The Next Spot is a recurring series dedicated to the albums that could’ve, would’ve, should’ve made the Decade Top 50.
Devin Copeland started rapping with Jugg Mugg and Rob Quest in the Odd Squad, whose Fadanuf Fa Erybody!!, was famously called Rap-A-Lot’s best album by no less than Scarface. In ’96, he joined the Face-assembled quintet Facemob. Yet Devin’s singular presence didn’t fully come across in either group, though the Odd Squad’s amiable goofiness clearly set a precedent for Devin’s solo material. What really should’ve been his commercial break-through was Just Tryin’ ta Live, his long-awaited sophomore album that featured beats from Premier, Dr. Dre and Raphael Saadiq and cameos from Xzibit and Nas.
But while Just Tryin Ta Live extensively chronicles the day-to-day struggles of a man concerned with typical party material, wine, weed and women, it somehow it remains as far away from party music as you can get. That limited topical range might drag in another rapper’s hands, but Devin’s endearing weirdness keeps things fresh. On opener “Zeldar,” Devin is an alien who discovers a patch of strange green trees in a field and decides to smoke them. “Lacville ‘79” is an affectionate tribute to his busted-ass Cadillac, which he keeps despite his complaints because it fits his easygoing lifestyle. “Who’s That Man, Moma?” is a cautionary tale, warning parents not to bring their seeds to a Devin the Dude show, “…unless they want to see some grown niggas shakin’ they bone.”
Blessed with a blunted, fluid drawl, Devin seamlessly fluidly alternates between lethargic and crooning in an almost-feminine falsetto. Album highpoint “Doobie Ashtray” best encapsulates the Houstonian’s unique skill set. Backed by Premier’s buzzed funk, Devin equates being out of weed to having your phone disconnected and having a yacht that won’t float. Just Tryin Ta Live is the crowning of Houston’s stoner prince–you don’t have smoke weed to enjoy this album, but it certainly helps.–Aaron Matthews