Sound 42 succeeds in making a cross-section of new and often unfamiliar music sound intimate and feel personal. After all, there’s no way to present the latest music from every corner of the globe without having a lens, a viewpoint, some criterion for selection. This sort of filter is often unstated but clearly detectable. (For BBC Radio 1xtra, for instance, there is a certain politics of representation that goes into creating a sonic analog of post-imperial Britain. The result looks like programming blocks that correspond to certain communities or demographics within it; the bhangra/British Asian block, the Caribbean block, the urban London block etc).
Sound 42’s editorial lens is, if anything, even more present, if harder to name. A very particular sensibility flows through what might otherwise be a disorienting no-man’s-land of sonic diversity – a dubby, moody, atmosphere, created by interludes that feel more like sound-collage than conventional radio drops and transitions that feel as curated, as considered, as the edits of a film. The result is a sort of 24-hour mixtape–or a Drake album that goes on forever.
In a way, Drake has been preparing us to hear the world in this way at least since Life, the album he insisted on calling a playlist, which featured everything from a Black Coffee dance classic remake to two different songs with UK rapper Giggs, and an all-star trap line-up track with Quavo and Travis Scott. There, as on Sound 42, Drake himself is the glue, his versatility and depth of catalog the secret weapon. Despite the incredible array of styles and scenes in the mix, there is no cutting edge selection which can’t naturally segue into or out of a Drake song, even if he hasn’t collaborated with the artist…yet.
But what Sound 42 never feels like is a vanity project. If anything, Drake picks his spots on the channel. Yes, he has his own show Table For One, wherein he and 21 Savage might interview each other…or Drake might just play DJ, cutting together a surprising selection of influences ranging from old Rawkus Records cuts to Slick Rick & Outkast. The Sound 42 throughline is less a Drake’s-eye view of the world than it is a conversation between Drake and his OVO Sound crew. The station, at its best, feels like we are listening in as the sacred aux cord passes from Drake to OVO co-founder Oliver El-Khatib, to young guns G0home Roger and Kid Masterpiece, to OG Ron C, to legendary Stone Love selector Rory and back again. The thread that connects it all is the love for discovering new music—and it’s made possible by a handful of longtime collaborators who have helped directly shape Drake’s sound and career. It’s evident in El-Khatib’s voice as he cues up the next selection, the playfully faded banter of OVO Mark and OVO Noel (Drake’s longtime engineer and producer) of Night Owl Sound, for whom the pairing of spirits and sound are as important as the order of tracks played on their late night Fry Yiy show, which lucky Apollo attendees got to witness live when El-Khatib, Mark and Noel united for a DJ set to get the mood right before the show began.
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