Leaving behind the material ramblings of an archetypal MC, listening to Devlin, you’re more likely to hear tales of conspiracy theories, politics and Pavarotti. A lover of Bob Marley, The Supremes and Bruce Springsteen, Devlin isn’t your average grime artist. The enigmatic, Dagenham born Devlin set the bar for a new generation of Grime music in 2006 with his underground classic, Tales from the Crypt.
Devlin was on our screens more than ever in 2009, after signing with independent music label 360 Records and EGA Music Management. Head of Music Colin Batsa took over as his manager released 3 videos in as many months; London City, Community Outcast 2009 and Giant, have totted up over 2 million Youtube views combined, to date. London City remained at number one of the Channel AKA music charts, unmoved, for 10 weeks.
In December 2009 Devlin was named on the BBC’s Sound of 2010 Longlist, cited as ‘one of the hottest names on the underground grime scene’.
In March 2010 Devlin was signed to Island/Universal. His official debut album ‘bud, sweat & beers’ was released on November 1st 2010. The album is available to buy now.
In August 2011 Devlin’s debut album was certified Gold after selling over 100,000 copies.
He’s at his most animated when talking about the struggles and injustices facing his community: “It gets to me and boils my blood, and you hear that coming out in my tracks sometimes,” he says of the poverty and inequality that’s been rising under a Conservative government. Meanwhile, the self-described “angry young man” is also frank about the reasons underlying an increasing crisis of masculinity in this age of inequality: “People are looking at you and you’re expected to have a partner, to have a flat, to drive a car - there’s a lot of pressure. You think about adult subjects too young - I can’t remember being a child.”
These themes also permeate The Devil In: “Cold Blooded”, a collaboration with singer Tom Prior, is the deftly told story of a bullied kid growing up on the wrong side of town. Meanwhile, the thoughtful “Life” finds Devlin - accompanied by a yearning hook from Harry James - mulling over his purpose growing older in a “messed-up world”. It’s the kind of specific emotional situation that Devlin excels at: where other artists might paint it in broad brushstrokes, Devlin’s honesty is raw and real. After his return last year, Jme tweeted in appreciation of him: “I believe him when he spits bars”. Ultimately, this is what has always made Devlin special - and, rejuvenated and ready to go, it’s even more true than ever in 2017.