This article also available as a podcast here.
Meet the Talent: Devin Dabney
Devin Dabney (he/him/his)
Do you have an MC Name? “Honestly, now I just go by my name cuz my name’s kind of a cool name: it’s an alliteration. It kind of sounds like a superhero name, like I think of Peter Parker, Bruce Banner: they are all alliterations. And when I think of all the rappers I look up to, they all go by their names. It was also a big change to be like, can’t it just be me? Can’t I just be Devin when I do music?
Who are your top influencers? “Tupac, Kanye (even though he has become what he’s become, he still is my biggest rap influence), Kendrick Lamar, Will Smith (“He seemed like a superhero, like a Black superhero. He could do anything: he would star in a movie and make music for the movie, and I just wanted to be him.”), Lupe Fiasco, Eminem (“best wordsmith”), Tech9 (“unapologetically weird”)
How long have you been rapping? 15 years. “A lot of this journey has been a confidence journey. And the reason I started rapping was really because of some of the stuff where at that age  I was learning who I was and I was not really comfortable in any social setting because I was starting to spend more time around white people because I was being put into the “advanced” classes…but I was living in an all Black neighborhood and I was around all Black kids. I didn’t fit in with either. All the white kids wanted to touch my hair and ask me questions about basketball and then all the Black kids would make fun of my clothes. I just think of the classic lunchtime: everyone’s around the table and they are just rapping and I just thought: “I can’t win their respect by being tough cuz I’m not a tough person [laugh]. But I can win their respect by rapping because I have the brain for it. I would rap on the bus, in the locker rooms, in the hallways, in the cafeteria, all that. You know little ameteur teenager rap battling stuff would happen.”
What climbing forms do you engage in? “Because of my job I mostly climb indoors. Right now I tend to be more of a boulderer. For the last few years I’ve been more of a boulderer. If I could I would just climb outside.” Devin also has also been a routesetter for the last 10 years.
Have you ever rapped and climbed at the same time? “I don’t think so. Maybe I’ve rapped a song to myself while climbing…I love having music and climbing together but I’ve never rapped original stuff while climbing. I was probably rapping along with something else.”
Have you ever made a video merging Hip Hop and climbing? “No, but I have always wanted to….And honestly, climbing rap music is something that we talked about for years before I actually started doing it….My thing is, I would want it to be a really really good video: I would want to take it very seriously and I don’t think I have the money for that….I think climbing and Hip Hop are made for each other. ”
Have you ever attended any climbing film festivals? Reel Rock.
Thoughts on film Hip Hop Gone Wild: “Oh, I know this lady! Becca?..I think that we follow each other on social media and I remember us messaging back and forth one time because she was into Hip Hop and she beat boxed and stuff. I don’t remember exactly what we said but we were just, like, talking about music and she was asking me questions about what I do and stuff…She had found my climbing music and then we started talking. She was just asking me questions. I saw her stuff, but I did not see this….this was put out in Sept 2018 our conversation was Jan 31st of that year so 8 months later.”
Still wack, even reading that a second time.
What did you think of the video? “I appreciated it for what it was. It’s not that I don’t like it, it just feels campy to me. Just knowing her and watching her social media a lot of what she does is she’s just having fun and doing cool stuff that’s kinda silly…I don’t know what her purpose was in making it. If I rolled up to Reel Rock and I didn’t know Becca and that played, I would be like ‘what the hell is this?’ I don’t want you to think that I don’t like the video or that I don’t support white women making rap music…I think it’s all about context. If I went to Reel Rock and this played, I would be like “WHAT??” without any forewarning or anything or not knowing the person. It would be like if Daniel Woods just suddenly made a rap music video, I would be like, alright you can’t at least try to find somebody?”
How do you feel about the one Black person on the screen? “I didn’t even see the Black person, that’s why I say no. I mean, if that Black person was featured…or maybe if there was like one or two Black people climbing in the video, if that were the case, I would feel better about that. It doesn’t have to be all Black people…I don’t know why I feel weird watching it, but I do…I do think that one of the reasons that we don’t see it [Hip Hop climbing community] is because there’s this unspoken agreement or belief that there’s no Black people in climbing. So, why would they even search? If there’s no Black people in climbing, there’s certainly no Black rappers in climbing.”
Where can people find your work, Devin? Spotify and Band Camp. You can only find my climbing music on Band Camp. That’s because pretty much all of my climbing music is parody music. I have 5 climbing rap albums. The first one came out in 2015.
Recommended album: If You Didn’t Send It’s Too Late
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