After years of promoting ‘Bud, Sweat & Beers’, Devlin finally delivers. Being a white MC, Devlin’s had many comparisons to the American rapper Eminem, or even in some cases the UK’s very own Mike Skinner. If anything, this album is more The Streets than anything from the bleach-blonde-haired-rapper. Mike Skinner has made various ‘deep garage’ tracks in his time, often made up with a huge amount of emotion and personal feelings behind most of them and that is what Devlin has done throughout this album too…
The introduction to a CD is always important and Devlin succeeded in this area with the track, ‘1989’. With a rock edge to it, ‘1989’ was made unique when Devlin added his flow along with an exceptional explanation of his life experiences in and around Dagenham. The MC touched upon everything from hanging around in the park during his early teen years, to making his first mixtape at 17, then finishing off with his thoughts on how the music game has changed over the years.
Following ‘1989’ is one of Devlin’s singles, ‘Brainwashed’. Although the CD includes all his singles: ‘London City’, ‘Runaway’ and ‘Community Outcast’ (which was never released in the end), don’t expect all the tracks to be like this though. Devlin has built up his fanbase with the aforementioned singles, but then drew fans into buying his album before unleashing that mainstream grime sound of 2010 upon them. The tracks aren’t watered down completely; they’ve just been slightly diluted to appeal to the wider audience. You won’t hear Devlin sing about his new diamond rings or how he’s number one, but the songs are a touch catchier compared to anything from his ‘The Art Of Rolling’ mixtape.
Many stories are played throughout ‘Bud, Sweat & Beers’. There is even a track through the eyes of God it seems, with lyrics: “I made this world for you, I look down on this race I created and all I see is violence and hatred.” Devlin goes on to talk about everything that’s wrong in this world, as if he created the planet himself and is watching it fall apart. Such incidents as the tsunami in Haiti, 9/11 and 7/7 were brought up by the grime kid from Dagenham. Devlin is very much aware of what’s going on in the world that he lives in and that has been shown in various tracks.
The theme of deep thoughtful tracks continues with ‘Dreamer’. Out of all the tracks on the album, this has the potential to be a future single. From the outset, you can tell Devlin hasn’t forgotten his roots: “I fly in the sky like D Double E.”
But grime fans shouldn’t worry though, Devlin has brought some of his older friends along to feature on the album too. Ghetts makes an appearance, not forgetting his O.T crew member Dogzilla on ‘Finally’. You can’t but help think that they could have produced something a bit grimier, ‘O.T Show’ more than makes up for this though.
“So don’t be mistaken, like I’ve gone soft for the ratings.” – ‘Marching Through The Fog’ sees Devlin talk about his journey to the mainstream. On that track Devlin wanted to let his fans know that he hasn’t watered down his music too much and that he’s still as good, as or even better than he ever was.
Devlin keeps his grimy sound with him throughout the album, but only on more aseptically pleasing beats for the wider audience. Let’s face it, the crowd that bought such singles as ‘Runaway’, ‘London City’ and ‘Brainwashed’ might not know Devlin’s music from yesteryear. You know the days when he and Wiley would make war dubs for each other?
After years of waiting, it was definitely worth it. ‘Bud, Sweat & Beers’ is easily one of the best sounding albums of 2010 and that’s not just within the grime genre, that’s across the board.
Words by Graeme Day for MTVs The Wrap Up!