When it comes to the next generation of New York emcees, Young Devyn is leading the charge. She started gaining traction making Soca music at the young age of 8, but as she got older she started rapping as a hobby. It wasn’t until one of her freestyle videos went viral that she started taking rap seriously. Like most New Yorkers, she grew up on Hip Hop legends like Biggie Smalls, Jay-Z, Nas. Don’t get it twisted – she may be young, but she can rap as well as the top dogs. She’s dropped a few singles on Spotify and other streaming platforms, but her freestyles on YouTube have generated millions of views, grabbing the attention of many influential figures globally. One of those people is Sway Calloway of Sway In The Morning.
To this day she is still considered one of the best emcees to freestyle on his legendary show. She has been co-signed by many of Hip Hop’s biggest artists and even landed herself a spot on a cypher in the 2019 BET Hip Hop Awards. On her song ‘Straight To It’, Devyn reminds us yet again that she can hold her own. On the Drill beat, produced by Nevermore + 2300, Devyn floats the whole time, delivering nothing but lyrically compelling, hard hitting bars. Coming in hot with, “Lemme get straight to it, ain’t no shawty is talking the way that I do like these hittas don’t make music.”
It’s not the first time we’ve heard Devyn rapping over a drill beat. She showed us who’s boss on tracks like ‘Make It Hot’ or ‘Regardless’ with the late KJ Balla. YoungDevyn is sharp, witty, and ready for what’s next. VIPER sat down with her to discuss her new single, graduating from Soca to Rap, Nicki Minaj and more. Stream ‘Straight To It’ and be on a look out for her upcomin ‘Baby Goat’ EP.
Is Devyn your real name?
Yeah, that’s my real name. Ironically, Devyn means poet, so I find that real funny how the stars aligned.
How old are you?
I turned 19 in December. I graduated high school class of 2019. I was going to start to college, but everything got crazy with music.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a rapper?
I think it was after the first time I went viral. I was rapping for a couple months, but I wasn’t really taking it seriously. My family is from Trinidad and in Trinidad, we have the genre, Soca music. I had been doing Soca since I was eight and I became really the only child star in the Soca game. So I had a lot of success early on in that genre.
Was your name Young Devyn when you were doing Soca?
Actually, I never had a stage name. It was Devyn, Young Devyn, Lil Devyn. People would introduce me as different things. You know, Caribbean people, they’re going to call you whatever they decide to call you. When I made my Instagram, I just used the name Young Devyn, so that’s how my name became Young Devyn. I was doing Soca music, but I started rapping just as a fun hobby. Something to spice up my Instagram. So I started doing freestyle Fridays. I did one freestyle video and it went viral, it did like a million in a day and three million in a week. That’s when I was like, ‘OK this is something that I could actually take seriously’. Because of the video, celebrities were posting me; I was getting different opportunities.
Were your parents always supportive of your rap career or was it something that they grew to accept?
My mom, she supported off rip. My dad, it kind of took him a couple of years for him to even wrap his mind around the fact because I’m a naturally quiet, shy person. So for me to just turn around and rap, people would be so confused. Like, you can’t be the same person who was just sitting in the corner not saying anything. I was always quiet around my dad so he couldn’t even imagine his little daughter being on stage rapping or singing. So it kind of took him a couple of years. He was against it at first, but when he saw me perform in person and saw the reaction from my fans and how they was surrounding me, wanting pictures and autographs, it kind of registered to him like, “wow, this is bigger than her. My little daughter, she’s actually inspiring people.” Since my first talent show, my mom and supported me and supported my music to the point where she became a mom-ager. The rest of my family, they were all supportive, they were all excited. We was all freestyling and we were all winging it. We didn’t even know that I was doing music. I didn’t even know I was doing music. I was just getting booked for shows then at some point I finally started saying, I’m an artist.
What was it like finishing up high school while you were starting to go viral?
It was like a “finally” type of moment when I finished. Throughout the process, a lot of different things were happening, a lot of changes were happening. People would recognise me on the bus or on the train going to school. It was like a good thing, but also slightly a distraction. So my grades really took the fall because of the distraction. When I finally finished high school, I felt really accomplished. To be able to balance school from the time I was eight years old to when I graduated, there’s a lot of responsibility and pressure to keep good grades while maintaining the artistry. So the fact that I was able to do that, felt really good.
Tell me about your latest song, ‘Straight To It’.
It started off as a freestyle. I’m just starting to get back into the Internet. I was never really a social media type of person. I would enjoy it, but me personally, putting myself out there all the time, that was never me. I was like “alright cool I’ll do a freestyle Friday.” They wanted me to do a video so bad, but I didn’t want to do the average video or some average freestyle. I wanted to do something that I knew I would have fun writing, and I knew about the Drill wave going on and I really enjoyed it. So I did the freestyle, it went crazy. Like the Shade Room posted it, all the music pages, the blogs are posting it. I was like, OK, I’m going to turn it into an actual song. I went in the studio, I made it into a full length song, shot a video the week after or two weeks after. We put it out and the response has been crazy. So I’m really happy how that went.
I saw that you linked up with Rowdy Rebel, what do you guys have cooking up?
I can’t speak too much on everything, but we have a lot coming up. There’s of course a song that’s going to be something crazy for the city. I don’t feel like there’s really a female in the New York Drill wave because a lot of females are either really commercialised or they’re really super tough. There’s no girl that’s in between that everybody loves, I feel like I’m filling in that space. To have such legendary people behind me like Rowdy and Bobby, and to be so young and so still fresh in the game. That’s a crazy thing, you know. I know it definitely shocked the world when they seen that we linked up.
