Rooted deeply in the sidewalks of the Bronx, rising Atlanta artist Dev Martin is bringing raw emotionality and honest lyricism with him on the way up
There isn’t a part of Dev that isn’t infused with the Bronx, it emanates from him with each word that comes marching out of his mouth with the cutting precision of a Prussian Soldier’s ceremonial march. His musical influences drawing directly from the same pavement that Dev played on as a child. Dev was born and raised in one of New York’s more recognizable housing projects, the Edenwald Projects. Given that Dev is a summer away from turning 28, his interactions with hip-hop while growing up coincided with “hip-hop’s golden era” as New York churned out rapper after rapper, number one after one. Styles P, Jadakiss, Fabolous, DMX and Jay-Z provided much of the soundtrack to Dev’s youth, accompanying him as he maneuvered his way through his teenage years. Tragically, Dev’s father passed away three months before he was born. He was a pro boxer who was trapping on the side to make ends meet. Growing up it seemed to Dev like everyone around the neighborhood had a story about his dad no matter where he was at. Although he wasn’t around to show Dev the ropes of becoming his own man, the stories gave Dev a sense of the type of man his father was. Getting to know someone through anecdotal evidence is never easy, especially a parent/loved one because of the unique combination of emotions that stem from such a loss. In Dev’s case, these stories allowed him to come to his own conclusions and do his best to make peace with what he couldn’t change. Although he might not have had his biological dad around, Dev and his step-father (whom his mom married while Dev was still young) developed a bond thicker than a concrete mixer. To Dev, that’s just his dad, and going forward in this article any reference to Dev’s dad is about his step-father, not biological. Dev was exposed to a lot of hip-hop through his dad, the two of them spending hours bumping the newest NYC releases while Dev took mental notes on what he was listening too.
Dev’s family history starts in the Caribbean, Saint John’s, Antigua to be specific. Dev’s mother was the first generation of their family born in the United States. Music flows strong through Dev’s veins, from his grandpa who starred in a reggae band back in Saint John’s to his mom whose beautiful singing voice Dev grew up listening to. Whether or not he knew at the time, growing up in the melting pot of influences that is the Bronx, Dev was learning how music could cross even invisible boundaries while speaking universal truths. Rounding out the interactions with music Dev had on a regular basis courtesy of his Caribbean family was the raw, guttural, emotional sound of the Bronx that was the center of the hip-hop universe as Dev was growing up. Dev carries an aura that announces itself as soon as he starts talking, a calm but intense energy, keenly observing its surroundings, taking notes, relaxing without abandoning its spot on the back wall.
Like any kid who grew up in America knows, substitute days in school were a free-for-all. It was on those days that Dev would crowd around a desk with his friends Jah Jah Town, Dondre and P-Nice, rapping over the pencil beats his three homies were laying down. It wasn’t until 2012 that Dev recorded for the first time, after his cousin introduced Dev to one of his friends, a girl who caught Dev’s eye. Wanting to impress her, Dev covered a Drake track, laying his heart on the line and expressing how he felt about her. He kept his recordings low-key, more focused on getting the attention of the ladies than sharing it with his family. One day Dev was at home, bumping a song he had made over a Keith Sweat sample when his dad came into the room. It was the first time that any of his family had heard his voice on a track, and Dev felt nervous energy shooting through him. It took a second, but when his dad recognized that is was Dev rapping he turned to Dev, giving him a look of surprise as he asked, “You rap?”. The reassurance and support Dev felt when his dad told him that his music had real potential stuck with him as his life kept moving forward past high school.
