Given Name: Aubrey Drake Graham
Alias: Drizzy, Champagne Papi
Occupations: Rapper, Singer, Producer, Actor
Releases: Room For Improvement, mixtape, 2006; Comeback Season, mixtape, 2007; So Far Gone, mixtape, February 2009; So Far Gone (reissue), EP, September 2009; We Are Young Money, collaborative album, December 2009; Thank Me Later, debut album, June 2010; Take Care, album, November 2011; Nothing Was The Same, album, September 2013; Yougn Money: Rise of an Empire, collaborative album, March 2014.
Career Highlights: In 2007, Drake became the first unsigned Canadian rapper to have a video on BET, with "Replacement Girl" featured as the "New Joint of the Day." When So Far Gone was first released online, it was downloaded 2,000 times in two hours, a shocking amount for an unsigned, relatively unknown artist. Later in 2009, Drake signed to Young Money Entertainment. "Over," from Thank Me Later, was nominated for a Grammy in 2010. Take Care went double platinum and won Best Rap Album at the the 2012 Grammys. Nothing Was The Same was nominated for three Grammys and went platinum once.
Sound: Drake's mixed use of singing and rapping was initially a bit shocking, since not many artists in in mid-2000s used that approach. But now that artists such as Chance The Rapper and Schoolboy Q can be heard switching between rapped verses and sung hooks, it's clear how much of an effect he's had on the rap game. Much of his signature sound comes courtesy of 40, who you'll read about on the next page, but suffice it to say that Drake has carved out a very distinct, moody niche for himself that still finds room to incorporate the occasional displays of braggadocio and lyrical ferocity.
Strengths: More so than most artists, Drake has tremendous crossover appeal. His catalog spans slow jams, battle rap posse cuts, quotable, radio-friendly singles, and introspective emo rap, with his flexible voice paving the way for his phenomenal songwriting. He also seems to be very self-aware despite his titanic success, penning songs that wisely address his fame while still not being afraid to let loose and get ignorant every now and then. Able to rap with Jeezy, sing with Alicia Keys, and host SNL, Drake has redefined the boundaries of a rap star in the 2010s.
Given Name: Noah Shebib
Career Highlights: In 2009, Shebib executive produced Drake's So Far Gone with Boi-1da, producing four of its songs himself. On Drake's last two albums, he's not only served as executive producer, but has also produced the majority of them. Shebib has also produced for the likes of Lil Wayne, Trey Songz, Alicia Keys, Sade and A$AP Rocky.
Sound: Befitting Drake's personal drama-filled lyrics, 40's production is moody and ambient, giving the MC ample room to dominate tracks while simultaneously providing a tone that matches his emotions. His almost constant participation in Drake's career has led to a remarkably consistent sound that's evolved over the course of each release, with "the Drake sound" being a sought-after commodity in the industry now, and much of that being due to his similar-sounding production.
Strengths: Though it seemed for a while that 40's comfort zone was within the foggy, downtempo realm of early Drake songs like "Successful," he's recently proved that radio bangers are not outside the question with tracks like Rocky's "Fuckin' Problems" and DJ Khaled's "No New Friends." Despite this, he's managed to retain similar qualities in all of his work, using similar sound templates with reverb-drenched synths and pianos meeting hard-snapping percussion. 40's beats are some of the most recognizable of the past five years, and without him, Drake would never be the same.
Given Name: Matthew Jehu Samuels
Career Highlights: In 2007, Boii-1da worked with Drake for the first time on his mixtape Room For Improvement. He produced Eminem's Grammy-winning single "Not Afraid in 2010. Since then, Boi-1da's worked with Big Sean, DJ Khaled, The Game, Ace Hood, Jay Z and many more.
Sound: Unlike 40, OVO's other big-mae producer, Boi-1da doesn't have a well-defined signature sound, instead compiling a varied discography of beats over his seven year career. He's done radio-ready, thoroughly modern sounding fare like Drake's "Headlines," boom bap that still seems fresh and new (Drake's "5 AM in Toronto"), and by-the-books trap (Jay Z's "Fuckwithmeyouknowigotit" and Rick Ross' "MMG Untouchable").
Strengths: Whereas 40's strengths lie in his consistency, Boi-1da's are in his unpredictability. You never know what you'll get when you see his name on a song's production credits, and while that's lead to some inconsistencies, his high points have been some of the most commercially and critically successful songs of the last few years. Most of all, Boi-1da seems to adapt his sound to mesh well with whatever artists he works with, which is a very admired and sought-after trait for a producer to have.
Skeme - Bullets (Prod. By Boi-1da)
Given Name: Tyler Williams
Career Highlights: Though working with Drake since 2006, T-Minus' first big break came in 2009 when he produced Ludacris' strip club anthem "How Low." Since then, he's worked with Nicki Minaj, T.I., Slaughterhouse, Kendrick Lamar, and even Justin Bieber.
Sound: Generally speaking, most of T-Minu's beats sound luxurious and lavish despite their minimalism. Perfectly indicative of this is Kendrick Lamar's "Swimming Pools (Drank)," which apart from its drum beat, consists of very distant, muted sounds. This approach, while varying to some degree in different songs that he's produced, is similar to 40's and thusly, T-Minus perfectly fits in with the rest of OVO's production team.
