Devin Burgess Showcases Versatility with That’s Unfortunate LP

Devin Burgess
Devin Burgess
Photo Credit: Curtis Turner

Devin Burgess is flying high after the release of what he knows is his most well-rounded project yet. That’s Unfortunate, Devin’s latest full-length album, arrived last week complete with 20 songs, a handful of features, and a multi-faceted display of the Cincinnati rapper/producer’s far-reaching skills.

After losing his job last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Burgess says, “I had all this free time, and I could finally sit down and work on music. That’s Unfortunate is a product of that.”

With the newfound time to dedicate toward his craft, Burgess has been firing on all cylinders. So far this year, he’s shared Swooty Mac collab Sunday Morning, his solo EP 2018 and his alter-ego beat tape Kei$ha, not to mention co-producing Brandon Isaac’s latest album, The Sketches of Healing 2020. However, That’s Unfortunate stands apart from Burgess’s latest projects for its versatility. The LP balances vibe-y cuts, party tracks, love songs and bangers, and hears the MC switch up his flow between melodic anthems and hard-hitting raps.  

“I always feel like people want to put me in a box or think that I’m one dimensional – that I can’t tap into different things,” he tells Audiofemme. “So, I wanted this to be the fullest representation of me. Like, if no one ever heard me before, this project is the best way to introduce everyone to me and what I have to offer.”

That’s Unfortunate opens with a powerful spoken word by B.A.D. (Be A Difference) and snippets of poetry are woven throughout the effort. 

“I’ve always gravitated toward B.A.D.’s poems,” Burgess says of the Cincy-based poet and songwriter. “I thought it was important for a Black woman to be the first voice people heard on my album. I wanted it to be something unexpected. And Black women are the reason I am the way I am today. I was raised pretty much by my mom and my aunties and my grannies, so I wanted to show some love.”

Other highlights include a well-placed sample from The Lox and Dipset’s August Verzuz battle on the outro of “Peace,” as well as a feature from Pink Siifu. 

“That’s the homie,” Burgess says of the Cincinnati-bred Siifu. “We were listening to different beats, and he’s always eager to make music. We got the beat from demahjiae, he’s an Oakland-based producer, and I think Siifu wrote his verse in like ten minutes!”

“I had never gotten a verse like that from him,” he continues. “The tracks we’ve done in the past have been more vibe-y, more personal, but on this one he was just going off. So, I knew that I needed to show up, because I’m not trying to get washed on my own record. I wanna make sure that if he’s up here, I’ve gotta match it or be above it. I think it’s healthy competition – it keeps everyone on their toes.”

Burgess has already released clips for That’s Unfortunate cuts “Everlasting” and “Baritone,” and says he has a third video on the way. “I’ve already reached a personal best for videos since I’ve [filmed] three, and I’m definitely trying to put out as many visuals as possible,” he says. 

“The energy around this project has been so different, but in a good way,” he adds. “I’ve never felt this way about a body of work before and I feel like I really applied myself in every way, shape and form. I feel like this is the most cohesive, most consistent body of work I’ve ever done.”

Follow Devin Burgess on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Roberto and Risky Patterns Reunite for ‘Invierno’ EP

Photo Credit: Carter Hawks

Cincinnati rapper Roberto and South Texas-based producer Risky Patterns returned last week with their latest joint offering, Invierno, which Roberto will celebrate with a livestream release party via Zoom on Saturday, March 6. The six-song EP marks the second installment in the duo’s seasonal-themed series, after 2020’s Verano (Spanish for “summer;” with Invierno, which means winter, out now, the pair will next release Primavera in spring and Otoño in fall). They first teamed up on last year’s Many Truths EP, when Risky Patterns was still using the moniker Matador. 

For Invierno, Roberto and Risky Patterns continue to build on to the chemistry that they initiated with Many Truths and serve up a new Southern hip hop sound. The pair started writing songs for the project and testing them out for live audiences while touring in Texas with Devin Burgess at the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic. 

