Smoke weed. Get women. On the surface, that’s the message of almost every song from Houston underground hip-hop star Devin The Dude, who heads to Velvet Jones this Friday, April 30. This amiable emcee—who’s collaborated with such luminaries as Andre 3000, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Lil Wayne—is like those third-string LOST characters who don’t get enough screen time but whose fans anticipate and cheer for their tension-breaking one-liners. But what more is there to this strangely loveable, raunchy goofball?
Quite a lot, actually. His unprintably salacious story-songs and chronicles of Harold & Kumar-rivaling munchie runs provide the smoke screen for his sincerity. Devin’s bluntly-titled sixth solo album, Suite 420, which incidentally came out April 20, offers plenty of slacker anthems. It finds Devin spitting and singing to the backbeat of his slow ’n’ low electro-funk, but it also makes some frank observations about relationships and social struggles. Many will justifiably take offense to the X-rated rhymes, but there’s more to his music than that. Sometimes.
It’s like Ice-T once said: “Rap is really funny. But if you don’t see that it’s funny, it will scare the shit out of you.”
“A lot of times I don’t mean to be funny, but it comes across that way,” Devin said recently via phone. “There’s a song I got called “Boo Boo’n,” and a lot of people were telling me, like, ‘That’s a funny song, man!’” even though Devin originally wrote it when he was “feeling uptight about something.”
He shrugs off misinterpretations, though. “It’s the weed and the drinking and the women that stick out, and a lot of people will just grab that and hold on to it and kind of rewind that part instead of listening to the other stuff. But it’s all good. To me, it gives me time to do other songs. And [a] lot of people will look back a few years from now and be like, ‘He did a lot of songs about weed and pussy and stuff, but he kind of said something on this particular song or line right there.’ And if they can do that, it’s all good.”
The first single from Suite 420, “What I Be On,” portrays Devin at his most self-conscious, crooning about what it takes to stay positive in the face of hardship. “I kind of make fun of that, actually, about people saying, ‘Oh, you talk a lot about weed, and that’s all you ever do,’” he explained. “I try to let ’em know that I have fun, but it’s a lot of hustling and grinding and working and just kind of seeing my way through it and trying to not feel so bad about tough situations.”
Sometimes it seems that Devin just can’t help but make jokes. Or maybe it’s that even sincere emotions can sound absurd when they’re run through his lens. I asked about his first experience performing when he was a kid, busting pop-locking dance moves with his two brothers and a couple friends for people at a nursing home.
“I was nervous because there was a lady that had one arm and the other was cut off,” he said, “and I was feeling so sorry for her, but I couldn’t destroy the routine, you know? I had to pop and robot and play it off and smile… And the lady I was feeling sorry for, she stood up and started clapping her hand against that nub real fast. And I was like, ‘Wow, she felt the best in the whole house.’ She really had a good time, man.”
It’s a story that’s funny and awful in a Kevin Smith kind of way. But from another angle, the anecdote means something to Devin, and he expresses this sentiment genuinely.
“Actually,” he said, sounding uncharacteristically serious, “I remember feeling right there, like, ‘I could get used to this feeling.’”
Devin The Dude plays an 18+ show at Velvet Jones (423 State St.) this Friday, April 30, at 8 p.m. Call 965-8676 or visit clubmercy.com for tickets and info.