Rapper shows personal and artistic growth on fittingly titled 'Coming of Age'
As its title suggests, Coming of Age, the most recent EP from rapper Devin Xo, resulted from a lengthy process marked by both personal and artistic growth — not that the MC meant for the name to be taken quite so literally.
“I'm sure people will break it down that way, but that wasn't my intention,” said Devin, born Philippe Laroque 25 years ago, who hosts an EP release show at the Summit on Friday, Oct. 13 (the EP will receive its official release on Oct. 18). Rather, the title initiated as a reference to the coming-of-age films the musician obsessed over early in the creative process, including "The Way Way Back” (thumbs way, way up) and “The Spectacular Now” (thumbs down).
At the time, Devin's life was following a similar arc as the typical character within the film genre, as he navigated heartbreak and a heightened emotional state that, ultimately, imbued him with a greater understanding of both surroundings and self.
The rapper started work on Coming of Age in May 2015, setting it aside after his girlfriend at the time left him for another guy. In its place, he recorded Fake Smiles, a spiteful, venomous effort that served as a way to exorcise his most cancerous thoughts.
“My friends at the time were like, ‘Maybe you should lighten up on the negativity,' but when you're in a situation like that, the anger is everywhere in your whole body, and it goes from the tip of your head all the way down to your toes,” Devin said. “That negative energy ended up pushing everyone around me to the point it was like, ‘OK, dude. We don't want to be around you anymore.' Not only did I lose the girl I was dating, but I lost people I thought were my friends, and that put me in a very suicidal headspace.”
Devin followed Fake Smiles with Journey to Paradise, which countered as a mountain peak to the latter's valley, written and recorded at a point in time when the rapper had finally outpaced those negative thoughts. “Journey to Paradise was like positivity overload,” Devin said. “It was like, ‘I finally got over it, and this is how I feel now.'”
After exploring these opposing emotional poles, Devin returned to Coming of Age, which he described as a more balanced effort, incorporating his newly hopeful outlook with an increasingly revealing, introspective side.
“I'm going to look at all three projects like a [swimming] pool,” he said. “The first two I was in the shallow end, and on my current project I'm moving toward the deep end a little more.”
Witness “Free Your Soul,” which centers on an ebullient, piano-kissed beat and opens with the rapper contemplating slitting his wrists. “No friends, no girl, just me and my thoughts/Screaming out to the sky, beg the pain to stop,” he raps.
“Life's going to hit you really hard, and it's most likely going to hit you in the face, but the pain is going to go away and you're going to grow from it and become a better person,” said Devin, who was born and raised in Middletown, New York, and first became infatuated with hip-hop after hearing Dr. Dre's “Let Me Ride” at age 12. “Or you can keep doing what you're doing. Those are the two paths: You can grow or you can stay the same. I tend to not like people who stay the same.”