How Dvsn Carved Out Their Own Niche With Emotive, Throwback R&B

In July 2016, the R&B duo Dvsn found themselves in an exciting but precarious position. During only their second set of live dates, the pair were already opening for Drake and Future on the triumphant Summer Sixteen tour, which went on to become the highest grossing hip-hop jaunt of all time. But how would a crowd primed for deliriously exultant Drake/Future collaborations like “Jumpman” respond to Dvsn, whose best moments are more in line with emotive Nineties R&B than the music on today’s airwaves?

“That [experience] allowed us to do two things,” says Dvsn vocalist Daniel Daley. “To go out there and have to win the attention, appreciation and adoration of a bunch of people that were there to turn up, and to learn that they all have a spot in them that’s OK staying in that night.”

So it’s been for Dvsn – the name is often styled “dvsn” — who have accumulated more than 150 million streams in the U.S. since debuting in November of 2015. Daley’s partner in the group is Paul Jefferies, better known as Nineteen85, co-producer of mammoth Drake hits like “Hotline Bling.” After releasing their debut, Sept 5th, last year with little warning, Dvsn return on Friday with Morning After. “Sept 5th in a way works like a mixtape; it’s an introductory piece,” Daley says. “This time around, we definitely have some records that we think have a bigger space to occupy.”

This is hard-won confidence – initially Daley and Jefferies primarily kept their interest in R&B secret and focused on making rap. “Hanging out with crews of guys, it’s not the coolest thing to say, ‘Yo, I sing – have you heard that Boyz II Men record, that new Usher or Ginuwine?'” Daley explains. “And a lot of the stuff that we loved in R&B was way older than we were,” Jefferies adds. “Most of the people we were hanging with weren’t actually listening to that R&B.”

The two connected in Toronto’s music scene in the years before Drake released So Far Gone, the mixtape that set him on the path to stardom. It was a tough time for R&B in general: In 2007, only two R&B singles by artists who had not previously scored major hits crossed over to the pop airplay chart. As a result, rapping was the thing. “I knew Daniel as this guy who wrote raps,” Jefferies says. “So I was like, ‘Hey, do you want to try some of my beats?'” But one day, continues Daley, “he stumbled across me singing and was like, ‘Yo, let’s go with that.'”