grown are often the centre of his music and yet they’re buried on the trail to following a new sound on Dem Times.
When everything comes together on Dem Times, it sounds like ‘Neva Your Way.' With its bouncy 808’s, ticking high hats, synth stabs and industrial alarm, Woods makes teasing haters - calling them a “Sorry lil’ ho" - a summer bop. Trap production isn’t traditional Roy Woods, but his strength lies in bringing sounds towards him. Woods straddles the line with a track that hits concisely with an earworm of a hook without losing himself to cliches of the genre. The brand of sing-rapping Woods has near mastered on previous projects is in vogue, and while he’s rarely approached trap music, he’s a natural fit for ‘Cool J’ as well.
Everywhere else on Dem Times however, is where he falls apart. Like many of today's trappers, Woods’ lyrics are rarely a bright spot on this project. The vagaries of flexing on twitter haters is excusable on ‘Neva Your Way’ but becomes a mess elsewhere. Central to Woods’ lyrics are the conditions he had to overcome to become successful and while “My demons in the can need it paid in full” sounds meaningful as a single bar, it’s actually a throwaway line without any context. ‘What We Did’ and many others sound like full fledged songs peppered with quarter-baked ideas. Verses are never fully realized and when “Can't walk around here past midnight, Lights stopped at the streetlights” comes from the emotional cut of the project it shows Woods’ pen has sprung a leak.
Without those lyrics to set him apart Woods, devolves into a copycat. Young Thug is everywhere in 2020, and even without a feature on Dem Times he makes an appearance. Between ‘Like Pascal’’s playful xylophone, triumphant horns and thumping 808’s Woods shows off an abysmal Thugger impression equipped with a voice so strained it’s a marvel Woods doesn’t lose it. And ‘I feel It’ never makes it beyond an underwritten Thursday b-side.
Woods has always thrived by bringing sounds towards him and his ear for productions complimented his dalliances. Dem Times is the first time Woods has chased a sound and while Woods’ ear helps smooth the transition, predictably things fall through the cracks. Woods has been in the game for over five years now and somehow, he’s decided to transition from standing out to (ill)-fitting in.
Fire: Neva Your Way, Cool J