“The summer’s over.”
Those are the first words sung on PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO, the second release from Drake’s mysterious protégé.
Who is PARTYNEXTDOOR? That’s the question everyone's been asking, especially his biggest fans, those of us who have been spinning his mixtape/album/free-P—do those distinctions even matter anymore?—non-stop since it fell out of the SoundClouds last summer. He’s the first artist signed to Drake’s OVO Sound label, self-proclaimed Prince of the 6 and...that’s about all we got. While his boss is known for laying out his story in song piece by piece, PARTY's self-titled debut felt detached. Which is not to say it doesn’t make the listener experience a multitude of feels across its ten tracks. PARTYNEXTDOOR is one groove after another, walking a tightrope—and sometimes falling right over—between r&b and hip-hop with sometimes indiscernible, proto-Young Thug lyrics and inebriated melodies. Some of it is perfect for a lustful encounter, some more suited to a party, and all of it perfect for the strip club.* Despite being a crooner, PARTY's too cool for school, and he's got the emotional depth of a battle rapper. Save consecutive tracks “TBH,” “Wus Good/Curious,” and maybe “Over Here,” he’s in command of dime pieces who, by his estimation, should feel lucky for landing a moment of his fleeting attention. On the opening track he declares—well, mumbles, PND’s delivery doesn’t leave much room for declarations—that his “heart’s frozen”; on the closer he tells a woman that he’s “out of her league.”
But now the summer’s over. Which may be why most of PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO’s tracks find young PND in a festive cuffin' season mood. In contrast to the tape's predecessor, TWO is all about “Her Way”; he’s eager for her to "Recognize," going so far as to admit he’s "Thirsty," even. He reminds her that he’s an option; last year he sang as if he was the only choice. A good sequel deepens the mythology, so it’s only right that tracks like “FWU” find PARTY reflective: “When we arguing, it’s just me and me/I was hardly home, working 3 to 3/seems like another time.”
Which is not to say PARTY has gone full Joe on us. The brash, almost crude come-ons—“turn fucking you into a habit”—that he enjoys so much haven't gone missing. Even when he promises to “love and obey,” he can’t help but add “and hit it more than once a day,” which might be the trillest wedding vow ever. The OVO Sound bounce is intact, too. Last month he boasted on Twitter that all of his music is self-produced and the flex was well-warranted. The backdrop he provided for Drake’s late night cruise on wax “Days in the East”** was just a preview of his growth. His fondness for sax pops up again, but now he’s pulling tricks like flipping Disclosure's "Latch" into a slow lusty jam. Tracks like “SLS” and “Recognize” suddenly switch gears from grooves into turn-up ready bangers, and by the time you get to “FWU’s” intro, as the tension in his tale grows, the beat builds until the anxiety and desire for the drop is palpable.
But the welcome maturity of skill and content isn’t enough to match the lean, cohesive, tightly wound beast that is PARTYNEXTDOOR. With ten tracks that clock in at a lean 28 minutes, PARTY's first offering was the definition of a top-to-bottom listen that rendered the skip button useless. PND 2 is nearly double that length and enjoyable all the way through (even though “Bout It” is forgettable), but there isn’t one moment that compares to the one-minute-and-thirty-nine seconds of excellence that is “Break From Toronto.” Not on these first few listens, anyway. Even repeat guest star Drake’s verse isn’t on the level of his wildly underrated boast bars on “Over Here.” Bonus points for elevating the fantastic, woozy “Muse” from loosie to album outro, though.
So, no, PARTYNEXTDOOR 2 isn’t the life-changing listening experience that the original was. But it’s another successful move in a season apparently dedicated to proving that OVO is indeed, really with the shits, boy. And more importantly, as evidenced by the contrasting album covers, the portrait of the new most mysterious man in R&B is starting to come into focus. There's still plenty of summer left. Don't hesitate to press play.
* If I ever hear “Make a Mil” or “Break From Toronto” in that setting, your boy might spontaneously combust.
**Maybe the best fusion of simp Drake and rap Drake to date that's lowkey being overshadowed by "Draft Day" and "0-100."
Frazier Tharpe is a staff writer for Complex. "Break From Toronto" is currently 13 in his iTunes top 25 most played. He tweets here.