Roy Woods, hailing from Ontario, Canada, is an artist we’ve been following at HNHH for a while now– before he signed with one of the biggest rappers in the world. Prior to inking a deal with Drake‘s OVO, we chopped it up with a young Roy Woods for one of his first interviews ever, back in 2014. We’ve continued to connect with him over the years, as he creates his own unique sound within the R&B space and establishes himself as a staple on the OVO imprint and makes a name for himself outside of the brand too.

After initially breaking out with his Soundcloud hit (and the song that led to our discovery of him) “Got It,” the singer soon made his proper debut with the 2015 single “Drama” featuring the 6 God himself. The singer-songwriter has since been focused on perfecting his craft, consciously making the decision to go out and live life in order to make the best, most authentic music possible for his fans.

Whether it’s his own struggles with mental health or relationship woes, Woods is often creating from a vulnerable place: as evidenced in his newest single and visual “Insecure.” Following last year’s “Touch You” which amassed over 10 million streams on Spotify alone, the song serves as the lead single from his highly-anticipated new album Mixed Emotions, slated to arrive sometime this summer. Woods has since confirmed that Drake will be the executive producing this project.

HotNewHipHop spoke with Roy Woods during a private listening session for Mixed Emotions, where he took over a studio in North Hollywood during BET Awards weekend, to find out more about what he’s been up to, as well as his reaction to the new records from both Drake and Beyonce.

Read the interview, edited lightly for clarity, below.

roy woods drake new interview

Image provided by the artist

HNHH: How you feeling? You’re in Los Angeles, and it’s BET weekend!

Roy Woods: I’m good. It’s fire. Hold on, let me get my chain out.

Oh yeah, you had to tuck it in because we were walking down the streets.

You know how we do, stay safe baby. [pulls out OVO chain] “Covered in jewels ain’t show them the ice!” [sings]

How did it feel when you got that chain?

Oh, it was life-changing. It was so unreal. It was an achievement, like I’d finally conquered something that I’ve been working for so long. So when I look at this, I hold this and wear this, it’s not just a chain. This is for life, feel me? Can’t take it off.

What was the moment that you got it? Did something happen? 

Oh man, no. I just got called to the studio. 40 [producer] called me, he’s like, “Hey, I got a chain for you.” I’m like “what?!” [laughs] He made me pull up, I got it. It was just a moment. A good moment, it was good.

Do you remember how long ago that was?

Yeah, that was about 2017. That was after the first tour that I did with Drake.

First of all, how nervous were you to go on your first tour with Drake?

Oh my god, I was so nervous. I had my mom and my sister at the first show, my little sister. I had them there so it was lit, because we did it in Toronto. It was great. It was amazing. I was very nervous, very scared. But the more I did shows on that tour, the more I got comfortable with being on a big stage. It was great, we have great friends.

What did you learn about yourself? That had to be pivotal for your career.

I learned about owning the stage there, that’s one thing that I learned. There was one moment I completely went on on the floor and I just started singing. I loved that moment, it sticks in my head because I never really did it again. But it was a moment where I really conquered the stage and owned it. I didn’t really care about anything else, I just wanted to own that moment on the stage. It was lit.

It’s crazy, you were telling me earlier you used to play football.

Yeah, exactly. Used to play football, pretty much my whole life.

You were nice with it?

Oh come on! I should have been in the league. If I stayed, I would’ve been in the league. But you know, this is the other profession I chose. We are here. But definitely, football was my first love.

You said you got four concussions?

Four concussions, yeah. Then I had to quit grade 11. I had to quit, I was playing for my high school football team. I told the guys — it was our last playoff game. It was my first time in the playoffs. I was like “Yeah, guys, I’m not going to play football anymore.” And I was one of the people who was always on the team, always making sure everybody’s doing their part and working as hard as I am so we could all achieve a goal. Everybody looked up to me in a sense. I was captain one year, but my last year I wasn’t captain. I didn’t mind, I was still [playing].

He was captain y’all!

