Devlin is undoubtedly one of the foundation MCs. He was around before all the glitz and glamour surrounded the scene and when people wrote the genre off as a passing phase, Devlin was in the trenches writing bars and honing his craft. His first release Tales From The Crypt is widely regarded as required listening for any grime fan, the beats are raw and Devlin’s lyrical rapid fire delivery has rarely been matched since, it’s not hard to see why Wiley dubbed him the “greatest grime MC”.
It’s been four long years since we last heard a full project from Devlin, and this Friday he’s gearing up to provide the clamouring fans what they’ve been waiting for: a new album entitled The Devil In. If the announcement isn’t enough to get you gassed for the album, we’ll take a look at seven of Devlin’s most legendary tracks to date.
If you watched his most recent DJ Target interview Devlin mentioned that this was one of the first tunes he recorded. He got the call up from Dogzilla and they hit up Danny C’s studio to vocal the beat that Roll Deep made famous years earlier. When listening to this, just bear in mind he was the tender age of 15 when he wrote this…
“Dealers” (ft. Ghetto, Wretch 32 & Scorcher)
This was easily one of the best tracks on Tales Of The Crypt. The beat is laden with orchestral strings and sounds incredibly sinister and dark, something which characterised grime of this era and unfortunately something we’re seeing less and less of. The Movement feature on this tune with Devz and when you’ve got arguably the most lyrical collective in grime on one track you know it’s gonna be flames.
After years of hard graft Devlin managed to get himself signed to none other than Island Records. He released his first studio album Bud, Sweat And Beers which deservedly went gold. “London City” was as Devlin said himself his first attempt at writing a happy tune. Listening to it now feels nostalgic and reminiscent of the bygone Channel U era. Look for Griminal and Ghetts’s cameo in the video as well!
“Take Me Away”
Devlin’s subject matter has always made him stand out from his peers. It’s not often you’ll hear introspective self reflection on a grime tune; this was a much rarer occurrence in 2006 when Tales From The Crypt dropped. “Cause everybody wants to slash your grill/Kick doors off, run up in your house and brandish steel Cause they think that it makes them real/But at the end of the day whats real?” Very few, if any, MC’s were dropping this kind of knowledge at the time.
This is the tune that really put Devz on the map. Once again we find him delving into areas that people in the grime scene really weren’t touching on. This track was originally released on Tales From The Crypt, but he re-released on Bud, Sweat And Beers and brought it up to date with the times by laying down an extra verse for it.
“Off With Their Heads” (ft. Wretch 32)
Devlin and Wretch 32 on the same track is a deadly combination. This tune featured on Devlin’s last album A Moving Picture and this track saw him back to his comfort zone of firing lyrical barbs in any and all directions. The duo performed this on 1Xtra’s tenth birthday on Live Lounge and that version is arguably better than the one on the album, cause you can really appreciate Wretch’s vocal wizardry.
“All Along the Watchtower” (ft Ed Sheeran)
Devlin and Ed Sheeran have been fast friends for many years and if you scour YouTube you can find clips of them spitting bars back to back together. This track was originally written by Bob Dylan but perhaps made more famous by its Jimi Hendrix incarnation. The fusion of Ed’s harmonies on the hooks with Devlin’s lyrical barrage on the verses, earned him a top ten single.