Despite having worked with kings of the East (the Roots, Nas), the West (Dr. Dre, Snoop) and the South (Andre 3000), Devin the Dude continues to be criminally underrated by fans and media alike. And he gets his features off nothing more than respect and admiration for his skills. Houston-area rappers like Chamillionare, Paul Wall and Mike Jones have blown up recently, but Devin Copeland has been laying in the cut, crafting yet another album worthy of praise — the Rap-A-Lot artist may have succeeded Three 6 Mafia as the most known unknown. But his catalog is stacked with memorable moments. We asked him to talk specifically about thirteen tracks, one by one, ranging from his 1994 Odd Squad debut, Fadanuff fa Erybody!! (a chopped and screwed version of which was released last year via Rap-A-Lot) to his fourth proper solo album, Waiting to Inhale, released in March.
Odd Squad’s Fadanuf Fa Erybody!!
“Fa Sho” has such a great hook. Who came up with it? How did the song come about?
Fa sho [laughs]. My younger brother was in the army, and we had just started the Odd Squad group — it was like ’93. My brother ran across this old-school cat; they was taking over their problems, drinking and stuff. And the older cat was like, “Boy, I tell you this: Don’t ever fuck ova your fa sho pussy. Tryin’ to get some mo’ pussy, you’re gonna end up with no pussy.” He told me about it, and we had nice groove for the sampled records that we was using and we just tried it. And everyone just came up with their own specific stories.
Like “Your Pussy Is Like Dope.”
Well, my first girlfriend was coming over and checking out the music and was always saying, “Why do you have to cuss and everything? Y’all don’t have any good songs. Won’t you sing a song for somebody special?” [laughs] And I thought about it and was like, Okay. So I wrote a special song — a love song in a ghetto way.
“Sticky Green” was probably your first big song. You and Scarface just ripped it lyrically, professing your love for the herb.
Thanks. “Sticky Green” was the first joint for the solo project, produced by Tone Capone and a guy named Harm from Oakland — he sings and does great hooks and can rap also. We was all together. Harm wrote the hook, but at the time he wasn’t at the studio, so Tone asked if I could give it a shot, and it kind of fit and worked out. ‘Face laid a verse and it all started to come together. We all sat back together and got high.
“Do What You Wanna Do” is an uplifting sort. Listening to it makes me feel like I’m going to church, with you as the preacher.
Man, I appreciate that. That came about as I was just beginning to work on the solo project. N.O. Joe did that track and had it on a beat cassette tape [laughs] for ‘Face. He was picking out some of the tracks for his album, and he chose quite a few on the beat tape, but that was one of the ones he didn’t choose. So when I heard that, I was like, “Whoa, I hope he doesn’t take that one.” [laughs] I started writing on it, but I didn’t really know what to say. Then I went out of town to my mom’s crib in East Texas, and I got a chance to chill. I wrote the song in her crib and came back to Houston and laid it down.
I’m feeling “Boo’ Boon,” because it seems like
the only free time and peace you can get anymore is when you’re in the
Man, that’s the best seat in the house. You get a chance to relax, sit back and relieve yo’self. At the time, I was in the studio and it was packed. I had a lot of friends and a lot of other guys wanting to rap, and they would beat me to the studio, even though I had a session. A lot of people were there for the wrong reasons. So it was something I just wanted to get off my chest. That’s why the song starts off with “Walk up into the session with my dick in my hand.” [laughs]
Just Tryin’ ta Live
“Doobie Ashtray” is probably the first solo song I ever heard from you, and if I remember right it was produced by DJ Premier. I know Primo comes from Houston. Is that how you hooked up with him?
That was initially where it started. He does still have family here, and he comes to visit often. During our Odd Squad days, he was also chillin’ with a member of Odd Squad, Carlos Garza, and they was real tight, deejayed together and always kept in touch, and we exchanged music. He always gave us big-ups and let us know he was down with us. While I was working on that album, I did the song originally with a sample, and it was one of the songs he liked before the album came out. About the time we got around to mixing and mastering, we found out we wasn’t able to use the sample. So I talked to him again, and when he asked about the song, I was like, “We ain’t going to be able to use it.” He was like, “What? Send me the a cappella mix.” He started working on it and working on it, and eventually called me back and I was like, “Man, that’s it!” Primo was like, “Is there anything else you need,” and I said, “Yeah, I need one more thing. I need some Premier cuts.” Primo was like, “You want some cuts on that joint? It’s a done deal.”
