New Devin(s), Not Good
Devin The Dude – “In My Draws“
from Landing Gear (Razor & Tie, 2008)
Devin The Dude – “Bad Company“
from Hi Life (Rap-A-Lot, 2008)
Popular opinion was always that the Rap-A-Lot was holding Devin back commercially (at least on a national level). Had he broken from the label to a major in the late 90s, on the cusp of Chronic 2001 hype, he could’ve probably been a pretty big star. Or at least made some sort of Afroman future stoner ringtone success. But he didn’t, he released three more albums with Rap-A-Lot that went mostly unnoticed by anybody but the type of person who buys Rap-A-Lot releases (and, very late in the game, blogocritical pitchfork types). About 8 years too late, he finally leaves his RAL contract only to drop a record that can only be described as half baked on another quasi-indie label. Except this one pushes Joan Baez and Kidz Bop compilations instead of Z-Ro and Face. Seems like a wise move.
Marketing woes aside, Landing Gear just feels unfinished. To me Devin’s strength has always lied in great rap storytelling and songwriting (think of the way the verses mirror one another on “WXYZ“) and here he’s mostly just rapping for the sake of it over archetypal Devin-y beats. At best it’s comparable to last year’s Coughee Brothers compilation – stoned rapping with your boys type shit. But even that record, in all its lo-fi glory, seemed more polished than this. Landing is just twelve tracks short, with Devin himself rapping roughly eight bars on the last three songs, one of which “Stray” is basically just him singing a five minute hook. Another joint “Highway” is even recycled from said Coughee comp. So you’re left with roughly 8 new Devin songs. A few of them – “In My Draws”, “Let Me Know It’s Real” – are vintage Devin, but most everything else is just phoned in.(Despite their shared interests Devin and Snoop don’t make a very interesting on record team on “I Don’t Chase Em” or last years “What A Job”) I don’t know if dude is just testing the waters with this release or he’s just too indifferent/lazy/high to actually put together a real album. It’s worth noting that Devin isn’t usually so prolific – his early and best records were usually 2 or 3 years apart and this one comes just a 18 months after the comparatively epic Waitin’ To Inhale. Maybe he’s just rushing now. Or maybe the RAL hand was more helpful than harmful on the creative side of things. Some Mike Dean beats certainly couldn’t have hurt here.
In a well orchestrated bit of malice (you really gotta respect the J. Prince business model), RAL dropped a second, similarly titled, Devin album on Tuesday as well. True to Spite-A-Lot form it’s a piecemeal comp of previously verse songs with new beats, previously released songs with old beats and a couple of genuine true to life unreleased songs. “Bad Company” bangs and a pre-gospel rap Bushwick Bill makes a welcome appearance, but the album is pretty much more of a trainwreck than the one it hoped to knock off the tracks.
I hate panning one of my favorite rappers, but somebody should probably say something.