Devin The Dude: Beyond The Smoke

Hip-Hop’s competitive landscape

has compelled several insecure artists to alter their authentic selves.

Many MCs, aspiring for popularity, dump their true character only to

gain a disposable acceptance. Hip-Hop is starting to resemble a cesspool

of clichés. Toxic Avenger rappers and their landfill lyrics are polluting

its essence. Their mutated reflection mocks them when they encounter

the disappointed gaze of a knowing, Hip-Hop head. Devin The Dude, an

MC whose interior matches his exterior, has never had a problem looking

into the mirror. This Coughee Brotha has matured with his craft. Devin

embodies Hip-Hop; he has experience breaking, deejaying, and emceeing.

Scarface, Dr. Dre, De La Soul, and Nas are among his esteemed supporters.

Working on a solo project, or collaborating within Odd Squad’s group

dynamic, Devin is sure to keep the green burning and the good music


With your latest effort, Suite #420, how did you challenge yourself

to create fresh new music without compromising your lyrical legacy? 

Devin The Dude: It’s

just a matter of going in the studio and having fun. It’s feeling

good as possible, you know. There’s no strategy that I have. It’s

just a matter of feeling as good as possible and being as positive as

possible. (laughs) Being around the right people, being in the right

atmosphere and being in the right mind state—you know what I’m saying—and

then having some real good weed to smoke; it all just coincides.

Is making music still fulfilling, is it still fun for you; or, do you

do you just look at it as a profession? 

Devin: If it’s not

fun, I wouldn’t do it. That’s the whole thing. That’s why I was

so willing to just do this and pursue this as a career; because, you

know, it was fun to do. It wasn’t really—but it turned into a job—it

was never really considered a hard job to do. It was just a cool hobby

that paid big and was getting me where I needed to go. That’s how

it felt. So, if the fun goes away, I guess the whole job of it goes

away, to me.

Over the years, you’ve managed to remain relevant to the mic. With

your current deal with E1, how are you working to reinforce your presence

in Hip-Hop?

Devin: To reinforce

my presence? To me it’s not like a come and go thing. It’s not like

I’m in and I’m out, and I’m in and I’m out. I don’t never

feel like that. When I do a project, it doesn’t feel like I’m making

a comeback. It always feels like it’s just another chapter in a huge

book. So, whatever label I’m on, or whatever kind of transition I’m

making career-wise, as far as contractual, it doesn’t make a difference

with my musical work ethics. It’s all one in the same. You’ve

spent the duration of your career at Rap-A-Lot Records, how has the

time that you invested there help to shape you as an MC and as a businessman? 

Devin: Well, actually,

with Rap-A-Lot that was a learning and growing experience. Rap-A-Lot

was like a family. It was a huge family with MCs and businessmen, alike.

I learned [a lot] that helped me to guide myself, and the people that

was with me, to where I’m at now. It was a long journey; but,

it was well worth every step of it. Back in the day with Rap-A-Lot,

by doing tours and how we did performances with the retail and the marketing;

it was all a learning experience.

It was real cool…It was just

a blessing to be a part of all that. With

your imprint, Coughee Brothaz Music, are you its flagship artist; or,

are you cultivating another talent to help brand the label? 

Devin: Yeah, it’s

a label, Coughee Brothaz, is an independent label. I’m just a solo

artist that out an album through Coughee Brothaz music and went through

E1 for distribution and everything. We have other artists in Coughee

Brothaz, too, like 14K. Tony Mac, is an R&B singer from here in

Houston. We’re still focused on putting out other projects within

Coughee Brothaz. Who knows if we might land a deal with E1 for us to

have the whole Coughee Brothaz on the label and for other artists and

groups to come out through that avenue. We’re talking about that right

now. But, you know, it’s just one step at a time to get the ball rolling. Besides

yourself and 14K, are there other in-house producers? 

Devin: Yes, of course;

well actually just two on the label. We actually got comedians that

are trying to get on the label. We might do a comedian’s record and

take it back to like Richard Pryor, and old school Redd Foxx type stuff.

You know, kinda bring that back, on the label. It’s not going to be

just one specific thing that’s on it. C-Ray [Sullivan] who did

a track called “El Grande Nalgas” on the LandingGear

album; he did a track called “Where Ya At” on the Suite 420

album. He is a producer from the Coughee Brothaz; you’re going to

hear more from him. Yeah, it’s producers, artists, singers, rappers;

it’s going to be something to look forward to in the future. In the

South, you’re looked at as a legend. But, you’ve yet to achieve

that elusive mainstream success. How do you calculate professional success? 

Devin: I think that’s

within the individual. I believe that every artist has something that

they want to accomplish, when they first start. And, whatever that is;

or, whatever that may be; when they get to that point they’ll know.

For me, I dunno. The appreciation of a song was cool, for me. You know,

that’s what started my whole career, actually. It was someone

liking one song I did. So, that was a success for me. That was it, and

the more kinda multiplied even more. It came to mean more of a success

to me. I thought I was kinda successful when I first started; because,

somebody liked what I did. I don’t know as far as radio spins, units

sold, houses built; I dunno. That might be how somebody else calculate

it; but, I don’t know. It’s hard for me to calculate success. It’s

inside every individual that does whatever they do. When they decide

that they’re at the point when they’re successful. I started mine

back in ’87 to ’88. I love

you! I’ve read that after you released The Dude you were a

little disappointed.

Devin: Well, I wasn’t

disappointed, uh, I don’t know… It was just a matter of me, personally;

because, I was accepted and appreciated, musically, by a lot of people.

But, financially, I wasn’t living at a point to where I wanted to

be. I was getting older and having kids, and moving and doing things

and trying to be responsible. But, everything wasn’t adding up; I

was wondering what I was going to do with the remained of my career.

Should I just find another job and still use music as a hobby? The kids

needed to eat and they needed other things—just putting a record out,

and people liking it doesn��t mean that you’re financially stable

enough to keep doing whatever you’re doing and be comfortable.

From ’98 [The Dude]

that was my first solo album and I didn’t do another album until 2002

[JustTryin’ ta Live]. That was four years. There was

a point, there was a long little stretch, where I had a lot of time

to idle and think, ‘Oh s***, what am I going to do?’ Thank

you for persevering; you’re one of my favorites! 

Devin: (laughs) Good

s***; good looking out. May I

ask you a personal question.

Devin: You mean the

tape is off, personal? (laughs) Click here for Part 2 of this exclusive interview.