[Part 1 of 2]
Devin the Dude is probably the greatest hip-hop artist you’ve never heard. He crooned his way onto “Fuck You” on Dr. Dre’s 2001; he represented for thick women on De La Soul’s “Baby Phat.” But beyond that, the Houston rapper, once called the new Too $hort, has laid down three solo albums, including this year’s To tha X-Treme, that have highlighted his impressive storytelling skills and made him one of the most respected and sought-after artists in the industry. As one of the few emcees who has worked with the best in the underground, mainstream, East, West and South, Devin is your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper.
With such an impressive resume, a million questions raced through my head as I waited for Devin outside an upscale steakhouse in midtown Manhattan. Unlike most artists who meander in hours late, Devin arrived early, sitting over a plate of fried calamari and collards. Expecting an eccentric character, Devin proved to be a humble Southern boy who is big on family and his love of hip-hop.
Prefix Magazine: You recently preformed on Carson Daily’s show. How was that experience and how does it feel to be on national TV?
Devin the Dude: Oh man, it was my TV debut. It was really cool. They made me feel real comfortable; I got a chance to see how it works from the inside. It was good to be a part of.
PM: Do you think the love you get from the hip-hip community equals the money you get out of the industry?
Devin the Dude: There is no comparison: The money is over here and the love is over there. But the love is the most important thing.
PM: You have worked with an impressive array of artists: Scarface, Nas, Xzibit, DJ Premier, De La Soul, Dr. Dre and the Roots. How does it feel to get respect from all segments of the hip-hop nation?
Devin the Dude: Man, I could never imagine it would be like this, people asking me to be a part of they’re projects, especially when they got big names. I get blessing after blessing every time I turn around, it keeps me going just being asked to be a part of a project.
PM: What was it like working with Dre on 2001. You killed it on “Fuck You.”
Devin the Dude: Actually, I didn’t believe it when they told me I was going to be a part of it. I was at the crib when I was told Dre was going to call me in thirty minutes. Thirty minutes passed, then an hour passed, and I knew they was bullshitting me. Next thing you know he called. I answer the phone. Dre starts singing my song, “So what the fuck you wanna do,” and I was like, “Yo, Dre, kick in the bass.” So we started off on a cool conversation like that. He started to tell me about his up-and-coming project, The Chronic 2001, and he wanted me to be a part of it. I was like whenever, however — just let me know; I’m there.
PM: And this was all off the strength of your 1998 debut, The Dude?
Devin the Dude: Yeah, when I went down there he said he was already familiar with our music from when I was with Oddsquad — shout out to everybody. In ’94, they used to listen to that during the tour for the first Chronic album. He and Snoop used to listen to my songs; it was a surprise.
PM: You have a smooth, bluesy voice; you can flip a catchy hook and you could spit thirty-two bars without breaking a sweat, making for one of the most distinct styles in hip-hop. How did you develop this unique combination?
Devin the Dude: I guess from growing up listening to old-school songs. The hook was very important; it was the meat of the song. And I’ve always made it a part of what I was doing. I never thought I was gonna do music at a young age, but I knew I enjoyed listening to it. I’m glad the people are relating to what I’m doing, and that includes a catchy hook if you wanna put it that way.
PM: Have you ever thought of ghost writing songs?
Devin the Dude: No, but I would be honored to write for anybody who wanted me to. I wouldn’t mind doing that, but it’s nothing I would throw myself at.
PM: Your second LP, 2002’s Just Tryin’ to Live, was of the best hip-hop albums in years. Why’d the media sleep on it?
Devin the Dude: I guess it was a timing thing. We were trying to have that album out much earlier, and we didn’t make it so. I went back into the studio and did some mixing and a few more songs, and I guess the hype just wasn’t there. If we came out with it after the Chronic tour it would have done a little more. But for the most part it was cool, the response I got; it was very real, and that was satisfying for me.