By Alan Davies
Sunday, January 13, 2013
RAPPER Devlin will be performing in Hatfield on Wednesday night as part of his university tour ahead of the release of new album, A Moving Picture.
HE’S already lent his vocal talents to tracks by industry heavyweights Tinchy Stryder, Labrinth and Ed Sheeran.
But Dagenham MC Devlin is about to become a star in his own right thanks to upcoming album A Moving Picture.
Once dubbed the ‘Eminem of Essex’ by Q Magazine, Devlin will be appearing at the Forum Hertfordshire’s weekly Bonk club night on January 16 ahead of the release of his new album, which drops next month.
If Devlin established himself as one of the leading lights of the UK grime scene with his debut Bud, Sweat & Beers, follow-up A Moving Picture could take him stratospheric.
Featuring good mate Sheeran on the Bob Dylan-sampling (All Along The) Watchtower, it’s released on Island Records on February 4 and his appearance at the University of Hertfordshire will help promote the CD to new fans.
Devlin already has friends in high places though.
Sheeran, who is no stranger to the Forum himself having supported Example at the College Lane venue and filmed the video for Lego House there, is in no doubt about Devlin’s credentials.
“He’s someone I’ve admired for years. I think he is one of the UK’s most talented rappers,” said Sheeran.
Fellow collaborator Wretch 32 said of Devlin: “There are some people that will be remembered for creating something special, he’s definitely one of those people.”
And chart-topper Labrinth added: “This guy’s got some kind of genius. He’s got his own unique style, that’s what’s going to make him stay around.”
Debut Bud, Sweat & Beers was awarded a gold disc for 100,000 sales and included the Emeli Sande co-written Brainwashed, as well as Let It Go produced by Labrinth and top 20 single Runaway.
Essex-born Devlin said: “Coming from where I did, I thought getting a gold disc was unfeasible. It made me so proud. I’m living the dream, and I’m doing it with the people I should be doing it with.”
He’s still got all his people around him, forming his management and production squad, the latter largely comprising characters he grew up with, along with newer recruits to Team Devlin such as Labrinth and Futurecut, producers for Dizzee Rascal and Plan B.
A Moving Picture features studio experts from within and without what he calls his “circle”, and is a far more assured and accomplished collection than its predecessor.
The general feel of the album is epic and, not surprisingly given the title, cinematic.
The music is huge and the songs anthemic and dramatic, bittersweet symphonies of synths and strings over which Devlin offers a sometimes sweepingly panoramic, sometimes up close and grittily personal perspective on life in the capital and its dead-end satellite suburbs.
If A Moving Picture is filmic, it’s not exactly comfortable viewing.
“I wanted to make an album with a cinematic vibe to it,” said Devlin, assessing how his music has progressed since Bud, Sweat and Beers.
“The last two years I’ve encountered different inspirations and I’ve grown up. As an artist, my wordplay has got better and the music grimier. It’s on a different level now.
“That’s why the album’s called A Moving Picture. It’s cinematic, but it’s also about transition.”
Devlin explains that, apart obviously from the lyrics, all of which he wrote, he was heavily involved in the musical direction of the album.
The music comprises samples as well as original sounds, some of which were programmed, others performed by musicians, including those responsible for the grimily orchestral strings. It’s stark but startlingly accessible.
Letter To My Boys is a tough but melodically fetching and hook-laden track given added R&B soul power by pulsing horns and staccato, stabbing violins.
Off With Their Heads features Wretch 32 and includes mesmerising looped Mariachi trumpets.
Really Cold is no less angry, Devlin ramping up the invective as he fingers “pop stars posing as rap stars” and MCs who “ain’t from the street” with their rapping “over funky house”.
New single Rewind, featuring strings and a mournful vocal from rising US singer-songwriter Diane Birch, is a forlorn reflection on the friends Devlin has lost over the years and can’t be with him to enjoy his success.
“The journey I’ve been on these past few years, I wish they could be here to witness it,” he said. “A couple of relatives, and friends I’ve lost from the manor I grew up in – it upsets me that they’re not here to enjoy it with me.”
Sun Goes Down, meanwhile, features a cameo from Katy B, and she rises to the occasion as Devlin metaphorically comes out fighting, taking pot-shots at anyone who’s ever wronged him and asserting his supremacy.
Tickets for Bonk at the University of Hertfordshire’s Forum cost £5 in advance.