Devin the Dude: Parents Just Don’t Understand

For a label that’s led by a Prince, Devin the Dude has been the court jester of Rap-A-Lot Records since he appeared on The Geto Boys’ “Bring it On” in 1993. The Texan helped cultivate his style with The Odd Squad a year later, before releasing three cult-followed albums. Perhaps due to thriftier promotion and […]

For a label that’s led by a Prince, Devin the Dude has been the court jester of Rap-A-Lot Records since he appeared on The Geto Boys’ “Bring it On” in 1993. The Texan helped cultivate his style with The Odd Squad a year later, before releasing three cult-followed albums. Perhaps due to thriftier promotion and marketing, Devin the Dude is still a secret to so many, heard only on Dr. Dre’s “F**k You”.

In a candid discussion, Devin retraces his identity as the funnyman. The often raunchy rapper touches on some mouth-dropping performances he’s done, and even shows his loving side – for his 1979 Cadillac Seville. Devin the Dude is Waiting to Inhale, and the self-proclaimed master of “women, wine, and weed” opens up his book of rhymes, and gives it to us straight. Your influences from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s Hip-Hop are apparent. Egos were big back then. Then, you see the larger egos from rappers like Slim Thug and Lil’ Flip. It’s cool to brag these days – especially in Houston. You like to rhyme about cheating women, broken cars, and stolen weed. Do you ever feel tempted to brag, or let the ego come out?

Devin the Dude: No, man. ‘Cause who am I to say all that? Who am I to say I’m better than the next man? I don’t think I’m better than anyone. I think it’s here for a reason. Everybody got different styles. For me to talk about what I have and what you don’t have, it doesn’t do me any good I don’t think. You’ve taken on a role as a bit of a Hip-Hop comedian. When you’re trying new things, do you feel pressure to be funny, lighthearted, or raunchy? Do you think your audience would take that walk with you if you so-called “matured”?

Devin the Dude: Actually man, as I get older, havin’ kids, havin’ [daughters] too, they get older and older… at one time, I didn’t really have to explain to anybody what I was doing or why I was doing it; I was just havin’ fun – kinda raunchy, but it was all just to be trippin’ with, actually. I used to trip on the Blowfly records and Richard Pryor a lot; I always wanted to have not necessarily a dirty mouth, but I wanted to touch a nerve or a funny-bone at the same time. As far as that, I try to cut down on certain things that I say, as far as the raunchiness of it – just because I do have a mother, I do have a sister, I do have a wife, I do have kids. I gotta take all that in perspective. But I think they also know that what I’m doing musically, I’ve been doing since I started. It’s always gonna probably a lil’ touch of that, or eventually, maybe there just won’t be none. Maybe so, I might turn Gospel; I don’t know what’s up. [Laughs] I would just like to have fun for the most part. I don’t wanna disrespect nobody or anything like that. I was listening to “Bring it On” recently, from The Geto Boys’ Till Death Do Us Part album, which was one of your earlier appearances. You had that, then you were a part of Facemob, simultaneous to Odd Squad. On each project, you had very distinct styles. What was the process like for you to develop yourself as we hear you now?

Devin the Dude: I just never had any idea of what I was gonna do, as far as my first solo album. I didn’t ask to be a solo artist; I always wanted to [do] the group thing – as far as breakdancing back in the day, rhyme crews, football. So when Scarface and Lil’ J [James Prince] asked me to do a solo project, I was like, “I don’t know. I still got the [Odd] Squad, I’d rather do the group thing.” But the Squad had my back. They supported me. I kinda took in the perspective of [somebody saying] “Maybe Devin’s not ready for a solo album,” [to which I would respond], “How do you know that? Maybe I can.” I just tried. I guess it’s a little different, because I did have to choose what direction to go to. I figured the “weed, wine, and women” thing was what I was most familiar with, and what people knew me for, so I figured I’d just stick around that. Previously, before that, it was ideas that other people had, as far as Facemob and other hooks and stuff. I just adapted. Correct me if I’m wrong, but besides Scarface, you’ve got the most seniority now at Rap-A-Lot Records…

Devin the Dude: Uhhh…probably so. I never look at it that way. I guess I’ve been there the longest. Okay, fo’ sho’. In today’s climate, people are always shopping around and looking to upgrade. What’s kept you part of that family for so long?

Devin the Dude: At Rap-A-Lot, they don’t try to construct or make you an artist. They see the goodness in you, and what you can do. They give you the time and opportunity to be yourself, whatever it is. Like back in the day, the Ganxsta Nip records, we was like, [laughing] “Man, what the hell is this craziness?” They didn’t wanna censor you, cover you, or make you out of something. Whatever you put out, that’s who you are, what you represent. That’s a cool label to have when they give you leeway. On Waiting to Inhale you’ve got “No Longer Here” and “Just Because”, two records that make humor out of pain. It reminded me when Eminem wrote “Kim” to his then-girlfriend. When stuff goes wrong in your life, how long does it take for you to write and make fun of it?