Strengths: To date, T-Minus' greatest accomplishments are his radio hits. Though he's only produced 13 official singles in his career, five have ended up topping the US R&B chart, and all but two have broken the top 20 in one chart or another. Chalk it up to his excellent ear for hit single material, as well as his selective choices for collaborations.
Wink Loc - Want Me Dead (Prod. By T-Minus)
Given Names: Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman
Occupations: Singer, Producer
Career Highlights: The duo consisting of Majid (vocals) and Jordan (production) are mostly known to the world because of their appearance on Drake's "Hold On, We're Going Home," but they also released a mixtape, afterhours, under the name GOOD People in 2013.
Sound: Majid Jordan's other music has a breezy, dance-influenced sound that's similar to "Hold On, We're Going Home," with Majid's vocals smoothly coasting over Jordan's 80s-influenced production. It blurs the lines between R&B, synth pop and dance music, which in theory sounds like something that 2014's genre-hopping youth could get down with.
Strengths: Despite being signed to a hip-hop/R&B label, Majid Jordan have been able to do things outside those genres, which is cool. Their sound still fits in quite well with the synth-heavy sounds of the rest of OVO's roster, but they seem more motivated to experiment with different styles and eras of music. Majid Jordan could either become crossover stars, or be forever known as "those guys on 'Hold On, We're Going Home'" -- it's up to them to assemble a fan base.
Majid Jordan - Give Me A Reason (For Lovin You)
Given Name: William Michael Coleman
Occupations: Producer, Rapper
Career Highlights: In February 2013, Zombie produced Drake's "Started From The Bottom." That December, he released his debut solo mixtape, The End Of The Beginning.
Sound: True to his stage name, Zombie tends to produce some pretty eerie-sounding instrumentals. Though he wasn't involved in OVO until just over a year ago, his music seems to build on the template that began on So Far Gone, with minimal synth lines and drums patterns that resemble the one on "Successful" making up the majority of his music. Other than Drake, the only artist that Zombie's worked with is Tsu Surf.
Strengths: "Started From The Bottom" might be the best track that anyone in OVO has debuted with, with Zombie seeming like a veteran in his nuanced, catchy production of the track. But since releasing it a year ago, he really hasn't capitalized on any other big-name collaborations, which would seem like a must at this early stage of his career. The End Of The Beginning is a perfectly enjoyable tape, but it's almost annoying how back-to-back tracks "Nowhere Fast" and "Gentry" both sound almost identical to "Started From The Bottom." All he would have to do to change that is shift the drum patterns slightly, but for some reason, he didn't. We're looking forward to see Mike Zombie hop on some more tracks by Drake and other big artists, but he needs to expand his comfort zone first.
Mike Zombie - Nowhere Fast
Given Name: Jahron Anthony Brathwaite
Occupations: Singer, Rapper
Career Highlights: In 2013, Party Next Door was signed to OVO and released PARTYNEXTDOOR, his debut mixtape.
Sound: Similar to The Weeknd, PND draws his influences from R&B first and modern EDM second, and he also sings about the party lifestyle that fuels Tesfaye and Ty Dolla $ign's music. PND's sound is a blunted haze that seems inspired by Houston hip-hop, and although he's difficult to distinguish from the pack of R&B stars that all love drugs and auto-tune, his debut mixtape was solid enough to inspire hope for a great career ahead.
Strengths: Producing most of his own music himself, PND's leg up on the competition is his musical background. He may be covering old ground sonically speaking, but he's doing it himself, without the help of a stellar production team like The Weeknd had from the start. His songwriting is good if not great, but hey, he's 20. He'll almost undoubtedly have better late night tales to spin after spending a year touring and partying with Drake and his posse.
Career Highlights: In 2013, Nineteen85 was signed to OVO and produced three tracks on Drake's Nothing Was The Same.
Sound: As 2013 was Nineteen85's first year as a bonafide producer, it's hard to tell yet if he has a distinctive sound. So far, he's seemed versatile, crafting a trap banger for R. Kelly and 2 Chainz while also supplying Tiara Thomas with a smooth R&B canvas for her song "Tell me Something."
Strengths: With "Tuscan Leather," "Hold On, We're Going Home," and the Sampha-assisted "Too Much" being three of the strongest tracks on Drake's last album, Nineteen85 made quite a debut with his first production jobs for OVO. He seems primed for a similar position that T-Minus currently occupies, with the ability to cater both to specific artists' tastes and to the radio's need for hit singles, but only time will tell.
Occupations: Actor, Rapper
Career Highlights: OBrien is most recognizable as the bearded joker from the "Started From The Bottom" video. He released his debut single, "Steve Nash," in January 2014.
Sound: On the "Old School"-sampling "Steve Nash, OBrien seemed to be trying to restore a lyrics-first emphasis on hip-hop to OVO's R&B-centric roster. With its trippy, slightly retro production, "Steve Nash" recalled some of Mac Miller's finest moments, and not just because OBrien's white.
Strengths: We already knew that this guy was hilarious ("Oh my Bosh") before he started making music, but OBrien didn't let it define his debut single, instead getting by on some perfectly capable rapping. One song isn't enough to predict a career, but OBrien sounds like he's got enough personality to carry a mixtape by himself.
OB OBrien - Steve Nash (Prod. By By Chef Byer)