If you’re a fan of R&B, you’re a fan of Roy Woods. Being signed to Drake’s OVO imprint is one thing, but real name Denzel Spencer lets the music speak for itself.
Hailing from Brampton, Ontario, Woods actually got his start rapping before finding his voice as a singer-songwriter. Since then, he’s exploded onto the scene, even catching the eye of Oliver El-Khatib who eventually brought him over to the 6 God. When Roy got signed, he was only 19 years old.
From “Jealousy” to “Drama” to “Get You Good,” Roy Woods provides nothing short of vibes. His music is inspired by real life experiences, covering everything from mental health to relationships to everything in between.
Most recently, Roy Woods unveiled his newest single titled “Don’t Love Me,” speaking volumes to his current headspace when it comes to females and career. His last album, Say Less, was released in 2017, as fans wait patiently for his forthcoming project.
On the 50th episode of Shirley’s Temple, I sat with Roy Woods to discuss seeing Busta Rhymes during Grammys week, how cold Toronto is, previous life rapping, being diagnosed with depression, taking care of his mom, love for football, mental health, and more!
How’s Grammys week?
It was dope. Honestly, I’ve never been around for the Grammys, this is my first time being here for the weekend. It was dope, I had a really good time. Walking a couple carpets and being in the parties, it was dope.
What was the highlight?
I seen Busta come out with Coi, they destroyed the stage. I didn’t know Busta was coming out. I’m like whoa, Busta?! This is crazy! I always wanted to see Busta, so it was lit. That was a crazy moment. They killed that performance, Coi did her thing too. That was fire.
You and Coi [Leray] tapped in?
Yeah, Coi’s the homie. Good peoples. She’s doing her thing. I’m so proud of her for what she’s overcome. It’s been a while, so I’m so happy to see where she’s going right now. It’s great for her.
Did you get to talk to Busta?
Mm-mm, I wish I did. Next time though.
How long are you in LA for?
I dip out tomorrow, but I’m always here.
Do you miss Toronto when you’re out here?
Not really. I love the city, sometimes I get a little homesick. But it’s not really in that sense, it’s mostly thinking about my family. Ah, what if they’re worrying about me now? What are they dealing with? Other than that, I like getting away. Especially to the sun. It’s cold right now, it’s freezing cold.
I literally said earlier, put me under the sun and I’m good.
Facts, I could use that. Because it’s so cold. Right now, it’s -30 degrees. It is freezing back home! I’m not excited to go home right now. [laughs] Snowing, icy roads. It’s crazy outside.
Do you have your heater on at all times?
All times. You have to.
I wouldn’t even go out if it was that cold.
I mean, a lot of us don’t. [laughs] We usually still stay inside. It be like that, so I like it here.
$500K or dinner with Jay Z?
Oh man, that’s hilarious. I’ll take dinner with Jay. I can make $500K. Knowledge is power.
What would you ask him?
That, I don’t even know. I’m a spontaneous person, so sometimes questions come through our conversation. I might weave my way into figuring out what I want to ask him. Depends on the moment in time, how the conversation’s going. Because there’s so many things he’s done, that a lot of people haven’t done. I’ll see how it’s going, pick a little bit.
It’s crazy, the fact that you were rapping before you started singing?
Oh yeah, rap life. [laughs] I try to forget about it. [laughs]
You were good right?
I did my thing, but I a don’t rap anymore. I do, but I don’t even see myself as a rapper anymore. But yeah, that was me.
You said you got poppin’ in 11th grade, right? What happened?
That was my second to last year, I was in my public school at that time. Football, music, I was doing something that nobody did. In my area, in my city. It was very brand new, so it built a lot of excitement to see what was going on. There was some love, a lot of hate. It was a lot of mixed emotions, no pun intended. [laughs]
Album out now!
I ran with it. I didn’t stop. I stayed in my own world, my own little bubble until I took opportunities that I’d see fit for me. It was a lot. I had a little rap beef, it got crazy. Me and a homie, he’s my boy now. It was a whole different era, he’s been doing this thing though. I used to go by Pression, short for depression. That was my rap name. We were going at it, even though we knew each other. But he said something, I didn’t like it. Because we were in the same circle, it was a little thing.
Did y’all battle it out?
Yeah, we dropped diss records. But we knew each other. We knew about each other just for a little bit, we weren’t mad cliqued up or anything. When it happened, there was a lot of tension. Mans went to my school too, so it was a lot of things happening. It got a little crazy, but now we laugh about it.
Was Pression because you were depressed?
Oh yeah, I’ve been. I realized I was diagnosed when I was 19. My mom was also diagnosed the same time as me, but hers was chronic. I was already trippin’. I told my mom at 13, “mom I’m depressed.” She’s like “boy, what’re you talking about? You’re 13 years old, what you know about that?”
I went through a whole stage of not knowing what it was, or knowing how to accept it for what it was. I dealt with life the way I know how to deal with it: put it to the back of my head and keep moving. That’s where that name came from, it was very early for me feeling that way. Me I guess embracing it.
What were you going through? Was it mostly family stuff?
Oh yeah, everything was about my family. Especially at that time, because I’m such a big family person. My dad and my mom, they weren’t really together. They were on and off, even though they’re married. They didn’t have the best. I seen a lot growing up that I shouldn’t have, especially with my mom so I always had a soft spot for her. Even though I still had a very good relationship with my dad.
