If you aren’t a fan of crunk music, you may fall out of love with Hip-Hop. Even the most proven artists in rap are dabbling with that derrty mash out sound. Even though the south is getting a new appeal, lots of yesterday’s stars are dealing with antiquation and conformation. Many of the people who dominated the airwaves five years ago, suddenly sound as awkward as Bow Wow going through a public puberty.
One artist who hasn’t compromised himself through the years is Devin the Dude. The always humble, unabashedly laid back, comedic rapper from Houston just dropped his fourth solo album. With less than a week into the release of To The X-Treme, AllHipHop chilled out with the Texan who has found pockets of cult followers in Brooklyn, Compton, and Corona, Queens by way of his outstanding collaborations, and censor-testing style of telling it like it is. Lean back and roll with the man who penned some of the most beloved booty songs and odes to la la.
AllHipHop.com: We ran a review of your record this week. We gave it a three out of five. What’s your own reaction to the initial response of the record?
Devin: I been gettin’ pretty good responses. You know, it’s kinda laid back, slower tempo than usual.
AllHipHop.com: It’s weird too. Because on the album inserts, you’re breakin’ and cuttin’ records. I’ve always heard how much you love the real Hip-Hop, so to see that out there was cool.
Devin: I kinda had to bring back the essence. I kinda grew up on that. We was breakdancin’ back in the day up in the south man. I just kinda used that to make some extra change [then]. It’s always been a big part of what we was doing.
AllHipHop.com: Did you go this route on account of feeling an absense of it in Rap?
Devin: Yeah, somewhat. There’s a lot of beef and stuff happenin’, man – which is a part of Hip-Hop though. That’s been goin’ on since way back, but that’s not totally it.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve worked with De La, you’ve worked with G. Rap, as you drop your forth album, do you see successful numbers sold to the New York community?
Devin: Not really, but that just gives me room for improvement. I want acceptance. I got some work to do. I’ve only been there a few times. I don’t go there a lot. When I do go, lotta people tell me I get mad love out there. It kinda surprises me. I just gotta find a right channel.
AllHipHop.com: I was asking Akinyele about his female response. Like him, you don’t hesitate to stick with sexual subject matter. What do females tell you about your records?
Devin: Actually, it’s surprising man! When I do shows, the females who listen to me, they really enjoy it! Especially the freaky stuff. I wanna stray away from it just a little, to make most people feel that there’s more to me than just that. But they always bring up the parts on the songs where I [say] the freakiest stuff. “I wanna hear some more of that. You just so crazy, so freaky,” these be the classy ones! It’s kinda hard for me not to say certain things in a rap which is about sex or whatever.
AllHipHop.com: I know Cee-Lo did it. But what made you really start singing in a lot of places on this record?
Devin: There’s a lot of up-tempo songs out there, a lot of club, crunk songs which are fast moving. I’m sorta laid back anyway. So I just kinda dedicated this album to that side of me. To just chill, and listen to music, and unwind ‘cause I like to do that when I listen to other music. I felt that the public might wanna do that with this.
AllHipHop.com: A lot of laid back groups been copying into crunk. Do you think there’s still a place for traditional southern Rap?
Devin: Yeah, of course. We got a lot of talent out here. From open mics [on]. When people say, “The south,” I want them to gather up other things than just the crunk style, the gritty. But don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of it too. I enjoy all of it.
AllHipHop.com: The single, “Anythang” jumps off the record. You use a Rick James bassline. From one freaky musician looking to another, how’d you take the news?
Devin: I was kinda hurt, man. I felt kinda relieved for him, too. Because at the last minute, he got a chance to come back and let the world see him and know that he was still around, he was still in it. And his spirit was there. The world got a chance to embrace him [again]. If he left without [that], that would have hurt me even more.
AllHipHop.com: Did you ever get a chance to meet him?
Devin: No, I haven’t, man. I came close when I went to work with Dr. Dre. But I never did get that chance.
AllHipHop.com: Ever since “F**k You,” you been recruited by everybody to do guest verses. Do you find most people encourage you to be yourself, or do they want something specific?
Devin: Yeah, for the most part. There are some who have something specific they want me to do – whether it’s words already written or a hook already established, or subject matter already together, which is cool. But I really enjoy when they say, “Man, it’s up to you. Whatever you feel. Just go ‘head.”
AllHipHop.com: You work with so many different people. I just heard you on a J-Zone record. Do you ever get distracted by the artists your working with, and influence what you’re doing?
Devin: I feel you. That happens sometimes. Especially when I worked with Rapheal Saadiq. That’s a good scenario. I’m wondering, “What am I gonna do? He’s so different. I gotta find something that’s gonna coincide with his style of music. What can my verse consist of?”
AllHipHop.com: My favorite layout in The Source’s history was the one with you in those 1970’s ads. That one with you in the Grand Marquis ad, I cut that out and taped that one on the wall. You’s a funny guy.
Devin: With the radio and s**t? Oh yeah.
AllHipHop.com: How much has your humor marketed you to the public?
Devin: I think it played a big part. I like to laugh, man. And I like to listen to stuff that makes me laugh. Growing up listenin’ to Richard Pryor, Blowfly, and Dolemite, I always said if I did music, I would try to do something like [them].
AllHipHop.com: Does that carry into the live show?
Devin: Yeah, man. I throw in some old school light Rock, some James Taylor.
AllHipHop.com: I saw you sampled, “Shower the People” on this record.
Devin: Yeah man, that’s one of my influential type songs. It uplifts me sometimes when I’m feeling pretty down. It’s a brilliant song. I had to use that record. We replayed it. They did a wonderful job replaying all the instruments. During the show, I throw on something like, “The Handy Man,” (sings) Hey girls, gather ‘round, listen to what I’m putting down (laughing).
AllHipHop.com: This album closes so well. You got this joint,“Unite.” This reminded me of “I Can.” What prompted you do this song?
Devin: A lot of people feel different ‘bout who they are, or how they talk, or how they grow up. They kinda shy up about it and don’t really wanna be a part of anything because people might feel they’re different. But that’s what makes the world. I just wanted people to feel good on however they was raised, or however they talk, or however they look. Everybody is all equal to me. It seemed like, I should say something like that. I don’t think I ever said nothin’ like that.
AllHipHop.com: Last time, I know you were concerned about letting your kids listen to your work. There’s your record. George Bush would let the twins hear that.
Devin: (laughing) My two-year-old, that’s her favorite song. She almost knows [every word].
AllHipHop.com: You’re such a character that a video could be a huge help. Any plans for a video from the album?
Devin: We decidin’. I don’t know. Videos to me are kinda funny. You spend a whole lotta money and sometimes it doesn’t coincide with what the records is about.
AllHipHop.com: What songs are you choosing between?
Devin: Actually, I wouldn’t mind a song like, “Unity.” But the way it is now with the club scene, a song like, “Too Cute” would be okay too.
AllHipHop.com: If you do it, I’d encourage, “Unity.” It might expand your audience too.
Devin: Okay, I’ll keep that in mind, man (laughing).