Devlin [Interview]

Two years has passed since Dagenham rapper Devlin delivered his debut album ‘Bud, Sweat And Beers’ – now he is back and gearing up for the release of his second album ‘A Moving Picture’. After recently giving us a taster of what is to come with the free download ‘The Director’s Cut’ mixtape, The Wrap Up’s Shireen Fenner headed down to the Adidas HQ to talk about his new single ‘Watchtower’, acting and the realness of his lyrics…

The Wrap Up: Hey Devlin. In the past, you have been associated with O.T and The Movement. What is your background with these two crews?

Devlin: I got involved in O.T when I was growing up and first started listening to grime. The Movement started with me and Ghetts; he’s my friend. Scorcher and Wretch [32] were doing their thing and they were so lyrical, we thought we should come together so we could all bounce off each other and better ourselves. O.T, that’s my family, that’s my management, that’s my boys – I’ll always be O.T.

TWU: How does coming from Dagenham influence the content of your verses?

Devlin: I can only write about what I’ve seen and that is a big influence. I am writing about my upbringing and that inspired me to write a lot of songs. It is the place that made me. That’s all I can be, I just try and do me and a lot of people have got behind me for it.

TWU: Can you talk to us about the video to your latest single ‘Watchtower’?

Devlin: Ed [Sheeran] and me just did a move and it all went wrong. It’s a short film, with a cinematic vibe. Usually you get a video where you’re looking down the camera performing, but this one it was all about the acting.

TWU: Many of your peers have got into acting; is that something you would consider?

Devlin: I really enjoyed it, but it was nerve racking as hell! I’ve always respected anyone who has a pop at anything in their art form. I really enjoyed it. I also thought Scorcher, Asher D and Kano did really well in ‘Top Boy’. Who knows? I might follow in their footsteps one day if the role is right.

TWU: The Dylan and Hendrix versions of ‘Watchtower’ are timeless classics. Was there pressure when creating your version?

Devlin: Going back to what I was saying before, all I can do is me. I’ve had a go; I’ve wound up a lot of old people who are disgusted that me, Ed and Labrinth have even tried to cover the song.

TWU: ‘Watchtower’ is a clear divergence from your general style. Did the alternative instrumental influence what you wrote about?

Devlin: It is a hip-hop beat still. Just because the sound is different, it doesn’t mean you can’t make that sound as crazy, or as different, or as synthetic as possible. You can take those tempos anywhere. To me it’s still a rap song, it just sounds rocky – its rocky rap. The sound of the record definitely influences how you write or what you write. With a concept in mind, I wanted to sit back and look at my life over the last two years in the industry.

TWU: It’s been two years since your last album ‘Bud, Sweat and Beers’. How will the forthcoming album ‘A Moving Picture’ show the evolution of you as an artist?

Devlin: It’s just a natural progression; my sound is a lot more professional and grown. I’ve got two years of being in the mainstream to write about. I’ve played Wembley, I’ve done my own tours and I’ve done things that were a dream up until two years ago. I’ve got a lot to draw inspiration from and a lot of new things to talk about. It’s been an emotional journey and I want to try and capture that in the album.

TWU: Dazed and Confused magazine called you ‘one of the few MCs daring to say something different’. How do you feel about this statement?

Devlin: For a start, I appreciate that. There’s a negative element about my music, not all the time, but everyone’s painting a happy picture out here, I’m just trying to paint the picture that I see. I just try and see things, rather than making a song about a Rolex, or having millions of birds wrapped round me. I can only draw on what I’ve seen and paint the real picture.

TWU: What do you think a UK rapper needs to get a number one?

Devlin: You’ve got to be clever with it. You could have a straight up rap song and I don’t think it would get to no.1. That is why you put the choruses on there for these singles and try and play the game. The more pop you go, the more successful you become. I can’t go that poppy, but make a funky house tune and talk about birds, diamonds and watches; then you’ll end up at no.1. I doubt I ever will.

TWU: Lastly, who would you say is the hottest UK femcee?

Devlin: I’ve not known that many female artists over the years. No Lay and Baby Blue, they’ve been lyrical, they’ve had flows and they’ve been about for quite a long time. If you’re a good looking bird I’m not that fussy. I’m a brunette man…

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