“[Risky Patterns] sent me the first beat I ever rapped on when I was 16. So, it kind of built itself into a relationship to the point where I was grabbing beats off his Soundcloud and then we ended up touring together,” Roberto tells Audiofemme. “When we were touring, which is the only time we’ve ever been together in person, we were working on this project.”

Invierno has the audible ease of a project written pre-Coronavirus and the wild stories that can only be captured while on the road. Each track is named after a significant destination in the duo’s Texas travels, such as the desolate “Exit 51,” where Roberto, Risky Patterns and Devin got stranded after running out of gas.

Roberto, who hails from Texas but is based in Cincinnati, said he also felt a special kind of grounding from creating the EP in his home state. “When I was in Texas, shit just kept coming to me,” he recalls. “I don’t know if it was my ancestors or what… but I was really just doing what I felt like I was being told.”

The project still feels a heavy Queen City presence, though, as the rapper calls on several of his “best friends” for features. Invierno sees welcomed assists from local artists Jay Hill, Ladi Tajo and GrandAce, as well as out-of-towners Na$ty and Miles Powers. 

“This project is new to me in that way,” says Roberto. “There’s artists on there that I really admire. This project is reflective of my mission statement as an artist, which is to connect my roots to my upbringing between Texas and Ohio. Everybody here that I know has [a] Risky Patterns [beat] in their head somewhere, and a lot of people of over here I knew would sound good on his beats.”

The collaborative chemistry is especially felt on “sharpstown usa” – the electrifying result of Roberto’s years-long friendship with Jay Hill and Ladi Tajo. “That song makes me so happy,” he says. “Back in the early days, we would all pull up to any show in Cincinnati together. If I did a show, it would be Ladi Tajo and [Jay Hill’s group] Patterns of Chaos with me. Their song ‘Sleep Paralysis’ that they did together; I mixed that song. I’m really glad that chemistry got to be heard.”

2020 was an extremely prolific year for Roberto; in addition to two EPs and some singles with Risky Patterns, he also released purpan collab Happy Birthday, his “face/off” single with Khari (which includes b-side “escape”) and some stand-alone singles as well. “Last year, I dropped like six times,” Roberto says. “This year I’m focusing on making my drops mean more, rather than doing them more often. I didn’t take a lot of time out for burnout and things like that. I think if I take some time for rest, it’ll make more sense on my end.”

Roberto plans to head back to Texas to self-quarantine with Risky Patterns to “knock out” Primavera and Otoño, which he thinks will be finished “in like two weeks.” When asked if he and Risky Patterns will ever swap rapper and producer roles for a project, he responded, “Yes, I’m definitely looking forward to that.” This summer, Roberto will actually release his first-ever self-produced project.

“All the music that you hear from the two of us, he’s produced [and] I’ve written, mixed and mastered, but people don’t know that I can also produce and he can rap,” he explains. “We both do both things, but when we first met, we were very far into one way. Now, we’ve been getting into both crafts, so it’s a growing relationship in a musical sense.” 

Follow Roberto on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Cincy Rapper Swooty Mac Releases Sunday Morning LP in Collab with Devin Burgess

Swooty Mac
Swooty Mac
Photo Credit: Guy Nee Whang

Swooty Mac and Devin Burgess have gifted fans their first joint project: Sunday Morning. The eight-song offering houses some of Swooty’s most honest and direct lyricism ever, not to mention some truly excellent beats by Burgess. The project also includes an ample amount of vibe-y bangers (opener “Function” and “Twenty” are my favorites) and the boo’d up “Bath Water – Extended.”

Cincinnati rapper Swooty and rapper/producer Burgess first linked up on Swooty’s 2018 debut EP, Jolie: The Swooty McDurman Project. Since then, Swooty says he and Burgess have teamed up together on roughly 20 songs – some released, some still in the vault.

“It was different [making Sunday Morning] mostly because [Devin] didn’t rap on the project. Usually we’re trading bars, but he didn’t rap on this at all or even do a background vocal. That was the biggest difference,” Swooty explains. “We have a pretty good chemistry, though, so it’s kind of hard for us not to come up with something.”

