Devlin The Devil In Devlin Music
Since Devlin released his debut mixtape, Tales From The Crypt in 2006 – still ranked as one of grime’s greatest ever by some day-one fans – his stark and lived-in outlook has always set him apart. In his early days, as part of Dagenham’s OT crew and later, The Movement alongside Ghetts, Wretch 32, Scorcher and others, Devlin was fierce, angry and pulled no punches – as evidenced by a well-documented spat with Wiley in 2006 (see his ruthless Extra Extra diss on Tales From The Crypt). Devlin’s performance is something of a paradox – hard, bludgeoning, angry flows meet measured and thoughtful lyricism.
This paradox feels most poignant on The Devil In’s opening title track, which sees Devlin sharply battle his demons amidst talk of dark places and ‘run down houses’. Dig a little deeper, and the lyricism speaks of an overarching vulnerability. Some tracks are designed to hit home harder than others, especially the booming 50 Grand, which features an excellent guest verse from Skepta. But the album is defined by its insular moments – see Blow Your Mind, Just Wanna Be Me and rhythmic curveball Stay in particular. On Life the album’s overriding, soul-searching narrative resonates loudest. “What’s life about? Will I find out later?” he asks. It might feel melodramatic to some listeners, and Devlin can’t always provide the answers, but The Devil In revels in its sincerity more successfully than previous albums, Bud, Sweat & Beers and A Moving Picture.
At the age of 27, Devlin is now considered one of grime’s elder statesmen alongside the likes of Kano and Skepta – each of whom had similar major label struggles over the years. He might not always get the props he deserves, but for Devlin music has never been about the spotlight. As this LP affirms, it’s been about fighting “the devil inside – the side you just don’t see.”