I learned a valuable lesson from Joni Mitchell, via Janet Jackson: “Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” Two months ago, you couldn’t pay me to go to a party. But after eight weeks of quarantine, I’m replaying the invitations I declined. If that self-reflection wasn’t enough, last week DVSN released their third studio album, A Muse in Her Feelings, which is so textured with sensual R&B, dancehall, and club music that it feels like it’s meant to be experienced beyond four walls. Halfway into the album “Dangerous City,” featuring Ty Dolla $ign and Buju Banton, I got so excited I texted my friends: “I want to dust off my waistline, fall in love on the dancefloor, and make somebody’s son a single father.” It’s that good.
When working on Muse, DVSN couldn’t have anticipated that COVID-19 would mirror “Dangerous City” so perfectly. The first words you hear are “Y’all can’t be here,” a line that rings a little differently in the confines of a new normal where gatherings with over 10 guests are forbidden and personal space means at least six feet apart. “Seems every day it’s getting worse up in the city / They say we wildin’ outta hand, no one can fix we,” Daniel Daley sings. Reading the extensive coverage of the virus’ death toll and new cases are overwhelming, and despite months of self-isolation, the world is unclear on how to fix an issue as unprecedented as this. But there are no surgical masks in Daley’s world, only cups overflowing with Hennessy and sweaty basement walls.
The song isn’t actually about COVID, but it’s still full of imminent threats. Daley is willing to risk it all to meet up with his partner for the night. “You’re the only reason why I’m, even going outside tonight / It’s supposed to be live / Gunman, don’t kill my vibe tonight,” he sings before Ty Dolla $ign joins him. The California singer’s presence would usually steal the show, until Buju Banton’s gravelly Jamaican accent peeks through the second half.
Banton fits perfectly on “Dangerous City,” his cadence inducing the same slow body roll that much of his work did in the early 90s. Despite being released from prison in 2018 after receiving a 10-year sentence for gun and drug charges, Banton proves he still has the recipe for timeless music. His legendary dancehall career underscores the Caribbean patois Daley peppers throughout the song and adds to the otherwise ominous vibe of the record. “In all this chaos, you make everything clear,” he sings. With the current turmoil, we could all use some clarity.
Kristin Corry is a staff writer for VICE.