First Listen #47: DEViANO’s “Novacane”

Around the beginning of summer 2020, I found myself feeling in need of a new energy in my writing about music. Before then, much of my work was centered on more mainstream artists, and while it was nice to engage in conversations with the music of people who have already reached a certain level of success, I wanted the chance to focus on the talent outside of those circles. This search led me to folks like Justy, Sephyr Patriq, FaFa, TwoFace, and DEViANO who were making music just as good (if not, better) than the people I was hearing on the radio. This opened my work up to artists on a similar path as mine – trying to build something from the ground up based in what we’re passionate about. And it’s been such a fun and amazing experience so far. So when DEViANO reached out to me asking if I’d help him announce the release of his newest single, “Novacane,” it was an instant yes!

“They say ‘sharing’s caring’ I’m coming for what is mine now.”

Something that I admired about DEViANO’s music almost immediately – when I heard it for the first time earlier this year – was how versatile he was on each song I listened to. “Steelo,” “Tell Me You Will,” and “PaperChase” were the first three songs I’d heard from DEViANO, and from those three tracks alone, you can get the gist of how much RANGE he has. I’ll always believe that the sign of a talented artist is how well they move through different musical spaces; it’s cool to be good at one thing, but allowing yourself to experiment makes room for a certain type of growth – one that relies heavily on being willing to make mistakes along the way. And it’s clear that DEViANO, though generally finding home in sounds that lean more hip hop and R&B, is able to push himself to make something different each time he sets his eye on a new track. “Novacane” is no exception. The track’s super short, coming in at just under two minutes, and DEViANO wastes no time as he breezes through lines about the pressure of needing to succeed (“Family name on my back give me shoulder pain”) but taking the necessary steps to get there anyway, along with some lines about prioritizing dreams and the changes that come “when your life is on the mic.” I will say, though, that the “They say sharing’s caring, I’m coming for what is mine now” line is my favorite. I love the production on here as well; Comma Dee did an amazing job with it. It reminds me a lot of the songs on Tyler the Creator’s Goblin (2011) – very bass-forward, heavy, and commanding. And I think that complements the bars on here really nicely – and gets stuck in your head VERY quickly.

More than anything, though, I heard a lot of artistic growth on this song. While I did enjoy “Steelo,” “PaperChase,” and “Tell Me You Will,” the lines on “Novacane” feel sharper and more developed, and DEViANO’s flow sounds more confident. “No Time” and DEViANO’s freestyle set to Jack Harlow’s “Tyler Herro” give me that as well; it’s so nice to return to an artist almost half a year later and hear the work they’ve put in. “Novacane” is a super solid track from a super solid artist and proof positive that working on your craft is essential.

This time last year I wanted to quit doing music, ’cause I was tired of the lack of recognition for my work after doing it for this long. I had to reflect on why and who I was doing music for, and thankfully I didn’t quit.

I’m excited to hear more from DEViANO. He asked me what I was hoping to see/hear from him in the future, and I think I’ve settled on two main things. #1: I’m sure he’ll have no problem with this, but I think it’s key for him to continue to push himself to experiment with his sound. It’s so important to push boundaries – not only does it make the music better, but it also makes it more fun and keeps the passion going. I would LOOOVVEEE to hear him deviate a little more from his musical comfort zone – do something completely out of left field. Even if it doesn’t work, it could open up some new ways of putting sounds together. #2: Apparently, a fuller-length project is in the works (or will be soon…he wouldn’t tell me much), but like….I would like to see it lol. It’s a completely different experience hearing an artist across a complete project; you have opportunity to hear what their vision is for a full musical landscape, rather than several smaller moments. And I’d like to have that opportunity with DEViANO’s music – of course, when he feels like the time is right. All in all, I think DEViANO is steadily finding his musical path, and I’m eager to listen to what he offers us in 2020.

Listen to “Novacane,” “Tyler Herro Freestyle,” and “No Time” on Spotify by clicking the images below.

