Devin The Dude Details His Ten Best Collaborations
Devin The Dude has been in hip-hop for over two decades, starting off as one-third of the Rap-A-Lot Records group, The Odd Squad, along with Jugg Mugg and Rob Quest. Scarface saw talent in him, and persuaded him to become a solo act, leading to Dev's first solo album, The Dude, back in 1998. Since then, Devin has worked with a slew of the top rappers in the game, from Snoop Dogg to André 3000 to Lil Wayne, to just name a few. For a man who has been in the game longer than some rappers have lived, the Houston native has consistently put in quality work, and is now on his 8th album, One For The Road (which you can stream today), after taking a three-year hiatus from hip-hop.
From The Dude to One For The Road, the number of rappers he's worked with over his solo career is staggering, despite not receiving the name recognition that others have gotten. "A lot of people come up to me like, 'Man, you’ve been doing this stuff for so long, why are you not as successful as all these big name people?’” says Devin. "And I think I am. Not with money or material stuff, but being able to be in the presence of so many people I admire as far as rappers and musicians and people in the business. I’ve been on so many features. I would never imagine I would be doing features with the likes of Jay Z and R. Kelly and 50 Cent and Snoop and Dré and all these cats." A week before the release of his new album, Devin stopped by the XXL offices to dish out the story behind ten of his finest collaborations over the years, and what he's learned along the way. —Emmanuel C.M. (@ECM_LP)
"Sticky Green" feat. Scarface, The Dude (1998)
Scarface is a genius; he likes to get in the studio and go to work. There is no fooling around, it's just great work. His work ethic is crazy in the studio. When we first signed with Rap-A-Lot, we first signed as the Odd Squad. He kind of listened to some of our music; he finally met us and was like, “y’all are dope.” He just kept encouraging us. Then when him and the Geto Boys hit the road, he asked us to come, and wow, it was just incredible. Our first show we ever did with Rap-A-Lot was in front of 1,000 people. Rob Quest—he’s a producer, he’s blind and he’s a lyrical beast—every once in a while Rob would kind of turn around, facing another way from the crowd, and we would have to go and turn him. But during like three or four turns, I turn and look at Scarface and he’s over there bawling and holding his stomach. He’s humorous, his work ethic is crazy, he’s one of the best rappers that ever rapped and he took us under his wing.
Then one day, out of the blue, he came to me and said, "Devin, you out to do a solo album," and I was like, “Uh, I don’t know, I kind of like the group thing.” Before I was rapping I was break dancing and played football and basketball and was around a group. I like power in numbers. Then there was this guy next to him. He said, “Devin ain’t ready for no solo album just yet.” I was like, “Hey motha—what are you talking about?” The guy continued and said, “You ain’t ready for no solo, its somebody else’s turn, they need to come out.” Scarface was just opening his new label, Interface Records, at the time, before it [became] Face-To-Face Records. I did go back to the Odd Squad, my group, and asked, “What do y'all think about me doing a solo [album]?” They were all with it. To the point that my solo album sounded like an Odd Squad album.
For “Sticky Green,” 'Face came over with the music, 'Face and Tone Capone and a guy named Harm. He remembered a hook that Harm did, [that] he wanted me to re-do. He didn’t really know how the melody went, so he said, “Dev, can you sing 'Sticky Green and Frosted Leaves'?” So I said, “I can do the first two parts, ‘sticky green and frosted leaves,’ but I have to come up with something else,” 'cause he had said something else corny. So I tried it and it came out cool.
"Like A Sweet" feat. Scarface, Jugg Mugg, Killemall and Ant Live, The Dude (1998)
Me and Domo did that beat. "Like A Sweet" is just what we used to do back in the day. When we rapped, I don’t care how big the circle was, it was a circle full of rappers, so in order for everybody to get a turn, we'd just go two bars. Everybody would go two bars apiece and pass it. So you have to have your two bars ready by the time it's your go again in one beat. If you don’t have it ready we'd skip over you and do a chant, and the next person [would] go. We'd pass the mike around like a sweet [blunt], take two and pass. That was the meaning for that. 'Face, like he does all the time, he’ll just come in there and hog the sweet; he wouldn’t take two pulls, he'd want to take the whole. He kind of did that lyrically; he came in and [would] hog the sweet and it was cool. It turned out nice.
"Some of 'Em" feat. Nas and Xzibit, Just Tryin' Ta Live (2002)
Both of them cats are just A1, A1. Nas is like a brother from another mother. Xzibit, so much hospitality, whenever you come and wherever he is, and I want to party or whatever, he’ll take care of you. It's phenomenal, man. It was a beat that I had; I didn’t have any features on it at first, but I was out in L.A. at Enterprise and I was going to write the whole song. I wrote a verse and I felt that I needed somebody else on there; it’s a hard song and a hard topic. I knew I need somebody to help me out with that.
I got in touch with Nas and Xzibit and it just came together. It was just unbelievable that Nas was out there in Cali at the same time I was, and he was ready and willing. It was a song talking about life and people around you and what to be careful about. It's good that people from different cultures do a song. It was just a song, it had nothing to do with beef, money, colors, it was a song everybody can take. When people dissect a song, saying this verse is killer, you got wrecked on a song—that don’t make no sense to me. Was the song cool? Was the song better? That’s the main question, not who’s better than who on the song. People will divide rappers against each other simply because of that.
