As a man who’s constantly working on excellence (or WOE, if you’re in the know), Devontee was more than ready to debut his first album, Head Gone. Having worked as a producer and rapper during the last few years, he’s built a reputation as an artist to watch. He even carries himself with the swagger of a star, rolling into Community 54 on Queen St. with his entourage for our interview. But Devontee is an Ontario boy, born and raised and has no problem keeping it real. Sitting on the patio furniture at the back of the store, he begins to roll a joint while we discuss his new music, his family and how he defines his sound.
Where did you get the name for your new album, Head Gone?
I just kept hearing it in my everyday, this summer and last year. Then I was on Netflix and there was this documentary, like this African documentary called Head Gone and I was like “oh my god!” It was weird, like I was thinking about calling my album Headgone and then I saw the documentary the next day and I was like, fuck it, it’s a sign. Like I was kind of pissed that someone else had something out there, but I’m like it’s whatever.
You’ve been on everyone’s music radar for sometime now—why did you decide to debut your first album now?
If I could have given it earlier I would have, but these songs—like there are a lot of old songs on it. Over the last three years I’ve just been creating a lot of music, so I finally found a new engineer to mix and master my music, so I can give it the quality I want people to hear, so it’s just all about timing, you know? Just really understanding—because I do everything myself, I manage myself, do everything pretty much by myself—there’s my PR, but I aside from that I was just getting everything read. You know, knowing how to shoot videos, knowing how to get them out to the right people, trying to get the music heard by the right people. My goal is to reach the top billboards, so just trying to figure that out.
So you know how to shoot videos—was your latest video, Going Crazy, shot by you?
It wasn’t shot by me, it was shot by Dan Lemoyne. We sat down and he gave me some ideas and I loved his ideas, so I didn’t really have to input too much. That was the first video i just had to sit down and he just knew exactly what he wanted.
What was it like making that video, especially with someone else directing?
Honestly it’s my favourite video because, I don’t know it’s just so fun. It’s just something different, creative and artsy. Like something that’s not just me rapping in front of the camera. I just thought it was different and I loved it—did you love it?
Yes! I loved the part where it zoomed in on the waitresses face—so funny!
That was my favourite part! She killed it—you know she’s actually a waitress? That’s a real restaurant in Toronto. There’s a restaurant in Toronto called PAI, it’s a Thai place. The owner let us use the space and he let us borrow one of his waitresses and she killed it.
I heard you were a very talented athlete when you were younger—what made you decide to pursue music instead of sports?
I just followed my heart and what I love. I remember one time I got a concussion at a football camp. I was losing my memory and the one thing I wanted to remember was my songs. So that was a sign where my heart was, so I realized football wasn’t something I wanted to do my whole life.
So how old were you when you realized you wanted to be a musician.
I knew I wanted to be a musician since the fourth grade, but I took it seriously right at the end of high school. So I went to music college instead.
What did you study at music college?
I went to Metalworks in Mississauga and I studied audio production engineering. I’ve been a producer for a while. I started producing pretty much when I was rapping
So you said you were visiting your cousin in California—I’m assuming that’s your cousin Ayesha Curry? Do you spend a lot of time with the Currys?
That’s my family, you know? She’s my first cousin, you know so growing up those are like—I’m an only child, but her and her brother Jazz and her other brother Chad, those are like my brothers and sister. I was there actually last week and I’m going out tomorrow.
Do you spend a lot of time down there?
Here and there sometimes. It depends, it always goes different. Sometimes I’ll be here for months, sometimes I’m busy here, sometimes I’m somewhere else.
Where do you record predominantly? Where was Head Gone recorded?
It was all over. At my house in Whitby, some studios downtown. Recorded at Jellystone studio, Forty studio. I recorded in New york at Quad studios, recorded at my cousin’s pool house. I recorded at Kevin Durant’s house. So yeah it was crazy.
What/who inspired your personal sound?
My friends and family. The city. Probably Kanye West, Drake, Biggie Smalls, lil Wayne, J. Cole, Bounty Killer, Bob Marley. I mean there’s a lot—I listen to music from all over the world, different genres.
What about your sound makes you stand out in Canadian Hip Hop?
I don’t think there’s a voice like mine, first off. My production—it’s just a new frequency that people aren’t doing. You can look at it as there’s mainstream and then there’s a side stream, which is your own individual [sound]. Everyone has their own stream, you know? Some people want to go into the mainstream, some people try to break out from the mainstream. I think with my sound t’s like a river with different arms—it branches off from mainstream stuff, but it’s still original and creative and like when you hear my songs, it’s something you haven’t heard before, it gives you a vibe that you feel you’ve been missing. I feel like right now it’s hard to find quality music that resonates with your soul. I’m just a strong believer in God, so I feel like I have God to always give me the ability to inspire people and I think it shows in my music.
With the album now out, what’s next for you?
I got videos, more videos for my album, more shows. Hopefully a tour, more internationally. North America, maybe go to Asia. And then more music.
So you’re already planning your next album?
It’s done. It’s not mixed, but I want to put it out in spring. Out in spring and then another in Summer. I just feel like there’s no more time to waste in life—whatever you want to do, just do it.
By Robyn Bell