Music Devlin: Bud, Sweat & Beers and Live at the Islington Academy

Devlin, one of grime's rising stars has recently broken into the mainstream. Adam Elliott-Cooper went to the last gig of his tour and listened to his latest release, Bud, Sweat and Beers.

Arts & Culture, Music & Dance, New in Ceasefire - Posted on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 20:13 - 1 Comment

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UK Grime MC - Devlin

Devlin, one of grime’s rising stars has recently broken into the maintream. Adam Elliott-Cooper went to the last gig of his tour and listened to his latest release, Bud, Sweat and Beers.

Yesterday evening, East London/Essex grime MC Devlin completed his album launch mini-tour at a sold-out venue in Islington, north of the capital.  The night began with high-energy crowd pleaser Ghetts, one of the founders of The Movement, an East London grime collective of which Devlin has been associated for a number of years, showcasing his latest album tracks, freestyles and a cheeky viral called Who’s on the panel?. The ‘panel’ in question, is a Top 10 of grime MCs put together by MTV-assigned experts, in which Devlin came in at number 7, but Ghetts was completely forgotten. The tune scrutinises the artists and panel judges, listing who should be removed and replaced, decisions which the crowd responded well to. After a 20 minute warm up from Dogzilla, a leading member of Devlin’s OT Crew from Dagenham, the band set up and Devlin emerged to not only a roar from the crowd, but a surprising number of screams from younger female fans. This isn’t surprising because grime MCs are never received this way – they often are, but Devlin’s particular approach to grime has been free from gimmicks, flashy clothes or muscular abs, which some rappers parade in an effort to raise their personal profile.  

Ghetts, founding member of grime collective, The Movement

But Devlin’s elevated status has resulted in some compromise with the corporate forces directing him towards mainstream success. His face is on billboards all over London’s Adidas adverts and his recent singles have melodic choruses sung by emerging soon-to-be pop artists.

Don’t get  me wrong, Devlin isn’t prancing around to trance or coming close to a duet with JLS (unlike his comrade Tinie Tempah), the vocals are catchy but still soulful and maintain the thoughtful lyricism which sets Devlin apart from the efforts for mainstream success by Chipmunk or Tinchy Stryder.

Nonetheless, Devlin stuck religiously to tracks from his new album for his performance, including the chilled out Dreamer in which he remarks “Oh what a marvellous evenin’/I met Bob Marley and sparked up a three-skin… We talked about current affairs and various ways to build and repair”. Runaway, one of the most popular singles on the album features up-and-coming artist Yasmin on the chorus – a catchy track which is better than most radio air-play, but lacks the grit and realism of Devlin’s earlier work like Life’s F*cked Up and From the bottom to the top. Another crowd pleaser was Devlin’s first love song Let it go, in which he teamed up with singer/producer Laberinth, who was behind the success of Tinie Tempah ‘s Pass Out last year. Devlin and Laberinth tell the story of a disastrous relationship coming to an end – although tougher than the love song attempts of Dizzee Rascal or Professor Green,  still points to moves towards satisfying the corporate machine’s equation which must always be balanced by ‘a song for the ladies’.

Despite many of Devlin’s long-term fans being disappointed with some aspects of the album, he did diverge slightly from playing the entire tracklist that evening, with some help from Ghetts, Dogzilla and Griminal all spittin bars on top of Game Over, Tinchy Stryder’s single in which he shows of how many MCs from the industry he can command onto one very over-played track. Devlin also delivered his F64 acapella, plus invited Ed Sheeran on stage as a surprise guest, to perform the very popular, but still underground hit, Lately. Overall, Devlin’s performance was enjoyable, but nothing out of the ordinary. This is somewhat disappointing, as his immense lyrical talent was overshadowed by the more mainstream album tracks he was plugging, which didn’t include Community Outcast, a song which brought him real attention before he was signed, but perhaps seems less relevant now that the mainstream has given him the opportunity to finally fit in.

Adam Elliott-Cooper, a writer and activist, is Ceasefire Associate Editor.

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How To Listen To Hip Hop Music
Aug 10, 2011 2:10

Wow. He is gaining rock star status for sure. Devlin’s performances sound amazing. We can expect to hear more about Devlin.

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