Two weeks ago, Devin the Dude released his ninth album. If you swear by the melodicism of Devin Copeland, then you already knew this. If you subscribe to his nature as Houston’s greatest, most relatable, eternally high rap yeoman, then you might have missed this bit of information.
It happens. Devin will forever be attached to the idea of being underrated. Unlike plenty of his contemporaries who debuted more than two decades ago, the Dude never chased fame. If his rap money covered his weed and beer, he was perfectly fine. His is the kind of calm demeanor you don't see with many a rapper. Curren$y has a lavishness attached to his stoned demeanor, but Devin's lifestyle feels far more achievable. For every rap about sputtering out on the 610 Loop, he backs it up with a wise tale about getting some ass or smoking the day away.
Two years ago, the rudest thing happened to Devin: somebody robbed him of all his home-studio equipment. He promised fans new material in November but it never materialized. Instead, Acoustic Levitation arrives backed by heavy bass guitars and enough quixotic blues that big-voiced background singers are now back en vogue. Tony Mac shows up as a refreshing bit of old, common-man blues on three of Acoustic Levitation’s moments of clarity. “Is my truck good enough? Aw shit, I think your bus pullin’ up,” Devin laments on “Are You Going My Way.” The song is nothing like Jet or Lenny Kravitz’s fun-hearted rock appeals; rather, Tony Mac operates as Devin’s conscience as the Dude attempts to pull Lisa Luv into the whip. Devin doesn’t care if he has to be Uber for this woman and her four kids, he’ll do it. Why? Because Devin the Dude is a loverman regardless of any situation.
A decade ago, he would mope in measured, drowsy musings about his pitfalls and shortcomings on “Everything’s Everything,” “Lacville ‘79” or “Doobie Ashtray,” to name a few. Each moment would play him up as a proverbial can’t-get-right, hard-luck fellow who just wants to enjoy some of life's simple vices. The main vice of Acoustic Levitation is found with women. Devin’s fine attachment to a good woman is about as strong as his attachment to a sack of bud. The guitar strings and drums let him wheel into a lounge-act persona of lounge act: black suit, white shirt, collar unbuttoned and not a tie in sight. “Acoustic levitation, complete separation,” he sings with that low-eyed drawl. “I wish I could hear something to lift me up and away...what used to be all grass is nothing but mud.” Defying mental gravity is what Devin does. He encourages you to do the same, even in the rare moments that he’s sober.
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Even now in his wiser years, Devin remains a mainstay for smoke and ride missions up and down the streets. “All I need is good weed and I’m cool man,” he states firmly on “I’m In the Galaxy,” asking for legalization and making certain he’ll stay as high as possible. Still, all the weed in the world can’t take him away from thinking about sex. Leave him without a warm touch and late-night action for 23 weeks and he’ll make a song like “Tonight,” where he adopts a Jamaican accent. Force him to peruse the Internet, close off PornHub in search of some trim and you end up with “Apartment #8216."
Easily the best piece of music on Acoustic Levitation, the latter uses the bottom strings on a guitar and flanged-out piano keys to lead us into a world where Devin zooms to the Southwest side chasing a cam girl. Instead, our favorite weed-head ends up meeting the Houston equivalent of Richard Pyror’s Miss Rudolph and getting stuck in the worst imaginable horror story. “She say I can cum but I can’t leave,” Devin says. You’d think enough weed smoke would create that kind of paranoia but nope, the record business is just as sneaky when Devin runs through a few jeremiads on “It’s Cold In Here": “I don’t know what the fuck is going on.”
The fine form of the Dude knows a few tricks to avoid getting hit with “paint-by-numbers” critiques. There’s comedy, there’s brevity and there’s always a constant sense that Devin, much like you, doesn’t get sex on the regular just because he’s a rapper. Even as he inches closer to 50, the Dude is just as common as you or I. Sometimes things suck in his world. He often counters it by getting high and looking for the next woman to serenade. Such is the life of a lovable everyman. Such is the life of Devin the Dude.