The 6ix Sound
Michael Jordan won it all. Drake is winning it all. Just like MJ needed Pippen, Harper, Rodman and Longley for the ’95 to ’98 3peat, Drake needs 40, Nineteen85, Mike Zombie, and Boi-1da to produce the sonically sensual, and spooky 6ix Sound.
Aubrey “Drake” Graham has all but surely cemented his place in rap folklore as one of the greatest to ever do it, with 2015 arguably being his greatest year, bar the year he released his magnum opus, “Take Care”. He has not become the measuring stick alone though. The creators and curators of the OVO sound have been the perfect supporting and production cast for Drake’s Pacino.
Smooth, beautiful and invitingly haunting. This is the 6 sound. This is the sound sound sound that has incessantly bullied the hip hop, rap and RnB world for the past half a decade and has helped the genre realise and adore one of it’s most revered, feared and cherished sons. The OVO sound, which first found its way to mainstream consumers around 2006, is measured, calculated and delivered with an elegance that can only be compared to that of Dr Dre’s 2000s era, when he laid down beats for 50 Cent and Eminem’s rap take over, along with timeless smash hits like “Family Affair” and “Let Me Blow Ya Mind”, that still make our heads bop instinctually till this day.
The 6ix sound is beautifully minimalist. The “controversial” Boi-1da-produced “0–100” is the archetype of this particular characteristic of the 6ix Sound. A beautiful reworked progression and loop of the song “Vibez” by Adam Feeney and Chester Stone Hansen, a palatable kick drum, a hi hat and a cymbal were all the main tools needed to create the perfect New York Boom Bap-esque instrumental that Drake, as is the norm, bodied. The same stripped down feel is recognizable in songs like “Started From The Bottom” produced by Mike Zombie and on a more pensive rather than braggadocious tip, “Successful” featuring Trey Songz and “Light Up” featuring Hov, which are both adroitly produced by Noah “40” Shebib. The minimalist beats give both the artist and listener room to think which usually results in both parties getting into their feels.
Draking and Driving has led many an ex to open their door to a sobbing Drakeist. The 6ix sound creates that emotive sonic experience that’s too irresistible for one not to feel all kinds of feels. The distant, airy but warm synths and pads employed on “Shot For Me” perfectly submerge both artist and listener into a mixture of mostly regretful feelings towards an estranged lover who seems to be very unappreciative of what the 6God (and the listeners he spoke for) did for them. On a more light hearted note, The Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson-like “Hold On, We’re Going Home” beat produced by Nineteen85 conveys both a “carry your newlywed wife across the threshold” vibe and a “I just copped that new 2K” feeling all in one beat. The alternative pop sound in it allows for a jolly, expectant feeling to be realised and in case one wanted to feel triumphant over the fact they are hanging out with their close friends? The Boi-1da-engineered instrumental for “Know Yourself” is juuuust right.
The intricate reworking of already existing sounds, known as sampling, is another key component of why the 6ix sound is what it is (yeah). Billy Joel’s golden “Uptown Girl” was beautifully remoulded and infused into Boi-1da’s “Uptown” beat which seamlessly slotted into Drake’s “So Far Gone” mixtape. Along with “Uptown”, standout sampling by the OVO crew include the super smooth “Pound Cake” beat that makes use of Ellie Goulding’s gorgeous voice from “Don’t Say a Word”, Wu Tang Clan’s hook from “C.R.E.A.M” and Jimmy Smith’s insightful words said on “Jimmy Smith Rap” , whilst the lovely “Hotline Bling” produced by Nineteen85 samples Timmy Thomas’ “Why Can’t We Live Together”.
The amalgamation of these characteristics discussed make the 6ix sound what it is today. Before the 6ix sound, Hip Hop/Rap wasn’t really looking for something new. Her life was perfect. She thought she had all she needed. But when the sound sound sound came into her life? Only then, she felt and looked complete.