Grade 10, I was offensive MVP and I was captain. I love it, football was definitely my first love. Now, it’s music. [laughs]

Did you have aspirations of playing in the NFL?

Oh yeah, that was it. I didn’t want to go anywhere else. But I would have, I didn’t want to.

So when did you discover your voice? What was that moment?

I was young man, I was 10 or 12. I tried out certain things. I tried a little group in class in middle school, where it was a group of girls and I was the only guy in the group. We did certain things for the school, we’d sing for the school for certain events. I tried that out, then I started making music in grade 10 or 11. I started experimenting. It was in and out. I didn’t really know too much too much about my voice. Other people said “You should make music,” because I was always singing in and around the halls and in class. Nobody took me serious until then. I was a little young boy.

How’d it feel to release your debut album, Say Less?

Oh, that was great. My first album, releasing that was so cool because I never understood the process of working on an album and what goes into it until I made the album. I did a couple projects, but a full-length album? I never did that before. It was mind-blowing, it was amazing. I loved it.

How have you evolved? We got Mixed Emotions coming out this summer.

Mixed Emotions baby! You already know. From my evolution from Say Less until now, even from Dem Times till now, I’ve been focused on how I can tell my story the right way. How I can get everybody to really understand what I’m going through with my words, my melodies, the beats. Feel the pain, feel the joy, feel the emotions that I’m throwing on the album. That was the whole process for me because I had to figure out for me, what I wanted for myself in life. I had to step away from a lot. Take a little break from Roy and focus on Denzel, and go back to…

“From my evolution from Say Less until now, even from Dem Times till now, I’ve been focused on how I can tell my story the right way. How I can get everybody to really understand what I’m going through with my words, my melodies, the beats”

That’s your real name?

Yeah, my real name’s Denzel.

Where did Roy Woods come from?

[laughs] Roy Woods was very random. A kid in my building that went to my school, he gave it to me randomly. My name was Pression before, short for depression.

Were you going through depression?

Oh yeah, I’m a sad boy. [laughs] Super sad boy, even though the smile’s on my face. I stay sad. I needed to step away, just focus on me and grow. And with that, my music grows as well.

Because my music is a reflection of my life, and my life is a reflection of my music. The more I can grow with myself and my passions, the things I want for myself in my own life? That’s not Roy? I feel like it made it easier for me to deal with Roy, feel me?

I saw you say you had to experience life.

Yeah, I didn’t know what life really was. I didn’t know how to have fun. That was one thing I never really knew. I felt like I was just working, working. [claps] My whole life, I never really knew how to have some fun and just say “fuck it.”

Where does that come from? Not to get so deep…

[laughs] Shit, it starts from my family. My mom. I’ve been taking care of my mom since I was 8 years. She couldn’t walk. She has a condition called fibromyalgia, where basically she has a lot of pain everywhere throughout the body. It’s like a nerve pain so a lot of times, she couldn’t walk. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t do a lot. I had to take care of my little sister, so I took on a lot. Her and she had bipolar disorder, but we never knew. It’s crazy. So I lived with that, but nobody ever knew what it was.

I’m bipolar so I totally understand!

Yeah trust me. People would just say “yeah your mom’s crazy!” But nobody knew. A lot happened in our family. It starts from my mom. It starts from me being there for her, the relationship I have with her.

How does it feel to be able to take care of her? Because that’s got to be the best part.

I still do, it’s my job. It’s been rocky. There’s been times we stopped talking to each other. I stopped talking to my mom, we got into fights. We used to fight all the time. But the older I get, we started to learn about each other. Try to build this relationship where we can understand each other and not just be mad at each other. We can grow and see where our wrongs are. I’m trying to show her where her wrongs are, and she’s trying to let me know too. I definitely because she’s my mom, you know? [laughs] You have to give her that. It’s good though, we’re working on it.

Real quick, we wanted to get your take on the new Drake album.