Any dreams Dev had of performing on a stage were put aside when it came time to getting his finances in order post-graduation. By enrolling at Lincoln Tech in Queens, a vocational school for Auto Technicians, Dev translated his years-long love of cars into a job at Volkswagon-Porsche that he has had for the last nine years. Even though Dev wasn’t a stranger to hard work, his natural intelligence combined with the endless hours working on, thinking about, or playing car related video games had given him a leg up at Lincoln. One day, he was stopped after class by one of his teachers, Mr. Kane. The class had just gotten a test back, and Dev was pretty happy with his 85. When Mr. Kane pulled Dev aside, he told Dev that he had heard good things about him from some of the other teachers. Then he asked Dev if he had studied. Being truthful, Dev told him he hadn’t. Mr. Kane looked back at him, and let Dev know that he wasn’t doing himself any favors by not studying. Dev’s natural intelligence would only take him so far, and even though he still could be successful, he was selling himself short by not applying himself fully to whatever he decided to do. It was a life lesson that Dev didn’t know he needed, it was one destined to stick with him the rest of his life. From the day he was born, Dev’s veins seemed to be filled with a need for speed. He couldn’t wait until he could have a car of his own and allow his visions to become a reality. Given that Dev is a life-long gamer, it makes perfect sense that he spent the years leading up to his actually getting behind the wheel scratching his itch by running god only knows how many laps on Forza Motorsports. The game essentially functioned as a simulator for Dev by giving his fast-twitch muscles hours of practice while beating his friends and taking their money. The vast array of cars and customizable body and engine kits helped mold Dev’s understanding on how a car would react in real life. Combined with his surroundings, these desires could have easily led Dev to step into murky waters on his paper route but again, his commitment to staying true to his path kept Dev focused on the long game while stacking taxable income. By the time Dev was ready to move onto his second car, his grind had paid off in the form of a yellow 2004 Audi S4 that was his baby. One of Dev’s favorite memories of people’s reactions to it was when someone (I gotta ask who) saw him hopping out one day and called out, “Yo, I see you! You got that little Miami Vice thing!”. He tucked the memory away, knowing it was the type of comment that would have made young Dev beam from ear to ear with pride.
As Dev continued down his career path, the urge to get behind a mic and record remained in the back of his mind slowly growing. He was looking around to decide how he was going to go about making music again, Dev realized that he was surrounded by other people either wanting too or already in the process of making music. It was in 2018 that that urge had grown to a point too large to ignore pointing Dev once again back in the direction of the booth. Life works in mysterious ways, people whose vibes emanate on the same wavelength frequency acting as magnets bringing them together for reasons sometimes beyond their comprehension at the time. Dev was still living in New York at the time working with VW/Porsche, when he linked up with a friend named Lou. The two got to talking, one thing led to another, and the next thing Dev knew the two had recorded a song together. Falling back in the groove, Dev started working with another friend and up and coming producer, Panda out of Mt. Vernon. As Dev kept on clocking in the hours at the plant and behind the mic, he made sure to keep an eye out for opportunities that came his way. The quality of the music he was making was alright, but didn’t quite live up to the standards Dev had set in his head. It was then that the universe again opened a door for Dev to dive deeper into music.
The beast inside wouldn’t calm down, rattling it’s cage, demanding attention and freedom to run wild. What hunger was originally sated by the sporadic sessions in New York now demanded a full three course meal with pallet cleansers. During a 2019 trip down to Atlanta, Dev was posted up at Sivas Tavern over in Kennesaw doing his thing with his guys. It was his girls birthday, so naturally it was time to show out a little bit. In short order Dev and his squad were goin off with bills flowing through the air. It wasn’t exactly the scenario one imagines networking in, but when the producer Drumz&Rosez walked up and started chatting Dev up, it was business mode. It was also a connection Dev knew was going to be important. Not long after that, Dev moved down to Atlanta full-time. He began working with Drumz&Rosez on a consistent basis, building on the initial chemistry when they first met at Sivas. Locking into the studio, Dev began to really find himself as an artist with Drumz pushing him to explore new realms of musicality and within himself. There is no doubt music from the Bronx played the earliest and largest role in his life, Dev’s listening tastes contains rappers from across generations and the map. From Beanie Siegel and Cassidy to Trouble and Young Scooter queued up behind one of Dev’s longtime favorites Nipsey Hussle, his influences draw on raw emotional intelligence combined with an unwillingness to bend in their belief in themselves. It is in his DNA to remain true to himself no matter the situation, trusting his gut above all else and continually looking to elevate himself through all of life’s trials and tribulations. Dev’s gaze remains locked on the future as he continues to learn and grow. At this point, Dev has five songs officially released with each one bringing the listener into a different room of his mind. Make sure to follow Dev on Instagram and listen to his currently released music as he ramps up to drop his debut EP this summer, Mack Sauce.While it’s not a large sample size, the quality of each drop is concrete evidence that this time, Dev’s mentality is here for the long run.
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