The Underrated: (@DevinDude420)- Devin the Dude

By @SpeedontheBeat

You can't talk Texas without Devin the Dude, plan and simple. Considering that Devin's been around the Houston--and global--hip-hop scene for close to thirty years at this point, to leave him out is a severe disservice to the region. "But, if that's the case, Speed," those who are unfamiliar with Devin's catalog probably are wondering, "why hasn't he had more success?" "Why hasn't he had the crossover success of some of Texas' other artists?"

To that I say this: Devin's music is a legendary, but very meticulously acquired taste. 

The reason why people have a tough time discovering him is this: he's pretty eclectic and some people (read: listeners who get introduced to him from, for instance, a guest appearance) don't know how to take him. It's unfair to say "oh, he's just good at making 'smoker's anthems'" because you've got songs such as "Little Girl Gone." He isn't just a smooth pimp-type playa, even though he kicked some A1 pimpin' on "Moon & Stars." So, how can someone get into Devin without falling victim to associating him with just one style of music? It's tricky, but I think I can help, with a bit of background on the underrated legend.

Devin the Dude got his start as part of the Odd Squad, later known as the Coughee Brothaz. This group, one of Rap-A-Lot's early gems, may've only released one album, Fadanuf Fa Evrybody!!, serves as an introduction as to why Devin (and his Brothaz-mate Rob Quest) deserve admiration. It's a mix between raunchy party anthems, smoke anthems, and a bit of boombap for good measure (ex. "Can't See It"). Soon after this, Devin became part of Scarface's Facemob for their first album (Devin wouldn't return for the second in 2002).

By the time that Devin went solo, he was close to thirty and was more known for a guest spot here and there and his Odd Squad/Coughee Brothaz work. So, how would the always-interesting artist respond? The Dude. Dude was, for me, a combination of Big Lebowski mystique, funk, Too $hort-like bluntness (that becomes comedic in some ways), and late-90s Houston rap lyricism. The album's a lot more than an album which spawned a more-widespread use of the term "tig ol' bitties," though. You need an album that'll make you laugh, vibe out, smoke something, and appreciate that Texas sound? I can't think of one better, especially if you're just getting introduced to the region; as cliched as it is, there's something for everyone on it.

In 2002, Devin returned with his second solo LP Just Tryin' Ta Live. It's an album that, quite frankly, sounds like Devin just went into the studio, smoked--a lot--and just rapped about whatever came to his head. I mean, the intro is from the perspective of an alien who just found out about Earth and weed. Again, the comedic factor is here. But, thankfully, Devin, even in his ridiculous moments, never lets the album go straight-up comedic. Featuring instrumentals from Dr. Dre and DJ Premier, this is possibly one of my favorite Devin--and Texas--albums. It's "underground" without relying too much on the tropes of that sub-genre, but still mainstream enough that it should be more accessible than some of the songs on The Dude. If you want more of that mid-to-late '90s Houston vibe, The Dude is that shit. If you're looking for an album which expands on that genre, but explores more of Devin's versatility? JTTL is where you need to go. I mean "R & B" alone shows some of this diversity.

2004's To tha X-Treme is classic. I think that's really all you can say about it. Put it back to back with JTTL and you've got two-plus hours of music that'll probably leave you high as hell off the music--and the marijuana.

2007's Waitin' to Inhale is probably Devin's most-commercial album. It's still Devin. But, it's a bit less unhinged. However, that doesn't make the album any worse than the early stuff. It's also one of his most-diverse albums. 

2008's Landing Gear was, for me, one of his weaker efforts. It felt more like an attempt to recapture some of Devin's The Dude raunchiness in the late '00s. Yes, there were songs like "Stray" that added more to the pimpish persona Devin's always been known for. But, something in the album always felt off for me. It's still a fun listen, but it's an album that you'll be slightly disappointed with if you're going in looking for legendary Devin (even the legends have an off day from time to time).

Now you may wonder, especially since they're two separate albums, why I'm about to conflate Devin's 2010 releases into one section. Well, they feel like one album. Maybe that's the fact that Gotta Be Me and Suite 420 were released within months of each other. However, the albums compliment each other, adding levels to each other. Gotta Be Me feels a bit more "street," "underground," even, while Suite 420 has a bit more of the "Devin Everybody Can Get High To." Only thing is this: on both of these albums, the production values aren't as great as they could be, so some songs may become instant skips because of this. They shouldn't be, but I could see why someone may skip, for instance, "Where Ya At." You'd be a fool to, but, again, because Devin's style is so eclectic and, at times, lo-fi, I get it.

Finally, in 2013, after a third Coughee Brothaz album, Devin released his last album to date, One More for the Road. While Devin's production troubles follow him here, songs such as the opener "I'm Just Gettin' Blowed" and "Rearview" should keep listeners tuned in. This is especially because there still growth among Devin's music, even as a man who's been in rap since the 1980s in some ways. It's perfect riding music, nothing more, nothing less.

So, after all these years, Devin the Dude, in a perfect world, would've gone platinum at least once. But, Devin's an artist that people, because he's so diverse, they're unable to put him neatly into a box. That's a help, because it allows him to shine, but a hindrance because it keeps him from being more easily accessible to random ears. But, would I want him to change anything about his music? Hell, no.

Keep smoking, Devin. 


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