Female poet/MC Devynity is one of the recent winners at The Elegant Hoodness Musical Program, an ongoing artist showcase series based in New York City. Devynity has been pursuing her artistic dreams since her high school days at the very prestigious LaGuardia School of Performing Arts. She has been published in the critically acclaimed Letters To A Young Sister by Hill Harper, which features contributions from the likes of Michelle Obama, Chanel Iman and a host of other incredible black women. Devynity is devoted to the education and knowledge of hip hop. N.A.B. sat down with Devynity to discuss her music, the role of female MCs in hip hop and her new mixtape release.
N.A.B.: Congrats on your recent win at The Elegant Hoodness Musical Program. Many artist showcases are male dominated. Since the beginning of 2010, The EHMP has had at least one female winner at each competition. What do you think you brought to the table that evening at the Bowery Poetry Club that was different from your “average” female MC?
Devynity: Thank you! I am very confident in my own skin and that’s what I try to convey in my music and when I perform. It’s a double standard but, still a reality that our physical appearance greatly determines whether or not we as female MCs are taken seriously. I make sure my beats are dope and my rhymes are tight enough that all the audience is focusing on is what really matters: the music.
N.A.B.: You are an acclaimed poet, with many accolades under your belt. When did you decide to transcend from Devnity the female poet to Devynity the female MC?
Devynity: Well I’ve always been a fan of hip hop music since like infancy [laughs], and my work as a spoken word artist has always been a reflection of my appreciation for the culture. I’ve always felt like I was an MC even though I was doing slam poetry, so it was more like a natural progression for me than an actual transcendence. I can’t say that the transition was seamless though, because at first, learning how to master my flow over a beat was definitely a challenge for me. I was so used to reading poems a cappella that flowing to a beat was something I had to study. I started listening to MCs with very unique and powerful flows like Busta Rhymes, Eminem and Ludacris to develop my own style.
N.A.B.: A lot of your music has positive influences towards woman and children alike. What is your inspiration?
Devynity: I make a conscious effort to tackle topics in my music that I feel haven’t been addressed already due to the lack of a female voice in hip hop. The music is male-dominated, which means men are writing the majority of the words we hear. Men are going to write about what they care about and what they think will appeal to a female audience. I write from my own perspective as a woman and that often results in songs that have a feminine approach.
N.A.B.: You have attended the LaGuardia School Of Performance Arts and graduated from Hunter College. How important is education to you, and more importantly how do you utilize knowledge in your lyrics?
Devynity: “Knowledge is power.” I truly believe that. Before gangsta rap had the monopoly in hip hop, MCs used to boast about their intelligence. Rakim, KRS One, for example, are very intelligent MCs. You can hear it in their rhymes. There’s nothing to be gained from promoting ignorance. Hip hop is nothing if it isn’t a voice for the people, and that voice should know what it’s talking about. I don’t go out of my way to teach in my rhymes. I don’t want to be preachy, but I will say that having a degree hasn’t hindered me in any way. I’m the first person in my family to graduate from college. It’s something I’ve very proud of, so I talk about it and encourage others to do so in my music. The key to teaching somebody something without them getting bored is entertaining them at the same time. That’s something I grapple with every time I step in the booth.
Devynity: No, we’re here. The masses just haven’t been checking for us [laughs]. I think that the void has become so overwhelming that the audience and the industry are now seeking female MCs out. We are missed but, we never went anywhere. Established female MCs haven’t been putting anything out and we haven’t seen any new mainstream ladies do their thing until Nicki Minaj most recently, which makes it seem as if females aren’t around rapping. It’s also been a while since an established female MC has gone platinum with sales and that plays a significant part in why labels aren’t investing in female rap artists like they used to. Hopefully all this new awareness of our absence in the game will spark a resurgence.
N.A.B.: What is the name of your current mixape, and do you have a release date?
Devynity: The new mixtape is titled The Definition and I don’t have an official date yet. I’m looking to release it sometime in June.
N.A.B.: If the word could only remember Devynity by one quote. What would it be?
Devynity: “She’s not your average rapper.”
N.A.B.: Do you have any last words or shoutouts?
Devynity: Yes, shoutout to EMHP and A.D. The General for putting showcases like this together for artists to come out and do our thing in a positive environment. Shoutout to Ryan Perfect, the Quincy Jones behind my upcoming mixtape The Definition. Please look out for it, I guarantee you will love what I’m bringing to the table. Thank you.
You can find more about Devynity on her website, www.devynity.com
Devynity – Boxing With A Goddess
Devynity – Stupid Fresh