Some rappers hang their reputations on verbal dexterity, the ability to do things with words no one else can. Others make their name through ritualized ego-expansion, self-mythologizing by sheer force of will. Devin Copeland, the veteran Texas emcee known as Devin the Dude, works a different angle. He wins listeners over through his considerable charm and effortless charisma, both of which run through Waiting to Exhale, his forth solo release.
Devin doesn’t sound like anyone else on the mike. His vocal cadences are disarmingly similar to those of natural speech; it feels as if he’s talking to you, not rapping at you. Though his approach is laid-back, his goofy sense of humor and sharp wit consistently draws me in. And even if he addresses fairly typical hip-hop topics — women (“I Hope I Don’t Get Sick-a-This”), fat women (“She Useta Be”), money (“Almighty Dollar”), recreational drug use (“‘Til It’s All Gone”) and meditations on the hip-hop lifestyle (“What a Job,” featuring Snoop Dog and Andre 3000) — Devin always has something interesting to say. Who else would attempt to seduce a young lady by swearing that his “dick is so clean that you could boil it in some collard greens”?
It’s worth noting that Devin sings most of his own hooks, which actually contributes to the album’s charm (except on the ill-advised R&B debacle, “Don’t Wanna Be Alone”). There’s nothing spectacular here in terms of beats, but all of them are well suited to Devin’s relaxed vocal style. In fact, they may be a little too perfect for his low-key flow; I wonder what Copeland might do if confronted with something more aggressive.
These quibbles aside, few hip-hop albums are as consistently entertaining Waiting to Inhale. In this case, at least, personality really does go a long way.