The Man Who Would Be King Under Dagenham’s Neon
On Eyes For The Blind, Devlin is sage Virgil guiding wide-eyed Dante through the circles of Dagenham & Barking – walking their avenues and alleyways, conjuring ghosts of past, summoning memories from the landscape of his coming up. Containing a divination of his debut Bud, Sweat and Beers and beyond as he progs the sonic orchards of the afterlife – “Death is just part of life…down here where men do lots of things we shouldn’t”, he raps, raising dark nights, when heavy fog drifts off the Thames, rolls over the deserted wharves of Gallion’s Reach and certain deeds are committed. Marching over the streets of East London, Devlin illuminates the underground, peeps in high rise windows, gazes at the city, himself and the listener. He’s rubbernecking all the way back to Tales of the Crypt, Dagenham’s OT crew fighting the beast of the streets.
‘The Next Breed’ sounds like the return of a champ – fit, pumped and prepped as ever. Storm clouds rumble over ‘Home’, the excellent collaboration with fellow Barking native Potter Payper, as they trade bars about those who have gone before, those who have passed, those who have fallen, of the dog days – the overriding message being no matter what befalls you there is no place like home –
“I’m getting flashbacks while I’m rolling through this borough, she made me who I am, I guess I hate her but I love her.” Devlin advises “all the street kids to dream big and try and find a piece of beauty where the beast lives.”
That vein of thinking continues across ‘Air I Breath’ and ‘All We Have Is Now,’ counselling fulfilment of potential. On ‘Music’, he maps his prowess and horsepower –
“In dark times I’m just a distant melody playing in someone’s dark mind yet to be edited…from deepest meanest gutter to the brassiest private school…I was here at the start, I’ll be there at the finish.”
Devlin’s panoramic East London is a Jacobean theatre of life on the streets, it’s tough but on ‘Count Your Blessing’ he expounds moving forward and being thankful for what you have. He is a shrewd observer of the Dickensian underbelly, the Shakespearean drama, as he struts through darkest nights seeking Utopia, the desire within, chasing elusive dreams, kings and queens all chewing on the same pie. On ‘Ghostwriter’ he raps,
“I never chose this path, it chose me, roaming around these cold streets, lost in thought, documenting the things I see…trapped in a manor, I never knew there was more than Barking and Dagger…so I started writing to cleanse my soul, emptying out my head when I spoke and people told me I helped them because the things that I was saying, they felt them and it’s taken its toll but you’re welcome…”
Comparable to the psychogeography of Ballard, Kureishi, Wheatle, Sinclair, it’s a mapping of London and a record that is required listening.