By New Times
By Derek Askey
By Mark Deming
By Serene Dominic
By Jason Keil
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
In 2000, Prefix Magazine called Devin the Dude "your favorite rapper's favorite rapper." Eleven years later, the Dude still hasn't achieved mainstream recognition, despite the fact that his string of laid-back, ganja-obsessed albums has earned him a loyal fan base and Billboard-charting albums.
Despite his propensity to smoke out, Dude's been increasingly productive as his career has rolled on. Last year saw him release two full-length LPs, Suite #420 and Gotta Be Me, both packed with his trademark sense of humor, copious weed references, and the kind of blissful string- and electric piano-laden production that has clearly influenced currently blowing-up weed-rapper Curren$y, with whom Devin rapped on "Chilled Coughphee," from the former's breakthrough, Pilot Talk.
Consistency can be a funny thing. While plenty of hip-hop heads dig Devin's adherence to rapping almost solely about women, weed, and liquor, others have criticized him for rapping himself into a corner. But the title of Gotta Be Me says it all. Devin isn't about putting on airs. He's not about to aim for en vogue nods to Kanye-style grandiosity or Tyler, The Creator's violent-youth angst.
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"Roll up something good," he instructs in the opening track, "It's Going Down," over G-Funk-inspired production by Hollis of Beat Killerz. "I've just got to be me," he sings on the title track. "So you know I'm gonna smoke weed."
Dude has never taken himself too seriously — observe the album cover of his self-titled debut, which features him blazing a joint on the john, reading a copy of the Houston Chronicals — but sticking to his choice of subject shtick often takes the music into hysterical territory. You find yourself asking, can this guy even think about anything else?
It turns out he can. When not speaking of his love of the green stuff, Devin focuses on the ladies, and it's here that we actually see a bit of thematic diversity. He extols the virtues of casual relations over the supremely sexy "Come and Go," in which he describes himself as a "dick for hire." He's even more blatant with "No Need to Call," where he states: "Hey, how you doin' / Are you down for screwin'?"
Yet Devin displays a tender side on the record, as well. "Had no idea how to act a few years back but now I get it," he sings on "Gimme Some." "You the reason why I'm leaving my old ways /My black book is gone / And I done forgot where them hos stay." For a moment, the track transcends the typical bravado of Devin's style, though he returns to it a few lines later, describing his junk as being "in mint condition."
"Ain't Going Nowhere" is even more raw. The song finds Devin genuinely heartbroken, promising, "If I had a chance to do it over again, I will / Just in case you wanna known how I feel." It's the heaviest moment on the album, and it gives the constant jokes about weed and goofy sex sound effects a sense of pathos.
With Gotta Be Me, Devin the Dude won't change any minds about what he does. Fans will love the lush production, and will no doubt relate to Devin's sleepy-eyed lyrics on tracks like "I'm High" (sample lyric: "Oh shit, we're still recording?"). Devin remains one of hip-hop's most honest rappers. His narrow lyrical focus and shunning of Auto-Tuned club bangers or copious mainstream rapper guest spots have stopped him from taking over the airwaves, but Devin doesn't seem to care. He's more than happy to do his thing, smoke his weed, and let his music evolve the way he wants: slow, steady, and sticky.