Houston hip-hop legend Devin the Dude has written songs about inflation (“Almighty Dollar”), car maintenance (“Lacville ’79”), and proper genital sanitation (“Broccoli and Cheese”), but he’s most often associated with a single substance: coffee. He’s been a member of the Coughee Brothaz né Odd Squad for nigh on two decades now, and he describes his upcoming album, Suite 420 (out April 20) as “something to chill and … you know, sip a little coffee with.” But his love for the stuff is maybe best described in his song “Sticky Green”: “I grab a Swisher Sweet and use my fingernail to cut it / Gut it, then I dump the droppin’ out / then stuff it / full of coffee.”
Let’s talk about your new album.
It’s pretty much kind of laid back — not a lot of dance tunes, none of that. …We always wanted to put an album out on 4/20 but it never did land on a Tuesday. … `The first single “What I Be On”` was one of the last tracks that was added to the album. It was produced by Reggie Coby, a cat out of Austin. … It’s just telling you what I be on, which is like my weed and my brew and just chillin’. Although it’s a lot of work involved, so we be grinding, on the hustle and on the grind and trying to make things happen. Staying focused while I party. It was a fun song, lighthearted. My 7-year old daughter loved that song; that’s one of the reasons I chose it as a single.
I read about three years back that you were one of the artists to be featured on `Dr. Dre’s` Detox. Have you recorded anything for it yet?
I went out there a few weeks ago. It was a real cool thing, man. They’ve got a machine that’s really working and running over there. It’s turning out to be a really cool project.
At one time it seems like everybody ever was scheduled to appear on it, but you’re actually going to be on the album?
I did a little something for it. I hope it gets a chance to make it, but there’s a lot of stuff happening. But if not, it’s going to be a wonderful album, and I’m gonna be one of the first to get it myself. Everybody’s anticipating that one.
You’ve been in the industry for a while now, and released albums on several labels `including Rap-A-Lot and Razor & Tie`. Do you think there’s any point these days in young artists signing to a major label, or is the independent route the way to go?
A lot of people what they’re doing now is probably trying to get a short deal with a major and then maybe build a name for themselves and then go out and work it independently after the deal is over.
Sort of the route you took.
Yeah, but I’ve never really had a major deal. I worked with Razor & Tie, and I did a mixtape on BCD, and the first Coughee Brothaz release was called Waiting Our Turn with Select-O-Hits. It’s been a real cool thing to be able to work with a lot of different people instead of just being at one place kind of locked in and really not have a say-so where the next step is. … `Rap-A-Lot` let you be as free as possible to get your music across. They didn’t try to get you and say, look, we’re gonna mold you and get you and make you do this and you can’t work with these people, you must work with these people, and all that right there. There wasn’t nothing like that. It was about fam. …They had business savvy enough to do something for us even though we weren’t top priority at the label.
The album cover for Suite 420 has you standing at the door of a hotel room with a cloud of weed smoke pouring out in a cop’s face. Is that based on a true incident?
Not really. I try to stay way from that position `laughs`.
Do the police ever hassle you because of your persona?
Man, I’ve been kind of blessed to be around good people. Some are policemen. When it comes to music it’s a different thing. They respect some of my music and have some sort of respect for it as poetry, what I do. And I give that same respect to them for what they do. So they don’t harass me just for no reason or anything, and I don’t harass them. There’s been a few cops who’ve approached me, man, and actually said, “Devin, I used to love some of your music back in the day.” And that makes me feel pretty cool. I don’t just try to push my music towards one particular avenue. I think music is for everybody, and I’m glad policemen I like can enjoy some of my music, and kind of realize that there’s really no harm in what I do. … For the most part, I think they understand stoners are pretty laid back and cool people. Nobody just smokes a whole bunch of weed and goes on a rampage. •