I have a good relationship with both my parents, but it did get tarnished from their little war. My mom is very dependent on me, from very young. At 8 years old, I was taking care of her. I had to take care of my sister. Had to help cook food, I had to do a lot of stuff. I grew up really, really quick, so I didn’t have a childhood. Everything that I did love about being a kid, I had to let it go. I’m trying to fight for it, but I never could hold on to it because my reality is this.
My life was always so different, I always stood out from everybody else. I did not fit in a lot, I come home and it’s more problems. My mom, there was a lot wrong with her head that we didn’t know about. This is my first time talking about it, she just came out the hospital recently because she went missing. We couldn’t find her.
For how long?
It was only for a day or two, a full day. My sister, we fought over it. We never fight. We’re trying to find her. We ended up finding out that she’s at the hospital, she checked in herself. Which is where we were trying to get her to, she was in the psych ward. She was there for a minute. We’re dealing with a whole crazy situation. Honestly since then, since she’s been out the hospital, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been taking care of my mom. As best I can.
Our relationship’s been the best since then. I’ve spoken about my childhood with her, about how I felt. About how I felt then. A lot of doors that I closed, I opened them and she’s openly spoken about them with me. It’s been great. It’s been good, to let her know how I really felt. I’m not lying about it, it’s good.
I myself have been in the psych ward, that shit’s traumatizing. It makes you really be like, damn, I need to get it together. Because this has to motivate me. Do you know what she was going through?
It was a lot of her past, a lot of her demons that she never got to deal with. So now, I’m trying to let her deal with it. I’m trying to guide her into dealing with the things that have made her feel like this, because I was there every step of the way. It’s about backtracking now, and getting to the root of it.
That’s what I’ve been trying to encourage my mom. It’s scary to do those things because a lot of these doors we may be able to go back and open, but there’s always going to be one door that’s going to… you know? Even for me and myself. I understand what she’s going through to a certain degree, so I’m trying to help guide her being the best her she wants to be.
That must be heavy for you and your sister too.
It is, but we’re her kids. We can do it. [laughs]
In 2018, 58.2 percent of Black and African American young adults 18 to 25 and 50.1 percent of adults 26 to 49 with serious mental illness did NOT receive treatment. Did you ever go to therapy?
No, we never did. I’m still hesitant. I looked at the number before I came out here. I still have to call. [laughs] We’ve never done it yet, no.
Can I ask why?
It’s a battle. The kids want to, me and my sister want to. My mom doesn’t want to, then I’m turned off by it but they want to. It’s a mix. Everybody doesn’t know what they really want.
You have music, but I will say just getting shit off your chest…
Still feel a little misunderstood. Sometimes, the music is the only avenue. It’s the only thing.
But that’s a blessing for sure.
It is. That’s why I appreciate the fact that I can do this. I’ve always just treated music like my form of therapy.
Even before Roy Woods, was music always your coping mechanism?
No, it was sports.
Oh right, he was a football player! He was on the newspaper y’all.
Yes, Brampton Guardian.
Was that a super lit game?
Oh man no, we lost. We lost that game. I’ll be honest, we lost. I had a good season, that was one of my best seasons. That was grade 10, when I won the MVP for the second time in my little football career. Or offensive MVP.
I remember when I got Most Improved Player, it’s lit!
I got that the year before, so I went from MIP to MVP. It was dope. I really miss playing football man.
Do you still play for fun?
Nah, I smoke like crazy. [laughs] But I’m gonna start running with the guys, we’ve been trying to do little things. I do like coaching. I do enjoy coaching. My boy Will, he always coaches and he likes to bring me around. Because he knows I have a passion for football, so he’d be bringing me along. I love coaching, teaching the game. Love that.
How are you doing? How’s your mental health?
I’m alright. I’m floating above the water. [laughs] I’m coasting, but I’m good. I’m not bad. I’m trying to stay maintained, stay focused. You’re always gonna go through the motions, so I’m going through my motions. At the end of the day, I know what I want for myself. How I want to grow, so I’m going forward. I’m staying focused, so that’s what it’s about.
Definitely want to talk about your new song, “Don’t Love Me.”
“Don’t Love Me” is a little record about how I feel about love right now. It’s confusing. It’s all over the place for me. You’re never going to know okay, this is it for sure until you’re really, really in it. But at this stage I’m in my life, I need to go forward. I can’t settle down and slow down right now. I got other things I need to focus on, and there’s so much more. For that, for me to give a lot of my energy into a relationship, it already bugs me. Not in a bad way, I want to give more but I can’t.
Okay, so is this toxic?
I mean, you call it what you want. [laughs] This is how I feel, and I know there’s others that feel like that. It was really real life for me. I let girls know: listen, I’m too busy for this. I can’t get into all this right now. I’m still doing me right now. I don’t want to break your heart,and sometimes it happens. That’s what this record is about.
You never seen a girl like, damn, I want to wife you up.
Of course. But then, can you handle it?
What was your last relationship?
A long time ago, probably high school. I’ve tried. I’ve had situationships. But where I say yeah this is my… I haven’t really had that, no.
Was this song inspired by a certain female?
Do they know it’s about them?
I don’t think so. Maybe when they hear it, they might. It’s also past experiences as well mixed in, but definitely got the inspiration from one.
What do you do for yourself for self-care?
I’m working on that part right now. It’s always a battle because I was doing good, then I kept getting injured. I was always out for the count. I couldn’t do the things I really wanted to, so it was messing me up. I’m trying to get back into that. Really waking up early, self-care. It’s a battle.
How much sleep are you getting?
It varies. Some days no sleep, one or two hours. Some days, I sleep 12 hours straight.
[laughs] It varies.