On “Some of ‘Em,” you’re rhyming against two great emcees — Nas and Xzibit — and run with them bar for bar. People primarily don’t recognize you as an emcee, but in this track you really went at it.
I had no choice, man! [laughs] It helped that me, Nas and Xzibit were all fans of each other’s music. It helped me out a lot, ’cause it put less pressure on me. When we found out we was all going to do it together, we tried to push each other like a relay instead of working against each other, like who got the coldest rhyme.
To tha X-Treme
“Briarpatch” kind of reminds me of Slick Rick and a “Children’s Story.” You flip a nursery rhyme but not in a generic way.
Actually it didn’t come from a nursery rhyme; it was ‘hood stuff, actually. The dialogue came from the book of Uncle Remus stories, and the briar patch story was from him. It was about an old slave; he was getting older and something was wrong with his leg and he wasn’t able to work. So his job was to tell stories on the porch for all the master’s and slaves’ kids. He would talk about the slaves and the masters, but he was using animals instead of people — rabbits, foxes, you know. The dialogue was straight, negro dialogue, and you really had to know the language to read the book. It’s real funny when you read it and figure out how it really goes. I used to read that book when I was small, and when I got older I came across the book again and said, “Hmm . . . I should make this a song.”
A friend of mine said “Fight Some Other Crime” was your way of saying fuck the police. Was this song based on a personal experience or just a composite of different stories?
It was a personal story. I was stopped a bunch of times, but not with the weed. Regardless, it goes on everyday; it’s happening right now, that same situation. I just kind of wanted to make a song that was more of a soundtrack to a movie, something you would see rather than hear. It was actually like a huge skit.
“Unity” really shows your versatility. It puts to rest any claims that you are a one-dimensional artist who just talks about weed, women and drinking.
It came up from a conversation we was having in the studio. We always have conversations about race and color and what it really means. In the end, it really boils down to the person; it’s really not about no color. If we all did our research properly, we’d find out the real truth. It’s a matter of character. We shouldn’t have to distrust anybody without even knowing ’em or not liking somebody with out saying hi. With that song, I wanted to get people to know I am aware of what’s really going on in the world.
Album: Waitin’ to Inhale
Hip-hop is all about spending money and throwing money around, but in “Almighty Dollar” you’re trying to hold onto that last dollar and not spend it.
[Laughs] The money thing, man. It trips me out a lot of times how important money is to a lot of people — how much they mention it and how much they throw around. That has always amazed me. This song kind of came from a Johnny Guitar Watson song, “Ain’t that a Bitch,” where he was like “Let me get two of these hotdogs and strawberry soda.” The song really sprang from gas prices, man. You remember when gas prices really shot up? I came to the studio after spending like fifty dollars for half a tank. I was like, “Man, I have to write something about this.”
In “She Useta Be,” you say “Seems like everything on her body melted together.” Is this song about someone you know? I think everybody knows somebody who used to be fine in high school and then all of a sudden they’re not so fine any more.
There are few girls that I know like that; every one of my homeboys knows someone like that. There is always one that was kind of hot, and she would date the popular guys — football players whatever. She was fine, but she would never give you any kind of pussy. But as she got older she gained all this weight, and now that you a fly-looking playa, she trying to chuck it at you. I just wanted to trip out a little.
“What a Job” really sums about your approach to the music. I think a lot of people look at hip-hop as a means to make quick money, but you treat it as a blessing and a craft.
That track we’ve had around for a while. Chuck Heat from L.A. produced the track, I put a verse on it and a hook, and it was just sitting around for months and months. Everybody was always asking me, “What you going to do with that song?” I thought maybe we would make it into a skit. Then, when I turned in the album, everybody was like, “Is there anybody else you would want to get on this track?” I had to really think about it, and I thought Andre and Snoop. So we started to make some phone calls, and it was a blessing every time we called.