I Self Devine has been a rapper and community leader for some time. His 2005 record Self Destruction was an underrated slice of thoughtful, politically charged breakbeat-based hip hop. After it, the rapper seemed to disappear for a few years, during which he became more involved in Minneapolis community organizing and the arts. “What I found out is that some of my passion lies with connecting and building with people…I continued to write through that period, and kind of got reinvigorated,” the rapper said in a promotional YouTube. Inspired by his time working on Minneapolis’ south side, the rapper decided to release a series of four ten-track EPs. The first release is entitled LA State of Mind, and it’s about his experiences growing up in the notorious Athens Park neighborhood of LA in the 1980s. It’s available as a free download at the Rhymesayer’s website.
“Mecca,” the EP’s Emazin-produced final track, is one of its strongest. With a strong and distinctive vocal style, I Self Devine discusses his love for his hometown, but the mood feels somewhat ambiguous, uneasy and wistful. It’s that kind of subtlety that suggests Devine’s use of boom-bap isn’t about subcultural positioning, but is instead a personal medium for connecting his story to his audience.
Download: I Self Devine, “Mecca” (Prod. by Emazin)