The Village Voice called him, “An asshole in the tradition George Clinton or Rudy Ray Moore, a shit-talker who thinks yukking and fucking is a life plan”. Granted, weed and big butts aren’t entirely all Devin “The Dude” Copeland talks about. But for the span of 5 albums (and a new 6th) his everyman approach has endeared him on both coasts as well as in Europe.
“Sheeeit, I’m just a normal dude who smokes weed and raps, ” he says, confirming his entire approach and motto. He continues, barely audible from laughing so hard: “My songs are like my kids [laughs], some are uglier than others but I love them all the same!”
A longtime Rap-A-Lot signee, Devin added ease and self-deprecation to Houston’s rap scene, counteracting the overt aggression of labelmates, The Geto Boys, and other local rap acts. His at ease style got calls from Dr. Dre, as work with De La Soul, Premier, Nas, and Xhibit followed.
His new project, Suite #420, finds him delivering over rolling beats where he’s the butt of his punchlines. I spoke with Devin on all things casual: from how often he smokes, to how Europeans sound funny rapping his lyrics.
What rappers make you laugh?
The very first rap record I heard made me laugh! It was called “Rap Dirty” by Blowfly [laughs]. I thought it was the funniest, grooviest thing I’ve ever heard. You could dance to it and it had a story behind it too. Back when I was a kid, a song sounded like it was a movie and I loved every bit of it. It was a comedy to me for sure man [laughs].
Who would you say are your rap idols?
Shit man, that’s tough. But really, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Slick Rick. How he put his songs together and just all the silly humor in his songs spoke to me. But he was smart too. He was so creative and projected personality into his songs. He was so well-rounded. He’s a true artist.
The other would have to be Too Short. I mean, he had that ‘I don’t give a fuck’ style that spoke to me, man. He was just a pioneer. He was just speaking his mind and not caring about how he came off. He had no filter. So street, so tough, and was quick to call a bitch a bitch too [laughs]. He made the type of songs that you wouldn’t dare play at your family reunion. But yeah, I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for them two.
Where did you grow up?
St. Petersburg Florida is where I was until about the fourth grade when my family moved to Texas. I lived between Houston and East Texas, Douglasville and Austin. I was all over. I was in Houston most of my life.
How did hip-hop strike Houston in the 1980s?
It struck us hard man! Living in Houston, everyone was influenced by hip-hop in general. The radio stations, and especially the local college stations, would play all hip-hop all day on Saturdays. This was the early ‘80s and I had my tape recorder ready every single Saturday. It was a real big thing all over Houston. Then Geto Boys and Rap-A-Lot blew up and it just all made sense, man. Houston always supported hip-hop to the fullest.
You were a b-boy at first right?
Yeah man [laughs]. It was way before I was rapping. I guess breakdancing became too commercial for me and everything became watered down so I just moved onto the next hip-hop thing that was rapping. It’s crazy now how breakdancing has progressed to what cats are doing these days, but in the late ‘80s it started getting commercialized. You’d see it on movies and TV commercials but never at parks or on the streets anymore [laughs]. That’s when we was like ‘something’s wrong with this picture’ [laughs].
You sing a lot on your records. Would you release an album where you only sing?
People ask me that quite a bit, man. I don’t know, probably not [laughs]. I wouldn’t say yes or no for sure, but I can’t see myself just hearing a track and trying to sing over it. Maybe if it had a lot of meaning, or was something random like a movie soundtrack or something. I just want to have fun with the music–and sometimes the music tells you to sing, sometimes it tells you to rap. Sometimes, it’ll let you know to do both, but it has never told me to straight sing my guts out [laughs].
Talk about the new album.
Aww man, it’s called Suite #420, and it came out on April 20th. Back in the day we had the idea to release an album on 4/20. This was in like, 2004 [laughs]. As you know, records come out on Tuesdays. I looked at the calendar and realized that 4/20 wouldn’t fall on a Tuesday for years and years! So we were like ‘oh shit!’ So we had to wait this whole time to make this happen. At the time, I didn’t know if I’d still be rapping in 2010 [laughs]! Now it seems like it was yesterday. I guess, it’s hard to predict how long you’d be doing something if you love doing it.
How does smoking affect your recording process? Obviously it’s a subject you talk about a lot.
Yes, I smoke before the session, during the session, and after the session [laughs]. I smoke in the morning after the session too [laughs]. I guess it helps me mellow and it helps certainly, for me, in a writer’s block situation. Sometimes a relaxed mind is the most creative, know what I’m sayin’?
How was working with Dre?
Shit man! It was a blessing! It was an amazing experience man! To see him do his thing and to see the work ethic and the seriousness he puts into making a song sound right was inspirational. It was real cool, man.
Where do you think you rank in terms of today’s rappers?
I don’t mind hearing people compare me to other people, but it’s hard for me to do it myself. It’s like being a player and referee at the same time! That’s hard to do dude [laughs].
What’s your favorite track of yours?
Some tracks have different meanings and others don’t mean shit [laughs]. I must say, a song called “Right Now” was based off some stuff that weirded me out at the time. And all my homies and my label really knew what I was talking about and they all supported me and that meant a lot. So when I hear that song now, I think of all that sentimental shit [laughs].
What’s the reaction to your music been overseas?
Aww man, I thought I’d have to speak slower or louder for these foreign cats to hear me, but I realized a lot of people already spoke English and knew the words to my songs. I was very surprised! In general, I was very surprised at how much these cats knew about hip-hop and it’s history. Some French cats sound funny saying my songs [laughs] but I think that’s dope! I mean, I get way overseas and they be asking me about some rappers in the hood, on the Southside of Houston and I’m like ‘what the fuck?!?!’ [laughs]. They’re really up on the history of things and they still love that old school rap too.
Last comments for your supporters?
I want to thank all weedsmokers as well as non-weedsmokers! I mean, music is why we’re all here. I appreciate the appreciation!
By David Ma