Devin the Dude: To Tha X-Treme

Devin the Dude
To Tha X-Treme
Rap-A-Lot Records

From what my usually sober self has gathered via word of mouth and various media talking points, weed makes you crave nachos and heightens paranoia and convinces you that you're excessively brilliant and has you laughing at stuff that isn't really funny. (Which is why I avoid it--not out of morals, but because it'd just be redundant.) But if Devin the Dude is to be believed, the most overwhelming side effect of getting stoned is that it puts a hazy gloss of aw, hell nonchalance on everything thrown his way. Fittingly enough, most of the beats on his latest release are slow, loping, mini-Mooged and vocodered like the best g-funk, but with an emphasis on endless grooves and molasses bass that recalls King Tubby more than any contemporary hip-hop producer.

The production creates an ideal atmosphere for situations when time and nerves aren't much of an issue; it's not so much a catalyst as an uninhibitor, a way for Devin's calm confusion to try to work itself out. The cop-stop on "Go Fight Some Other Crime" isn't the terse, confrontational dagger fight of Jay-Z's "99 Problems" but rather a comedically snotty exchange between Devin's defensive deadpan ("I'm just sippin' coffee") and an oily-sounding Texas highway patrolman with an unsettlingly presidential cadence. The Pink Floyd-as-slow-jam of "Anythang" features a low-key R&B lead that underscores disappointed-parent lyrics with a hope-instilling, been-there sympathy: "Really ain't no need for self pity/Cryin' when there's no one else around/Life I know sometimes can get shitty/Even shittier when sleepin' on the ground/No need to complain." The album reaches a peak on "Briar Patch", a sleepily whispered Brer Rabbit taunt that makes it easy to understand why there's practically no bow-throwing, pistol-grip machismo on the album--he's too slyly charismatic to afford anyone the chance to start anything. And whether he's feigning innocence with his girlfriend after his old player ways start haunting him (on the goofy, De La-ish "What?"), or coolly observing the panicked reactions of his fellow passengers on a doomed flight (on the placid, folky "Right Now"), there's a strong presence in his tone. The likeably casual reactions laid out in his conversationalist flow give his otherwise ordinary voice a nuanced, bullshit-proof personality.

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