Monday, 4 October 2010

Dagenham, Essex's very own Devlin. ‘bud, sweat & beers’ is a step change for grime. Released 1st November 2010

At long last it feels like UK rap music is well and truly erupting. Every way you look - from the summit of the charts to the breaking waves of the underground - the UK rap fraternity is seizing control. In between the ricocheting lyrical crossfire one face is emerging as one of 2010's most notorious breaking artists, and that's the angular bone-structure of Dagenham, Essex's very own Devlin. ‘bud, sweat & beers’ is a step change for grime. Socially aware. Spiritually conflicted with a sacred heart and profane mouth. Dark, accurate and artful lyrical sketches of life at social margins. Capacious enough to make reference to Hollywood’s Wesley Snipes, super-bug C-Difficile, Pengi, Nostradamus, Picasso, Tectonic plates and Elvis. It’s an imaginative feast. Lyrical meaning unfolds on meaning. Metaphors come as quickly as the mind can process. The album opens with the thunderous cavalcade of ‘1989’ where heavy-metal guitar stabs provide an urgent, heart-in-mouth backdrop for his trademark frantic rhymes. He starts his story at 12 years old, from the first bars effortlessly conjuring a gritty childhood world – ‘no worries on my brain, with a pound in my pocket and a chest full of smoke’. What follows is a compressed, self-reflexive biog right up to this moment – the debut track on his debut album. Looking back he speedily traces his rise through the hyper-competitive underground grime and garage scene. Inspired by seminal MCs like Sharkey Major and Kano he heard on pirate radio stations like Temptation, Kiss 100, Flava, Déjà Vu. His first broadcast on Rinse FM, all ‘paving the way’ for this ‘fatal display’. ‘Brainwashed’ was Devlin’s first single release from the album. Using a rich mix of references and images he sets out to ‘brainwash your mind like Derren Brown or Charlie Manson’ till his surname is familiar like your ‘family members’. ‘Days & Nights’ is a soundtrack to night terrors. If Earth isn’t hell, it’s a fiery place; ‘metallic projectiles fly in your face and leave you like human garbage lying in drains’. In rap hustler style he won’t sleep till he’s ‘in the sky like lightning and thunder’. Devlin is a diabetes sufferer, hence the needle reference. Tonal respite comes in the blissed-out production of ‘London City’ celebrating good times in the capital. With over 2,500,000 million views on Youtube the song struck a deep chord with the nation’s youth and propelled Devlin to his label deal. The song originally sampled hit game Metal Gear Solid. ‘Marching Through The Fog’ directly addresses the fog of ‘war’ within the grime scene. Over movie strings he warns not to put him in a box ‘if there’s one thing I am not, its fucking rectangular’. ‘Let It Go’ features the talents of rising producer/singer Labrinth. With two giant talents on it this track couldn’t be hotter. Devlin’s razor sharp intelligence forensically dissects a relationship while Labrinth makes innovative, hyper-active production magic. Dubstep, rock, reggae, trance and R&B are collaged into one track. ‘Yesterday’s News’ is in reflective, reflexive mode. Devlin’s just started garnering national attention on radio and TV but in the underground he’s outrun rivals to remain ‘tomorrow’s promise’. ‘Community Outcast’ is a key track. With over 1,500,000 views on Youtube. Devlin wrote the track when he was 16. It first appeared on early mixtape Tales From The Crypt. With its empathy and kitchen sink details it changed the face of grime. It contains a barbed analysis of a Government ‘more interested in war and invasion when children are sleeping at railway stations’. Martial drums open ‘World Still Turns’; he zooms out to take a cosmic view of Earthly fortune. While music careers are built up and knocked down the Earth ‘still spins on its axis’. ‘Dreamer’ takes us on a faux-naïve trip referencing everything from Bob Marley to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with a nugget of truth at the center. Spectral strings announce the beginning of ‘Our Father’, the spiritual center of a record that tussles with existential concerns. ‘Finally’ is a classic, nocturnal, string-laden production by Lewi White. It features fellow grime luminaries and Ghetts and Dogzilla. Dogzilla is the Johnny-appleseed of grime in Dagenham. Ghetts is a legendary scene leader. ‘Runaway’ falls like a shaft of sunlight into the gothic gloom. Featuring beautiful rising star Yasmin it’s an escape fantasy from London’s ‘dark and deadly maze’ through the gates of Victoria Station. Opening to the sound of machine gun fire ‘End Of Days’ asks the listener to view an Apocalyptic alternative London through the eyes of a poet from the economic underclass. It’s a translucent hallucination of a City where the poor are ‘fighting for food because they’re dwelling where the rats live’. Highlighted here is just an introduction to an album that rewards close attention. In the words of hip hop maven Westwood it’s ‘in a league of its own’. Devlin ‘bud, sweat & beers’ Monday 1st November 2010 on Island Records -  read more Devlin posts and live dates
‘whip-smart Eminem of Essex…caustic urban realism…undeniable strife-born brilliance’ Q
‘sharp and informed’ The Independent
‘this Dagenham rapper's music is a bittersweet symphony…a cinematic view of life in London'
‘a 21-year-old MC from Dagenham; scabrously witty and precociously talented’ The Observer New Review
‘one of the few MCs daring to say something different’ Dazed & Confused
‘undiluted street music’ NME
‘a powerful lyricist with a social conscience’ Metro
‘with over 3 million Youtube views in the last year, Devlin was always going to be No.1 on our list for underground artists to blow up in 2010’ RWD
‘James Devlin is primed to break into the mainstream he reminds me of Mike Skinner at his best’ The Sun
‘one of the best talents to come out of the UK…in a league of his own’ Tim Westwood, Radio 1/1xtra

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