Devin the Dude: After a give it a long thought, and that usually takes a few weeks. If I just happen to jump up right then and write to it, nine times out of 10, I’m not gonna be able to complete that. It takes brainstorming. Sometimes, like if you get into an argument with somebody, you’ll just burn off and say some things you really didn’t wanna say and it’s too late to take it back. I consider that like writing [rhymes]. Because once it’s in the stores, once it’s out there, [you can’t be like], “Hey, I really didn’t mean that.” Just Tryin’ To Live is one of my all-time favorite albums. Urb magazine recently went back and gave it a perfect rating too. You had Dr. Dre and DJ Premier on board with that one. Given the reception it got, do you ever feel disappointed or pressured that you can’t get those type of looks in your budget again?

Devin the Dude: The expectations to be able to follow-up something like that is a gift and a curse; there’s a lil’ pressure there. For the most part, I don’t know. It’s hard for me to try to compare it or make a better album. I can just in and do the music, and hopefully, it turns out pretty cool. Those guys are wonderful artists and creators. They happened to ask me to be a part of their [own] projects. They lets me know that there’s something I’m doing right. I just try to stick to whatever that might be. I can understand that the fans probably expect a lot from me, and maybe expect more features from me too sometimes, when I come out with an album. All in all, I feel they’re stickin’ by me and appreciating the stuff. On that album, I’ve always been intrigued by this song “Who’s that Man, Moma” Did something specific inspire it?

Devin the Dude: [Laughs heartily] In ’94, as the Odd Squad on Rap-A-Lot, we was nominated as Best New Group of the Year [by The Houston Press], and they had a show with all kinds of people there – business people, police officers, all kinds of important people from Houston and stuff. Our show was a raunchy show, you know? I did “(P***y) Like Dope” and “Smokin’ Dat Weed”. I was on stage [rhyming] “Roses are red, dookie is green / Your p***y’s like dope, girl, I eek and I fiend” And there was this Black guy with his son there, they was both dressed up like cowboys with hats on. [Cracking up] When I [rhymed], “I woke up in the morning with my d**k brick hard,” they both looked at each other with their mouth’s wide open, and turned back to look at me. I was caught, man. I almost stumbled on my words, man. I had to walk around the stage, and I dropped some of the following words. They asked me to do this man, I gotta do what I do. If only they knew who they were comin’ to see. At that particular time, everybody was like, “Ah!” and that kinda sparked up “Who’s that Man, Moma”. That was 13 years ago. Do you still get embarrassed at times?

Devin the Dude: Of course! On the album, I have a rhyme I had like 10 years ago. I finally had some music to put it to; it’s an Odd Squad track called “She Want That Money”. Man, when people hear that, I was like, “Man, not that. Did I really say that?” [Laughs heavily] Back in the days, I was like, “Man, I should just chill with this stuff right now. I don’t know how it’ll effect me in the long-run or my abilities to get any kind of awards. Maybe I should tone it down.” But then, after a show, this girl came up to me sayin’, “You know that song you did with Scarface [called] “F**k Faces”? I love that song; that’s my favorite!” There’s a few people out there who cut to what I do, as far as the lyrics and everything. Are you still in possession of the car that inspired “Lacville ‘79”?

Devin the Dude: I sure am, man, but it’s in the shop. [Laughs] Tell me about this car that inspired an anthem…

Devin the Dude: When I graduated from New Boston High School in Texas, it was a small town, so I figured “As soon as I graduate, I’m gonna go to Houston, I wanna get a record deal, and I wanna get a ’79 [Cadillac] Seville.” That was my ultimate. I had my hopes up, nothing was gonna stop me. So when I got to Houston, man, I was doing talent shows, I got a job workin’ at a grocery store, doing this and that, and I finally got my hands on a Seville. When I got my hands on a Seville, it was a vehicle for [The Odd Squad] as a group to get around, go to shows, get our stuff together. I finally started havin’ a family. That was the same car that got my family around. It just been through so much, I just had to hold onto it, man. Even though it wasn’t up to par at all times, it’s helped me out a lot. [Laughs]. Since the trends have changed and Texas has gotten all about candy-paint, have you customized it much?

Devin the Dude: She got a new dress. [Laughs] Probably gettin’ new chrome on it. I’ma keep the hubcaps. I’m gonna get the interior touched up on – that’s what’s happenin’ now. I will try to keep it as my collector’s car. I’m not gonna drive it – maybe on the weekends or somethin’.