What are your thoughts on the current Drill scene?
First and foremost, rest in peace to Pop Smoke respectfully. No matter who started what, he definitely was the one who took Drill and Canarsie, Brooklyn to the world. To another level. If you really in tune with Brooklyn and the streets, like I even used to do Drill music. Rest in peace KJ Balla. Brooklyn Drill has been a thing. You know, there’s been a lot of artists like Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow and all these different artists for years. Pop took it to that mainstream commercial level. A lot of people can rap, but not a lot of people can make records. That’s what he did and that’s what made him such a superstar. It’s really unfortunate, his passing. I love the doors that he’s opened and now we are able to shed light on artists like Fivio Foreign, Rah Swish, Bizzy Banks and now Young Devyn. I think it’s a great temperature that we’re in right now.
Do you feel that New York has helped shape your sound and influenced your music?
Absolutely. Even in the demeanor, like my cadence. When you’re from New York, you automatically have thick skin. Everything is a little more fast paced. Everything is a little more aggressive. Just the way that I rap alone. On top of that being from New York, I come from a line-up of greats. We talking about Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas, Nicki Minaj, so many iconic legends in the game, and they’re all from New York City. You’ve got to pay attention, do your research, study the game in order to be like these people. That’s what I’ve done. So of course New York has shaped my sound, even the content of my music, the things I talk about, the things I’ve experienced in the streets of New York. Nicki was the reason I started rapping. I saw a documentary of her that I really connected with her on. I started listening to her music again because I was already a fan of hers but I was young when she came out. So the bars and the metaphors and all those things never really registered with me. When I was of age, I really started going back and listening and I’m like, yo, she’s nice. She inspired me. That’s when I started writing. I fell in love with Meek Mill and Lauryn Hill and Jay-Z and Lil Wayne. If you think of Young Devyn that’s kind of how I am in a boiling pot.
You’ve been steadily dropping singles for a while, do you think that you’ll put out a project soon?
Yeah! My EP is on the way, it’s dropping in a couple of weeks. I’m very excited because this is the first time my fans have gotten a full body project from me. Even though it’s seven songs, it’s 7/7 it’s all hits. On top of that, this will be the first time my fans really get to see me for who I am. You know, they’ve heard the freestyles but I don’t really post too much on the internet. I’m definitely going to start getting into that more because my fans show me nothing but love, it’s only right if I do the same. I feel like the best way that I express myself on a personal level is through my music. So I know once my fans hear it, they’re going to fall deeper in love because they get to see a different side of me. I think this is really going to bring us closer and it’s going to definitely broaden my fan base too. So in a couple of weeks ‘Baby Goat’ is dropping.
Are there any upcoming rappers from New York that you’re listening to right now?
Mr. Chicken he’s dope. Stunna Gambino, Bizzy Banks. London Hill, she’s another dope female rapper.
You’ve been hailed as one of the best freestylers to grace the mic on Sway in the Morning. Is there a certain mindset that you try to put yourself in when you’re doing these freestyles?
I actually try to not think at all. When you think so much that’s when you mess up. You really have to just go in there knowing this is what you came to do and just execute. It’s like OK, I’m going to Sway in the Morning and I know I gotta rap. What’s the point of being nervous when I know what I came here to do? Be prepared and execute it properly. So that’s what I do. Sway is like family. He treats me like a niece so I never have to be worried or feel nervous. Since the first day we met it’s been nothing but genuine love. So like, I don’t feel nervous. I go there and it’s like I’m visiting family.
What are some things that have been keeping you motivated?
Definitely the passion for music will always push me and motivate me. My fans. Last year I got signed and that was a monumental moment for me. Of course, my life changed in many different ways and just adjusting to it, that was new for me and that kept me motivated and excited. Working on music, speaking on the things for the future because I understood we were in a pandemic. There was a pause, not much we could do, but speaking for the future and putting my plans into play. It kept me excited and it kept me going. So the fact that now the things that I was just talking about last year are actually happening is really a blessing.
Is there anything else that you’re excited about this year?
Yeah, I have more than one project coming out this year and I’m definitely working a lot. I’m excited about the collabs. I was never really doing collabs before. I’m excited for my face to be out there, standing next to my parents. I’ve been in with all these people, we just never really got to work and finally the stars are aligning and I’m working with these people; it’s a great thing. Rowdy, I’m excited for that. That’s going to be something crazy. By the summertime it’s going to be over. I said that earlier today, it’s going to be crazy! I can’t wait. My fans, make sure you guys stay on the journey, it’s going to be a movie.
Anything you want to say to your fans?
Yeah, absolutely. I definitely want to tell you guys thank you for supporting me. I have fans have been with me since I was eight years old and I’m 19 now. The journey has been crazy, people seeing me grow up. They’ve seen me go from this little Soca girl with a tutu on stage, to see me rapping mad aggressive, like it’s crazy. I’m really thankful for that. I just want to say thank you guys. Keep supporting. It’s only up from here. It’s only major moves, great records. Just keep going, stay consistent. If you have a dream, be consistent about it. Don’t ever stop. Don’t let the Internet rush your success and just continue to be you, put God first and you’ll be good.
Interview by Calvin Schneider