When Drake’s Sound Really Changed: The Founding of the OVO Label

Prior to 2012, Drake had flirted with a set of mixtapes until ultimately releasing his first two studio albums (“Thank Me Later” and “Take Care”). The sound of early Drake was that of softer bars and melodic hooks that left him with the nickname of “Heartbreak Drake”. His “So Far Gone” mixtape largely propelled him into a deal with Lil Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment, with notable tracks such as “Successful” featuring Trey Songz and the all-time banger of his “Best I Ever Had” (who could forget that music video?). His signing to Young Money added a new dimension to his sound; harder bars and more aggressive hooks began to foreshadow the consequent style that would propel his career. “Take Care” transformed Drake from the title of rapper, to that of artist, with the additions of skits and vocals throughout the project. But it wasn’t until the 2012 founding of OVO Sound, in which we would see the truly iconic style that has left Drake as one of the industry’s most polarizing talents. The label’s founding was largely anchored by producer Noah Shebib, known across the game as “40”. 40 had dabbled in tracks of Drake’s for parts of his career, from works off of “So Far Gone” and “Thank Me Later”, to even on DJ Khaled’s track “I’m on One” off of “We The Best Forever”. But 40’s sound, described as “down-tempo and ambient”, was largely reflected on Drake’s third studio album “Nothing Was the Same”. A quick listen to tracks such as “Tuscan Leather”, “The Language”, and “Too Much ft. Sampha” will display this unique style that has resulted in several of this generation’s most iconic rap projects. Of course from NWTS’ release forward, there is not much to be explained, as “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late”, “Views”, and this month’s release of “More Life” have frozen the rap game in its place. In layman’s terms, 40 removed the corniness in Drake’s sound and created the more cinematic sound that we associate with October’s very own today. While producers in rap’s current state are often lost in the limelight, it is important to spotlight and acknowledge the major contributions they make to hip-hop’s most prolific artists.

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