Max Bell now lives in Inglewood.
Rappers aren’t always great A&R’s. For evidence, see the walking id behind Big Sean and Theophilus London. Putting on your homies, however, is the fifth element of hip-hop. It’s a custom that explains everyone from Daz and Kurupt to TeeCee4800 and Sadboy Loco. If history is any indication, this is for the best.
So it goes that when Boogie mentioned KB Devaughn in a June 2016 interview with Pigeons and Planes, I checked for him immediately. For context, here’s Boogie’s adulatory alley-oop: “KB Devaughn, he’s like my protégé. He reminds me so much of myself at a younger age, but better. He raps with his emotions and he’s vulnerable with his music, just like me. That’s the little homie.”
The only song/video available at the time was KB’s “Longway.” Over swirling atmospherics and clipping percussion KB begins his first verse with the promise of drive-by retribution. He ends by lamenting the fact that he was in such a grim situation in the first place. Throughout, he raps with the graveled voice and impassioned delivery reminiscent of Jay Rock. On the hook, however, he proves he has a better ear for melody than the above mentioned Black Hippy member. It was an auspicious introduction.
Six months later, music and pedigree information on KB remains equally sparse. After connecting through a mutual acquaintance, I emailed the 22-year-old Inglewood native for a bit of background. Influenced by Andre 3000 and Lil Wayne, he began rapping at 15 and released his debut mixtape, Outside the Indo, in 2009. The mixtape, like nearly all of KB’s music, has since been scrubbed from the Internet. According to the brief biography he sent, his chief aim outside of rap is to move his mother to a better neighborhood. Undoubtedly, this paucity of material will soon change.
Today, we’re premiering the video for “Playin,” the first single from KB’s forthcoming project, With You. In listening to it, Boogie’s description holds true. This is some of the most vulnerable music you’ll get from someone who grew up surrounded by gangs from both sides of the flag. More assured than he is on “Longway,” his voice also harbors more pain.
Backed by a beat that deftly chops the beginning of Big Pun’s “Not a Player,” KB distils the inherent problems of being in a relationship when you’re down on your luck. Even if your significant other doesn’t have DMs from several backups, the paranoia remains. Unlike few forbears, KB also admits to not owning a car and being called “bummy” by the friends of who we’ll assume is his former girlfriend.
Though Boogie isn’t credited, you can hear his soft, lisped singing on the hook. It’s a gesture of friendship as much as it is the affirmation of an artistic bond. Both Boogie and KB make music that’s better because of its contradictions. As is the case with “Longway” and “Playin,” the hard-nosed rhymes of some songs stand in stark opposition to the raw emotion in others. It’s the acknowledgment of that duality that opens the door for greater depth. It’s for the best.