Trying to fit Devin the Dude into one subgenre of hip-hop is as impossible as him not lighting one up on April 20. The Houston product who can do it all, from crafting melodious hooks to spitting raunchy verses still hasn’t found mainstream approval, but that hasn’t stopped him from gaining a loyal cult following from smokers and non-smokers alike.
Devin’s sixth album, Suite 420, finds Devin doing what he does best alongside his Odd Squad crew. HipHopGame caught up with Devin to talk about his new project, 4:20, making skits, dumpster diving and much more.
Your new album Suite 420 is dropping in two weeks. Where did you want to go on this album that you haven’t been in the past?
Well, you know what, when I go in for a project, I don’t try to do anything different from what I did. I just go with what I feel at the time and the moment. On this one, I wanted to be more mature where you could just kind of feel the growth of me as a person and as an artist. It’s kind of more of a laid back feel. The tempo of it is slower and the songs kind of relate more to relationships versus more than clubs and just hanging out. Other than that, I just go on how I feel song for song.
The album is being released on April 20, the official holiday for potheads everywhere. How long did you wait for 4:20 to fall on a Tuesday so you could put an album out?
(laughs) Since 2004, since the To tha X-Treme album. My homeboy, we was trying to put the album out on 4/20. We looked at the calendars and it would be on a Thursday or something. He looked and was going to find when the next 4/20 would fall on a Tuesday and he looked and he looked and he said it wasn’t going to be until 2010. I said, “I don’t even know if I’ll be rapping in 2010!” (laughs) But nah, since it came around and everything lined up and I was blessed to still be around to put an album out right now, we decided to call it Suite 420.
How have your 4:20 celebrations changed over the years?
Well, actually I’ve always had a job that day. (laughs) I’ve always did a show, especially in places like Seattle, man. It’s been wonderful, man, just to do shows on those days. A lot of people celebrate those days and if your music pertains to some of that, then you might be asked to be a part of that celebration. Fortunately I have the past few years.
As a weedhead, is the ultimate compliment when other weedheads say they love your music?
What’s always a compliment for me is people who don’t smoke and say they listen to my music and they’re still able to enjoy it, even songs like “Doobie Ashtrays,” the songs that have that in there. They don’t smoke at all and they still enjoy the music. That says a lot to me.
How do you suggest your fans celebrate 4:20?
Not to be thankful for anything, but just be happy that something’s here that we can indulge in and feel good and it won’t harm you. It won’t destroy your body or kill you. There’s something here on Earth, it’s a plant and we can consume it and it’s cool and man, it’s just an enjoyable thing. (laughs) It’s more medicine, I think, than anything and I think just having a day where you can just sit back and call a few friends up and say, “Happy 4 Day,” it’s just a cool thing.
There’s been more legalization efforts for marijuana recently with a focus on how much California made in taxes from their legal dispensaries. How much longer do you think it will be until it’s completely legal?
Probably another 10 years from now for everybody to just be legal. It’s going to take some decriminalization first. They’ll have to see how it works out and see how they can tax it and see how they can benefit the nation financially. You know, they’ll just have to take it from there. But I see that day coming about 10 years from now. Hopefully they won’t be selfish about the situation. Everybody knows how harmless it is and if everyone can make some money and help with the medical and help with the deficit, who knows. I think it’s a plant that can do all that.
You’ve had some funny skits in the past, especially “Twitta” on Suite 420. Having jokes translate into quality skits is easier said than done. How do you pull it off?
I mean, (laughs) the people I hang around are some characters, like the Odd Squad and Coughee Brothaz. The people I hang around with and smoke with are funny people and they’ll say some funny stuff. If we’re in the studio we’ll catch it and record it and if people hear it and they laugh, then it’s pretty much a keeper. But if it doesn’t come across as too cool with the in-house people, then it’s not going to come across too cool once we put out the record. I get my feedback from the in-house cats and the people I hang with.
Do you think you, Prince Paul and Cam’ron can get together to do an album with nothing but skits?
Oh, man! (laughs) Well, I believe so. You’ll have to include Dre in there too. He’s one of the funniest skit-makers there is. The skits are a part of having fun, especially in hip-hop. Sometimes people release their stress in the vocal booth and they don’t even have to be a comedic rapper or have a lot of humor in their songs. They can be a hard-nosed rapper but in their skits they can find a way to laugh because that’s what it’s all about. It would be impossible to go through life mean-mugging and never laughing, so that’s where the skits come in.
Do you ever find listeners or fans who don’t get your humor?
No, I guess they wouldn’t be fans if they would say that. I just go in and feel good with what I do and try to make the best of it by having fun in the studio and it comes across in the music.
You’ve worked with so many artists across the board, from Scarface to Dr. Dre to De La Soul. Do you have a favorite collab?
It’s hard to have a favorite. I think the whole collage of it all, man, is the thing because I’ve learned so much from so many different people like Raphael Saadiq, Dre, especially Scarface, Posdnuos, Lil’ Jon and people giving me bits and pieces of knowledgeable information to use in the studio as far as how to conduct yourself and lots of things. I think it’s the collaboration of all those people I’ve worked with and not having one favorite.
Why do you think you’ve been able to work with so many different types of artists and not been limited to one subgenre in hip-hop?
Oh, man, I think it’s just a matter of me doing what I love to do back in the day and getting appreciated with the music I’m doing, man. That was the world to me, man, to be a part of these projects and the cats that I’ve worked with back in the day and over the years, man. I never thought I would meet Dre in the studio. I guess it just paid off from me working back in the day and trying to make a lane for myself and respecting their music also.
Who do you want to work with next?
Man, I would work with anybody that I haven’t worked with! It doesn’t matter. It’s a beautiful thing to be welcome on somebody’s project, man, and that’s pretty huge because that’s a part of that artist’s life and now it’s a whole chapter out of mine. To be a part of it is a beautiful thing. It’s an honor.
How valuable do you think those collabs have been to promoting yourself?
That’s been one of the key front running things, to be involved in people’s projects, man. The fans that these guys have may have never heard of me and like what they hear, so that’s been making my business multiply too. That’s been a real huge, huge thing for me.
You grew up next to a radio station and your early digging days started by finding the records they’d throw out. What was the best find?
Probably the Blowfly “Rapp Dirty” record. He was one of the people that was out at the time but your parents didn’t want you listening to him. That’s when rap was really new and fresh. That record had a clean side and a dirty side but the clean side, (laugh) you still wouldn’t let your kids hear that record! The record that I found had a scratch on it and if it had a scratch on it, they wouldn’t play it. They would just toss it because their airtime was so valuable. They would just toss those. There were a lot of jazz records there too. I found some R&B, jazz, blues…It was a mix of everything in there and that was kind of incredible for me. I wish I still had the stack of those records but there were a lot of artists that were never heard of. There were a lot of up-and-coming artists that were in the trash also. It was real cool, man. It was real cool to have those records.
Did you ever think back then that you’d be the rapper that other parents would attempt to shield their kids from?
(laughs) You know what? I always wanted to be and have that forbidden record where you had to be a certain age to listen to it! I wasn’t thriving on that, but I tried to pursue a rap career and I saw how it was going when I was on Odd Squad. It was kind of vulgar and we were rapping about weed and women and wine and just having fun and partying and I always figured, ‘What if there was a group that people would tell their kids about how bad they were but they would listen to it?’
Is there a new Odd Squad album in the works?
Rob, he just finished his album and he’s working on a mixtape and Jugg Mugg is finishing his solo album and the Odd Squad ourselves, we have three or four Odd Squad songs and some songs that we had never released that we may bring out and then we could put out another Odd Squad project.