Since Motown's inception in 1959, they've been setting new standards for our society through the channel of music. Motown has reached the status of multi-generational influence as they employed some of the most successful artists of all time. But for the baby boomers let's explore this all-star roster, Motown put numbers on the board with household names like Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and, oh, I almost forgot The Temptations. Their musical contributions are astronomical and their albums still sell today because of one reason, versatility. The Motown label created a team of musicians that appealed to a wide variety of audiences; but more importantly the music they created was colorblind. Motown Records was the first label to incorporate artists and sounds who attracted both black and white crowds. The studio of Hitsville, U.S.A. produced projects that brought R&B to pop music, their city culture was harnessed and favored by the masses which has now transcended decades and decades of normality. This method can't be categorized but it sounds familiar, why? Because today we would call that label OVO Sound.
Drake assumes the role of the present day Berry Gordy Jr., behind his label he has assimilated a team of heavy hitters that do it all in-house. Motown and OVO have several distinct parallels; the two currently aren't comparable given that Detroit label supported a hall of fame cast but all of the signs are indicating that the Canadian crew isn't far behind.
The acronym OVO (October's Very Own) represents much more than the literal horoscopic meaning. Drake formed the clan alongside Co-founders Noah "40" Shebib and Oliver El-Khatib. They each play a very pivotal role behind this very mysterious, captivating brand they've created and what makes them credible is their work. Drake's managed to accumulate 3 platinum albums, 6 BET Awards, and a Grammy - let's not mention the Billboard statistics because those charts are starting to look like a Drake track list.
Versatility is a reoccurring theme you'll see throughout the OVO camp, it's a prerequisite. The ability to play in the barbershop and the hair salon, the aptness to be appreciated by grandparents just as well as grandchildren, or the talent to record a rap song and background vocals on the same track is a must when it comes to this label. Take PartyNextDoor for example, the first signee to OVO Sound, he is the epitome of multifaceted. The Canadian native's self-titled mixtape sat as high as #6 on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart. His debut project features an array of tracks that carry out an R&B melody with rapper wordplay in which we can live vicariously through. To say the OVO camp teeters on all ends of the spectrum with endearing music, beautiful women, and inebriating stimulants is an extraordinary understatement. PartyNextDoor continued to pad his resume with his vocal contribution on "Own It" and "Come Thru" from Drake's third studio album, Nothing Was the Same. Not to mention his writing and producing talent, this OVO artist is undoubtedly Drake's protégé.
Following the Party is the producing duo Majid Jordan. The group is operating behind the OVO veil like most of them do, only emerging when they have record breaking material to expose. The music factory that works behind 40's studio doors has only left the label with hit singles and albums of substance. Majid Jordan's only recognizable contribution to date is their work on Drake's "Hold on, We're Going Home", which they co-produced. This Canadian duo seems to have prolonged the OVO ideology of reserving anonymity outside of the art form. Yes, you can identify these musicians for their quality music but as far as the personal aspect, they remain unknown so in return you only know them for their craft. Genius. And in Majid Jordan's case that is a collection of falsetto laced, late 20th century groove songs.
The latest label mate is Drizzy's childhood friend and occasional music video jester, OB O'Brien. Until just recently he's been seen occupying the intermissions of the Worst Behavior and Started from the Bottom video productions. O'Brien now accompanies his 30 second acting career with a pretty disguising rapping ability as he debuts his new song 'Steve Nash'. We haven't seen enough to categorize O'Brien yet as a rapper and I doubt we will ever be able to given the track record of the mystifying OVO artists.
Drake's selection of in-house producers haven't been assembled by chance either, he mimics that of Pat Riley the way he chooses his talent and he must have an eye for it because the results are unmatched. To build the house of hits that defined Detroit at the time, Gordy assembled the producer talents William Stevenson, Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Norman Whitfield who produced singles like Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston's, "It Takes Two" or The Marvellettes', "Please Mr. Postman". Much like the super producers of the Motown era, Drake's production can usually be attributed to his masters of drums and keys - Boi-1da, Mike Zombie, Nineteen85, 40, and T-Minus. I take that back, a good majority of the music production today in the rap game falls at their hands.
As of now, it seems as if the rest of OVO is merely hanging onto their savior's coat tails but in actually that perception keeps some audiences listening to the (now) underground artists that Drake see's potential in. Of course the loss of the Weekend makes for a much more difficult connection between Motown and OVO because he was the next superstar behind the label's hero. Although OVO's roster wouldn't have the best kept secrets if their talent was so publicized. We, as viewers, should take the time to appreciate their music before the mainstream constraints begin to box them in as artists. After Drake's maturation process from Comeback Season to his current role as Young Money's prized possession has led him to create a label that stands alone and rightfully so.
OVO Sound is signed to Warner Bros. distribution but with the Canadian trio that's drafted this musical collective, the music industry may turn into a monopoly. From heavy hitting producers to symphony sounding vocalists and everything in between; OVO has managed to keep and develop world class talent under one roof. They seem to be the only team that raps without a facade or sings without a harmonizer. And what results is music that we can relate to in any mood, with any group of people. The mindset of marketers and public relation strategies lies in the ability to fit artists into a specific genre. OVO's artistry allows them to float in limbo between defined classifications and finding validity in artists like that today is rare, ask Lorde. We all know the aesthetic barriers Motown Records has overcome has done wonders for the industry that thrives today but I can confidently say that OVO Sound will challenge, if not surpass, their legendary status in the foreseeable future.