[pause] It’s fucking amazing. It’s amazing. I love it! I love it I love it I love it. The new Drake album is so amazing. I listened to it — I was at a release party. What’s so amazing about it is I love house music. So when I was in the party, it was just house music playing and I was in my vibe.

“The new Drake album is so amazing. I listened to it — I was at a release party. What’s so amazing about it is I love house music. So when I was in the party, it was just house music playing and I was in my vibe.”

You love house music?

I love house music! I make house music too, I just haven’t dropped it yet. [laughs] I make house, dance, I make EDM too. That album was so fire. I didn’t even realize until I heard his voice that oh shit, this is the album. The way he caught my attention in that way, then grasped my emotions and feelings, it was beautiful. It was perfect. It was amazing. I had so much fun. I listen to it in the car every day. It’s amazing, I love it. I told him, “Yo, I love house music! This album is amazing.” I love it, I love house music.

He should’ve had a Roy Woods feature on there!

Soon time. [laughs]

Is Drake executive producing your new album?

Yeah, Drake executive produced it.

What does that look like? You got the biggest artist in the world executive producing your album!

He asked me. He wanted to join the process, so I said “Yeah, of course.” I wanted to get my album the best way I could, and with his help, it was perfect. He had a very similar vision of what I wanted, so it wasn’t hard for us to pick songs and go through songs together. He flew me off to the Bahamas, we were listening to songs and going through them. It was amazing.

“[Drake] had a very similar vision of what I wanted [for my album], so it wasn’t hard for us to pick songs and go through songs together”

So when you’re in the Bahamas with Drake, are you Roy Woods or are you Denzel?

I’m both. I’m chillin’, I’m me. Right now, I’m always me. It ain’t no other me, I swear to God. Also I messed up my leg yo! I messed my shit up, it was crazy.

Oh no, what happened? 

So we’re watching the AFC Championship game, it was football. We’re drinking. I had some tequila, go downstairs because I wanted to go to my room, get something. Fall down some stairs, a couple of flights. What else happened? I was looking at somebody, looking at the girl, dropped. Dropped on my leg, scraped it.

Oh my gosh, did the girl see?

I don’t know, because a whole bunch of people came out after! I was so embarrassed like oh my gosh, they all just seen me fall. I’m seized right? The next day, I go in the ocean. I thought the salt water would have cleaned it up, but it didn’t. It just infected it. It was bad, excruciating pain. Trust me, it was crazy. I still worked though, I made 20 songs over there. I was working in the wheelchair, I was in a wheelchair. Banks is pushing me in a wheelchair. That’s my guy man, he was really with it. I was still working though, it was good times in the Bahamas.

So is the album ready to go? 

Yeah, the album’s done. Ready to go, ready for people to hear.

Did you release the cover art yet?

No, not yet. That’s next. That’s the next step. It’s very artsy, it’s very abstract, but it’s very simple at the same time.

Are you on it?

Indeed. [laughs]

What are your thoughts on the new Beyonce record?

Oh man, it was dope. I was very surprised because Drake just came out with the one before, with the album. So when I heard the Beyonce, I’m like “oh okay, this is funky!” I was fucking with it, I like it. I didn’t expect it so when I heard it, oh okay. It’s interesting. I took in the song and it was a vibe, she did her thing. Super vibes.

“I was very surprised because Drake just came out with the one before, with the album. So when I heard the Beyonce, I’m like “oh okay, this is funky!” I was fucking with it, I like it.”

I saw you say you want to do a movie after the “Insecure” video?

Ooh, did I? [laughs] I mean, if anybody wants to book your boy. Holla at ya boy because I be on my acting shit all day. Denzel can get on this Denzel, don’t sleep.

What else can we expect?

More music. There’s going to be tons of new music. Everybody’s been waiting for me to really drop so after this album, I’m going to be flooding the place. There’s going to be so much Roy, you’re going to be annoyed of it.

Anything else you want to let the people know?

Follow me @Roywoods everywhere. Twitter, Instagram, TikTok! I’m on TikTok too, I’ve been on my TikTok. I be getting jiggy on it, find me on TikTok!