A (second) Q&A with DEViANO

Tamar: So, it’s been about four months since the last time we connected – definitely doesn’t feel like it! How have you been? 

DEViANO: I know!!! Time goes quick doesn’t it?! Aha. I’m very well, thank you. I’m alive, I’m breathing, I’m blessed. 

T: Last time, you mentioned that rapping along to people like Pac, Eminem, and Biggie got you into being interested in writing your own music, but I’m interested now in what your earliest memory of listening to music is. Do you remember the first song you heard? Was there a specific person in your life that influenced your musical taste? 

D: You know what? That’s a very good question! The first song I consciously remember is an Indian song I heard on TV – “Etho Oru Patu” – it was a hit in India when I was like 5/6, and my uncle used to play it on the keyboard. I forgot about this song ’til last year, and when I heard it after 20 years. The nostalgia was crazy!

T: Have you found yourself moving differently creatively since the pandemic has gone on? I’ve found myself having an excess of creative energy over the past few months; have you felt your creativity move in a specific direction?

D: Oh, for sure! I was furloughed at the beginning and near the end of the year, I just quit my job & started doing music full time. In the beginning, I had a creativity block. My music is inspired by what I do and the things I see and the people I meet. But with lockdown, these things were not possible, so I was force to dig deeper. Also, being an independent artist, I have to focus on the business side as well as the music, so this pandemic really gave me time. Which I’m very grateful for. I was able to focus more on the branding & marketing and really getting the DEViANO brand correct. 

T: What was the inspiration behind “Novacane”? Did you work with another producer on the track or was it all you? (If it was all you, did the beat come first or the lyrics?)

D: This beat was made by a producer called COMMA DEE; he’s a producer in the UK. That beat just knocks! The grimy hi-hat and the kick drum pattern really captivated me.

T: What made now feel like the best time to release the track?

D: Real DEViANO fans know this record has been out on my YouTube for a minute. But the insights on this record were so good, I had to get this onto streaming. I remastered the record, I collaborated with Adamantly Creative on the cover art, and did a little freestyle shoot with JMB Media for an official re-release of the record. To round off 2020.

T: 2021 is only a few weeks away. Where are you hoping to go, musically, next year?

D: Yes, I have a LOT of new music coming out next year. I’m working on an EP, got some exciting features, some exclusive merchandise and lots more to come!

T: You don’t have to tell me specifically what it is, but do you feel like you reached your artistic goal this year?

D: I don’t set goals; I prefer to grow at my own pace. But if you asking if I’m satisfied with what I’ve done this year – oh, for sure! This has been the best year for me musically. 

T: When I look back at things I wrote earlier this year and compare them to the way I’m writing/creating now, I can see how much I’ve grown into my work in the past year. I can hear that growth in your work as well! How are you looking at the music you made earlier this year, compared to the singles you’ve released more recently?

D: My growth is definitely evident. I’m the type of artist that gets better the more I do something. My engineering skills have gotten so much better, and I have been working and collaborating with other creatives, which was improved my skills as a writer and made me a better songwriter. Sometimes, I wish I could go back and redo some of the records, but then again, I like the fact I can look back and see the improvements. 

T: What has 2020 taught you? What has 2020 brought you? 

D: It taught me that consistency is KEY. I literally made a post a few days ago about this. This time last year, I wanted to quit doing music, ’cause I was tired of the lack of recognition for my work, after doing it for this long. I had to reflect on why and who I was doing music for, and thankfully I didn’t quit. Because where I am this year, compared to last year, is crazy! 

T: Bringing this one back from the last time: What’s your favorite song and album right now and why? 

D:  My favourite song right now is “Damn” by Omah Lay. The melody, the lyrics, the beat. Everything about that song is so perfect. The favourite album right now – I got a couple: Higher Place (2020) by Skip Marley, Link Up (2020) by Preme & Popcaan and While the World Was Burning (2020) by SAINt JHN. 

T: Will we see a full-length project from you any time soon? 

D: Yes, VERY SOON! That’s all I’m going to say.


All Photos Courtesy DEViANO

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