Last summer, OVO Sound artist Jahron Brathwaite a.k.a. PARTYNEXTDOOR’s self-titled debut introduced him as a hybrid of all things that had been clicking for his Canadian predecessors. When the demo-length tape relied on ambient, downbeat production, he mirrored collaborations between Drake and producer Noah “40” Shebib. His stripper-themed cuts centered mostly around sex and drugs were immediately reminiscent of The Weeknd. And while PARTYNEXTDOOR was only 28 minutes in length, it was a solid indicator of PND’s range in production and his vocal talent with highlights like “Break From Toronto”, “Wus Good/Curious” and “Make A Mil”. The tape faltered in its content, though. Albeit a short project, there was nothing distinctive learned about PND—a stark contrast to Drake’s sappy and vengeful sentiments and The Weeknd’s too-tormented-for-love schtick. The bulk of the tape fell on popular conventions of strippers, sexual prowess and drugged-out club nights.
In months following his debut, Brathwaite kept busy with loose releases that expanded his sound from a strip club rap/R&B fusion to conventional R&B tracks like “Muse” and “Persian Rugs” where his serenading falsetto winded through piano riffs and finger snaps. Still, he failed to progress elsewhere which is still the case in his new full-length, PARTYNEXTDOOR 2. Unlike last year’s tape which felt like a public audition of his varied ability, PND 2 doesn’t attempt to be as experimental. From beginning to end, he relies on atmospheric, hazy elements and seems less concerned with making chaotic, danceable records that made his debut so intriguing. At times, Brathwaite’s lack of depth becomes a distraction from his exceptional production skills. “Her Way” is a barrage of snare rolls, horns, and bass that loses impact with lines like “She’s the light-skin girl with a dark-skin crew.” Too often, as a listener, you have to ask, “What is this music really about?” That question especially comes to mind with songs like “Bout It”, “SLS” and “Grown Woman” where it becomes a chore to detect line-to-line narratives, let alone verses.
PARTYNEXTDOOR 2’s biggest deficiency is in its lack of transparency and vulnerability— traits that make artists like FKA Twigs, Kelela, SZA, The Weeknd and Drake so captivating. He’s too unbothered. That machismo is easily translated in rap where equal attention is paid to the variety of flows and cadences an artist can have. PARTYNEXTDOOR was much more digestible than its sequel for that reason. With longer and slower songs this time around, PND’s lack of content is far more evident. Still, with tracks like “Options”, “Muse” and “Thirsty” Brathwaite’s artistic ability isn’t in question. There’s just not much motivation to listen to guarded, unflappable R&B when there are artists who deliver production that’s just as good with tangible and meaningful subject-matter to couple it with.