Devlin at The University of ReadingBy Caroline Cook
January 31, 2013
Being dubbed the ‘Eminem of Essex’ is a big compliment for East London rapper Devlin.
At just 23 he is already making his mark on the grime and rap scene, collaborating with the likes of Emile Sande, Ed Sheeran and Katy B, and picking up a gold disc for 10,000 sales of his debut album.
But, as Devlin tells getreading on the phone from a very snowy studio in London, he never thought he would manage to achieve such success while hanging around the streets of Dagenham with his early collectives the OT Crew and The Movement.
“Coming from where I did, I thought getting a gold disc was unfeasible. It made me so proud,” he says. “I’m living the dream and doing it with the people I should be doing it with.”
The grime genre (a music scene that emerged from Bow in East London) has become a big deal in the last few years.
Reading Festival bosses announced plans for a new hip-hop and grime stage at the festival this year, featuring established and upcoming urban music acts.
Devlin played the Lock Up stage in 2011 and says the gig was one of the highlights of his career.
“Reading is the best festival I’ve ever played,” he says. “The year I did it I was the only urban act, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. The crowd was massive. It would be a blast to go back and do it again. I don’t care which stage it is.”
And the rapper says festivals are a great chance to catch up with some of his industry pals.
“You bump into people who you haven’t seen for ages and it’s a chance to catch up, and you can watch people’s stuff,” he says.
“It’s great to work with a lot of other people. It’s always a blast.”
Devlin met singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran a few years ago and the pair became friends, collaborating on (All Along The) Watchtower, which features on Devlin’s new album A Moving Picture.
He also teams up with long-term pal Wretch 32, a grime MC and rapper, for album track Off With Their Heads, which Devlin says has ‘a sinister, epic, eerie vibe’.
For the new album, Devlin wanted to build on the success of his first record, Bud, Sweat and Beers, and create a bolder, more cinematic record. “It’s properly hard for me to evaluate my own music. I think it’s generally more cinematic and it just tries to bring the world to life. It’s the fans’ reaction that counts though.
“The record is about what’s happening and what my friends are going through,” he says, adding that he had a bit more freedom this time to create the sound he wanted.
“I started writing when I was about 13. No one starts great, I was rubbish, but it’s been over 10 years now and I have put in graft. I have a bit more freedom now.”
Devlin will be showcasing tracks from his new album on a university tour around the UK which arrives in Reading next week.
“The first uni gig was two weeks ago and it went really well,” he says. “I got to play to the fans which is great. You can go to lots of different gigs and festivals and things, and you do get completely different atmospheres. The Reading crowd are always up for it.”