"Tha Funk" feat. 8ball, To Tha X-Treme (2004)
8ball is just crazy, he’s a beast. He’s going to go in there and he’s going to knock it out real quick. His voice, to me, he’s like the Barry White of rap. Smooth voice, killer, big ladies man; he's a cool dude. I appreciate his stuff, and I think the feeling is mutual. It wasn’t really hard at all. The chemistry was really cool going in there and doing a song with him. It had to be something funky.
"What A Job" feat. André 3000 and Snoop Dogg, Waitin' To Inhale (2007)
"What A Job" was just a hook, a verse and a hook. It was just something in between two songs that I wanted to put out there just for a public service announcement. Lil J [J. Prince] from Rap-A-Lot, he was hearing it right before we wrapped up the album, [he said], “you never did finish that song?” I was like, “Whoa, it's not a song, just a commercial.” Lil J got in touch with André 3000 and Snoop, because I previously worked with him. And both of them were like, let's do it. But we didn’t have time for me to fly out there, so we just sent out the song. Within two weeks, it came back with both of the verses on it and it was crazy. I think Snoop did his first and a week later André did his verse. And when we heard André's verse, we just fell. It was just, "Wow." That was really a good boost for me at the time, because I wasn’t feeling too good about the situation and stuff, but that song, it turned a lot of things around for me. I appreciate everybody for making that happen.
"Lil' Girl Gone" feat. Lil Wayne and Bun B, Waitin' To Inhale (2007)
I did the beat and I did the production, and that’s all I wanted to do, the hook and production. Then Bun B, I wanted him to be a part of it; I knew from his storytelling abilities, he’ll get the listener’s ear. Bun is just a master of getting the ear of somebody and making them listen. Lil J or Jazz reached out to Lil Wayne for the feature. I was out of town at the time, but he came to our studio to do it. I wish I was there; he came through and knocked it out. I came back and listened to it, and it was just incredible.
That was the only beat I was almost proud of. I don’t like to get proud of anything, but I was like, “Oh yeah, this came together.” Then, right before I was about to master it, Lil J asked me, “You not going to do a verse on there? You can put the icing on the cake and have this come together.” I really didn’t want to do nothing on that song, I didn’t. I was thinking, you heard my voice too much already. But it kinda came together pretty cool. But then my homeboy Toney Mac, he started doing the singing in the end. He’s a beast, too.
"I Don't Chase 'Em" feat. Snoop Dogg, Landing Gear (2008)
Me and Snoop, whenever he needs, I got him and whenever I need he’s got me. It's just, we don’t care about record companies and record labels. That’s the old school tradition of how it goes down. Instead of caring about all this politics and stuff, we’ll trade our songs and hope for the best. And that’s how its been with me and Snoop every time we get together. It’s just a wonderful thing. He just sent me some music, too, and I just sent it back to him with a hook on it; hopefully we’ll get something cranking again. I did that beat, too; I’m not my favorite producer, I do a couple of beats here and there, but I did a beat that Snoop got on and I was just excited about that. He ripped that right up.
"I Gotta Ho" feat. Tony Mac, Jugg-Mugg and Smit-D, Suite 420 (2010)
Just at the studio, drinking and smoking. I just remember somebody singing, “I got a hoe,” somebody just started singing that, and I started tripping. I don’t know who was singing, but it was Smitty, Jugg, me and Tony Mac just in the studio tripping. I kinda want to, not stay away from, but kind of get more serious on this album [One For The Road], but when the coffee brothers get together, it's going down.
"Fresh Air" feat. Rum & DNA, One For The Road (2013)
They came to my spot, but we started it at my previous studio, the one where the police start coming. I did my verse there and DNA did his verse there, too. DNA's verse got lost there in the move, and he had to redo his verse. Rum came to the house to do his verse on that one, too, when I told him that I need another verse. That "Fresh Air" was actually a true story, it happened. I was at the studio, it was hot and muggy in there. I had Writer's Block and I just needed some fresh air. I went out, got some fresh air, I still wasn’t at ease. [I said], "Fuck it, I'ma just go to the store and get something to drink," and went to get a 12-pack. I saw a bum and he asked me for some money, and when I came back from getting the 12-pack, that instrumental was on. I just wrote what I just did, what happened ten minutes [before].
"Livin' This Life" feat. Angela Williams, One For The Road (2013)
Her name is Angela Williams, she is a friend of Chuck Heat. Chuck Heat lives in California and he’s the one who [produced] the song “What A Job.” He’s Chaka Khan's nephew. He’s a beast at his music. Scarface loves him. A lot of people are going to love his production when he gets a chance to get out there. Chuck Heat is crazy. And he sent that song to me with the hook on there. When I heard the first four bars, I knew it was a wrap, that I had to do something with this. Scarface heard the song, and he was like, "Man, I got to get in on that song." And so much time accumulated, I had to hurry up and wrap the album up. So we're going to be doing a remix with Scarface and Rob Quest from Odd Squad. She was the hook on the instrumental when Chuck Heat sent it to me.