Devlin - Bud, Sweat & Beers Album Review
It feels like forever because that's about how long it's taken; after about a thousand false starts and broken promises however, in James Devlin it now seems like UK hip-hop has itself a genuine contender for greatness.
Predictably the Dagenham born sound conspirator - who began making music in his early teens - emerged from the vibrant UK grime scene, debuting on the influential Rinse FM in 2006 before underlining his potential on mixtape release Tales From The Crypt. If this prodigal development showed promise and an air of confidence, despite it's awful title Bud, Sweat And Beers delivers to us an artist fully formed.
Certainly it couldn't be accused of lacking ambition; weighing in at a mammoth fourteen tracks and drawing on a diverse range of musical elements from rock to r & b, it comfortably pushes well beyond grime's often limited horizons. Most will be familiar with the chart friendly single Runaway, a typically ambitious slice of urban drama boldly complemented by the redemptive neo-soul vocals of Yasmin. This softening of the rapper's hard nosed rhymes works to make the music more inclusive, but to his credit there are few punches pulled here, as into the usual geezer tales and top dogging are woven less expected subjects such as urban poverty and domestic violence.
This determination to pursue normally off topic agendas do most to underline Devlin's star quality. It's best embodied on Community Outcast, a torrent of rhetoric that's also a passionate defence of the silent victims of the economic meltdown, humanising the struggle of those the media would have us believe are scroungers. Bitter and street-eloquent, it's warmth towards the helpless subjects is also genuinely moving.
Ultimately though peering at our own reflections and prejudices doesn't wholly satisfy, and stars are there to be worshipped as the celebrity totems we raise them up to be. For Devlin this will be done via Brainwashed, his story so far driven by hyperextended rock dynamics a la Pendulum and a song with its gaze pointed firmly at an arena near you. For generations it seems British artists have talked just such a good game, but now though on this evidence we have a player that can blast away our thirty years of hurt. Andy Peterson