Devo Springsteen: Whip It!

A brother with strong business acumen is extremely important in today’s America, especially when you’re dealing with the pythons and cobras of the recording industry. Devo Harris is in a real G.O.O.D spot. He proudly encourages, “Naysayer, please show me one example why Kanye’s crew ain’t the s**t and I could refute you with five,” […]

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brother with strong business acumen is extremely important in today’s America, especially when you’re dealing with the pythons and cobras of the recording industry. Devo Harris is in a real G.O.O.D spot. He proudly encourages, “Naysayer, please show me one example why Kanye’s crew ain’t the s**t and I could refute you with five,” proving that he has some of the swagger that the label’s known for.

The one-time college roommate of John Legend in Philadelphia now locks himself in a downtown New York studio. On the verge of going to Pop and Rock music, this Grammy-nominated producer and DJ showed he was all about “Diamonds” without flossing a single baguette. Can you give us a brief introduction?

Devo Springsteen: People may know me from producing [Kanye West’s] “Diamonds,” and producing songs for John Legend’s first album, Get Lifted. I’m also John’s DJ and a producer for G.O.O.D Music. My name is Devo Harris, but my stage name is Devo Springsteen. Consequence started that, and it just circulated throughout our music family because I’m the boss. I really think it’s because I live in downtown Manhattan, I party like a rock star and know a lot of white people. What were your adolescent years like?

Devo Springsteen: I moved around a lot, did a lot of sports. I was real active between sports and singing in different choirs. I was more into sports than music. I played football and wrestled in college. Does having a Grammy skyrocket you to a whole new stratosphere?

Devo Springsteen: I don’t think so. Jermaine Dupri didn’t win a Grammy this year and people are most likely going to holla at him before me. The Grammy recognizes what you’ve done, but I feel that in Hip-Hop it doesn’t create any new opportunities. “Diamonds” wasn’t necessarily the hottest song of the year, but it’s depth made a difference. Depth sells records and that’s what you’ll get from me. Do you play any instruments?

Devo Springsteen: Nah, but what I do is real musical. If I don’t sample, I get musicians to come through and play everyday. So, I don’t know what a C or a G is… You’ve got a strong ear for music.

Devo Springsteen: Yeah I started DJing in the ‘90s out in Philly. John Legend was my roommate at [University of Pennsylvania]. Naturally, like so many DJ’s, I started making beats. And through working with Kanye and John things just evolved. They’re crazy musical and I learned a lot from the both of them. I try to implement all that into what I do.

I feel like I’m more of an executive producer. I don’t just make beats… I signed John Legend to G.O.O.D Music. There’s years of defining John’s sound. Even artists that John and I are working with now, we’re really working to define what they do. We also find other outlets and press opportunities for these artists to get exposure before their albums come out. Who are some of the DJ’s you look up to?

Devo Springsteen: Kid Capri is my favorite. I’m not too much into the technicalities of DJ’ing. I used to be into the scratching aspect, but now I’m more interested in making sure people have a good time. I do a lot of special events. This summer, I went to Africa and DJ’ed out there for MTV. It’s definitely all about the music, but on a grander scale, I’m trying to make some things happen outside of just making beats. What are some of the recent songs that set the club on fire?

Devo Springsteen: It depends on where you are. It’s mainly Down South records that are hot nationwide. It’s usually harder for me to play New York/East Coast records. Are there any genres outside of rap that you listen to?

Devo Springsteen: I like all types of music. I like alternative Rock and Pop music. I try to incorporate it in my sound and work on that type of music. When you hear John Legend’s new album, you’ll hear those influences. It’s not like the Beatles, but it is leaning left. I’m getting calls for Britney Spears’ label and I love it. I’m a Hip-Hop DJ, but I’m a fan of music. This past year I was up for Grammys in the R&B and Hip-Hop field. This year I hope to be up for Grammys in the Pop or Rock field. I’m very active about it, but Hip-Hop isn’t the only thing that defines me. What was it about John’s sound that made you sign him?

Devo Springsteen: Well, his voice is very soulful. That’s why they call him John Legend. And Kanye’s music is soulful, but they are both slightly different. So hearing them for years, I was imagining them working together and combining their unique sounds and what they could add to each other’s music. And working for Kanye, he was at the point where it was time to start his own company and sign artists and I felt John was the perfect guy. It was a no-brainer. How is G.O.O.D Music separate from the other sounds out today?

Devo Springsteen: It’s just exciting to even be involved. Tell me a flyer label, a more talented label. Kanye West, John Legend, and Common? Nine out of ten songs or artists you hear nowadays are reactive. “What’s hot, let’s react to it, the 2006 version, the girls version;” there’s a lot of formulas. With G.O.O.D Music, nothing is reactive everything is progressive. Kanye is the spokesperson for a whole genre. As a producer, what’s unique about what you bring to the table?

Devo Springsteen: I’ve lived overseas and all across the country. I have a perspective that a lot of producers can’t offer. I play in a live band and have DJ’ed around the world for years. I was an assistant to Kanye for five years and I have a commercial businessman mind. I offer musicality and I write. I want joints that bang in the club. It’s important to make records that are exclusively relevant to the artist. What’s 2006 looking like for G.O.O.D Music?

Devo Springsteen: It’s going to be a really exciting year. Kanye’s focused on blowing up G.O.O.D Music. He already started work on his new album; John Legend’s album is going to be coming out, Fonsworth Bentley… I feel like people know that if Kanye’s involved, the music is going to be decent at worst, if not classic. Common’s going to be coming out [in September]. GLC and Consequence’s buzz is gaining momentum. I’m doing a lot of different things; several major pop artists are in the works. Sa-Ra is crazy. There’s going to be a lot of exposure for G.O.O.D Music. We’re taking it real seriously and throwing a lot of events. Our branding is innovative and wholesome. What’s it like working with Kanye?

Devo Springsteen: It’s cool. Kanye is a genius. Genius?

Devo Springsteen: Have you heard anything wack from him? I know a lot of smart people. Music-wise and marketing-wise he’s a genius. For a Rap album, on Roc-A-Fella records, to have a stuffed bear on your album cover is crazy. “Through The Wire” he paid for. There were no labels supporting it, and without that you can’t get on the radio or TV. He’s able to talk things into existence. But musically, he’s on top of it and it’s spoiled me to work with other artists. John is talented the same way and they both put in a lot of work. It’s a pleasure and I know that whatever we’re working on is the next s**t. I’ve already worked with some of the best so I try to keep the bar high. What are some of the hardships that you’ve had to face?

Devo Springsteen: A lot of fake people. Promise-breakers, the dynamics of people and how cutthroat the business can be plays out as hardship. People are very reactive and it’s difficult going into a meeting with a banging record and hearing “Well, we really wanted a record like the one last year.” At times I would give in but I don’t think that’s going to get me any further in life. I saw Kanye go through the same thing. It’s hard trying to eat while not making the same stuff as everyone else. People are beginning to appreciate it and I feel like I’m turning a corner. I just produced and wrote a song for Aretha Franklin.