Its been three years since Devin the Dude released his last album, the critically acclaimed but commercial failure, To Tha X-Treme. But a lot has changed in hip-hop since then. Houston is now the hot bed of hip-hop, propelling pioneering hometown artists, such as Devin, into legendary status. Now, with the release of his fourth solo album in nine years – Waitin’ To Inhale – the eccentric MC offers more x-rated tales, but this time, with a sense of maturity.
Devin The Dude’s humble rap beginnings started in the late 80’s when he meet Rob Quest, an MC/producer who was apart of the Houston group, the Coughee Brothaz. The two formed a bond and then enlisted Jugg Mugg and DJ Screw to create the four-man collective, the Odd Squad. DJ Styles would later replace Screw before they released their 1994 debut album, Fadanuf fa Erybody!! It was Devin, however, who garnered most of the attention in the crew. The Geto Boys’ Scarface took notice. He asked Devin to join his group, Facemob. The five MCs released their debut album, The Other Side of the Law in 1996 after which, Devin stepped out as a solo artist, releasing his self-titled debut in 1998. The album garnered a cult following of fans that were enamored with Devin’s penchant for woman, weed and silly antics. While it was a commercial flop, one of the fans he won was over Dr. Dre, who love Devin’s work and featured him on “Fuck You,” off the classic album 2001. It was Devin’s big break. Unfortunately, Devin’s new fame didn’t lead to SoundScan success. His following two albums – Just Tryin’ ta Live (2002) and To Tha X-Treme (2004) – failed to even go gold.
But a lot has changed since his last album. Now a family man, Devin has a newfound maturation. While that’s a characterization not usually associated with Devin, the Houston legend reveals a side of him hardly seen, discussing his moral conscious and artistic responsibility (say what?) with XXLMag.com. Diehard fans don’t fret; The Dude isn’t straying from his foundation, he’s just getting his grown man on. There’s still plenty of blunts, brews and woman to go around. Even if that’s not the only thing on his mind these days.
What’s going on in the world of Devin today?
I’m chillin’. We’re [Odd Squad] in the studio right now going over some old music we did back around 1992.
Are you playing songs or just reminiscing about past experiences?
We’re playing Odd Squad stuff and collaborations we did with the 5th Ward Boyz and Too Much Trouble.
What’s the mood in the studio?
Man, we’re having a ball. I got a couple of brews and a cup of coffee brewing [weed]. I brought some old cassette tapes that I had for awhile to the studio today. We’re going through them—reminiscing and trippin’.
Speaking of the past, you’ve always had a sense of musical history. When did it transcend into becoming an artist?
We was poppin’ and breakin’ in the 80’s. My brother and me formed a group and we would perform in front of a nursing home. We did a baseball [influenced] routine. I always felt sorry for the elderly people in that home, though. It made me nervous, so it was hard to concentrate. But eventually, I got my routine together and when we finished, all the people stood up and applauded. One woman, who lost a limb, was clapping her hand and nub together, enjoying herself. So I was like, Instead of feeling sorry for her, I’m gonna party with her.
But around ‘86, it [break dancing] started to become commercial and watered down. They [the police] were even stopping us from doing it on corners and in front of stores. They really [destroyed] break dancing and it left us with just the music. So, we would have our tapes with the instrumental side, which [influenced] us to pick up a mic and start freestyling. I then started battling in the park in ‘88. My brother would DJ and my crew would get on the mic. We would battle whoever stepped up to the mic. Girls loved us!
What can we expect from your new album, Waitin’ to Inhale?
Just some good feelings and tripped out times that may seem serious, but have a funny ending or meaning behind it. I’m having fun and just trying to enjoy loving the music. I usually title my albums after one of the songs that sums everything up. But I couldn’t find that song this time. So, we were trying to think outside the box and DJ Domo, one of my producers, came up with the title. It’s just something positive. I have a couple of relationship songs on there, as always.
So the formula hasn’t changed?
Not really, but I welcome a lot of producers coming out with hot tracks. When they present it to me, if there’s a track on there that can fit with what we are doing, we’ll run with it.
Speaking of relationship songs, do you get a lot of flack for your content?
Kind of, but its usually in a cool way. One time after a show, this girl walked up to me and was like, “I love that song “Fuck Faces” you have.” So, I kind of get mixed reviews. But personally, I just look at it like; I have to [tone] it down. I got girls myself now. I’m getting older and kind of realizing what’s going down. You just mature and change gradually.
It’s healthy for fans to see that growth.
I just like to show people respect because that’s the only way you can get it. My mom plays a big part in that. She installed a lot of that in me, as far as being respectful. I don’t even cuss in front of her. I didn’t really care about that with the Odd Squad music. I was so nervous when she got a copy of the album because she was always proud of me. She always said she was praying for me. So when she heard it, she told me what numbers she liked on the album [laughs]. She told me she didn’t like some of the stuff but to keep on going because she was proud of me. Once I heard that, I let it rip. If I can get that support from my mom, then I just gotta do my thing.
How do you feel about Houston dominating hip-hop?
I feel blessed just to be apart of that cycle. It will be in another city soon, so we’ve got to enjoy it, keep pushing and do as much as we can while it’s here. It’s all love. It’s just a blessing to be apart of it and see people have their eyes and ears on us.
Even though you are an inspiration for a lot of MCs today, you’ve always remained low-key. Why is that?
I feel comfortable with it. It’s a blessing in disguise. I feel like I’m in the middle somewhere. I don’t feel low or real high, at all. It helps me balance myself in the studio and at home.
What keeps you relevant?
The people around me. But also the fact that I have to be someone special. I’m me and there’s only one. Everybody should feel that way. There’s gotta be something different that I can do. I always felt different. I’m no one if it wasn’t for you, and because of you, I am who I am. Plus, I’m a people person. I like to laugh, have fun and be around good people. Color and race doesn’t matter to me. A lot of people are so upset [nowadays], but once you get a chance to communicate and talk to people, you realize everything you have in common with people. It’s really a good thing.