The beat Burgess made for “Bath Water – Extended” is what kicked off Sunday Morning. After hearing the instrumental, Swooty co-wrote the sensual cut with JayBee Lamahj and set out to make a full project with Burgess.

Swooty explains that initially, Sunday Morning was set to be a four-song EP. But, it was Burgess – who also mixed, mastered and engineered the project – who wanted to turn it into an album. Swooty agreed to record four more songs, but then he learned he was going to become a father for the second time.

“I’ve got a 7-year-old and [now] a 1-year-old and, you know, I had to handle my responsibilities before I dive too much into being a rapper,” he says, taking some time off to focus on his family before returning to finish Sunday Morning. “But, it worked out,” he continues, “because two years later we came out with a dope ass project.”

Learning he was going to have another child also made finishing Sunday Morning “even more special,” Swooty said. The album tackles several vulnerable topics that the rapper had previously steered clear of, for the most part.

“The stuff I was going through, the stuff that I was talking about on the project, it [took] time for me to express that stuff,” he confessed. “A lot of my music is personal, but it’s like surface-level stuff. This was, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and see what’s going on. Like, I feel this way, and now I’m telling you why.”

Swooty dabbles in love on the pleading “Teach Me” and insecurity on the self-reckoning “blue af,” but he pushes his boundaries the most on “Neo.” On the stripped-down cut, the rapper examines co-parenting and juggles anxiety with ambition in an intensely personal, yet sharply relatable way, making it a standout track. Amazingly, though, it was almost cut entirely from the project.

“[‘Neo’] was just me being open and it’s one of the most vulnerable tracks on there,” Swooty says. “I wasn’t really rapping; I was kind of just talking and saying how I feel. Me and my daughter’s mom were going through some stuff at the time – arguing, breakups, and that’s pretty much what I was talking about on that record. And the reason everybody likes it is the reason I almost didn’t put it on there – I was thinking, don’t nobody wanna hear me be all sad and shit.”

Because of the song’s success, Swooty said he’s become more comfortable being vulnerable in his music. “I can do more stuff where I’m being sensitive,” he says. “I don’t gotta stick my chest out and be the big bad guy all the time.”

“I’m extremely proud of Swoot for delivering and executing such vulnerability and emotion,” Burgess adds. “I know how much that can take out of a person.”

Looking ahead, fans can expect some visuals from the project – possibly merging with companion clips for Swooty’s 2020 offering, Do4Luv. Devin Burgess, on the other hand, is set to release his live EP, 2018, on Valentine’s Day, followed by his rap album, That’s Unfortunate, next month.

“I really put thought and effort into other people’s music as if it was my own,” Burgess says of Sunday Morning. “I try to make everything as special as possible and this felt special to me.”

Follow Swooty Mac and Devin Burgess via Instagram for ongoing updates.

Devin Burgess Releases ‘SayTheirNames’ Beat Tape To Benefit Families of Police Brutality Victims

Devin Burgess

Devin Burgess

Much like the rest of the world, protesters in Cincinnati continue to rally against the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the countless other Black men and women who have fallen victim to racially unjust and violent policing practices.

Amid week-long protests, petitions, and social media campaigns, Cincinnati’s own Devin Burgess decided to channel his emotions into a beat tape, called SayTheirNames. All proceeds from the project, released via Bandcamp, will go to benefit the families of Floyd and Taylor through GoFundMe.

“I wanted to be able to use my talent for the greater good, and not necessarily make music about what’s going on, but make music that represents what’s going on,” Burgess tells Audiofemme. “So, I compiled these beats – some of them are a year or so old – and I went through my archives and just thought, ‘What sounds like how I’m feeling right now?’”

The beats range from somber to urgent, sample audio clips from news coverage, and are each named after a victim of police brutality or racist violence, including Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Botham Jean, and others.

“They’re all relatively heavier; they feel more emotional,” Burgess explains. “It’s a heavy listen, and I wanted it to feel like that because that’s how I feel. My heart and soul are so heavy with what’s going on right now.”

Burgess promoted the track in an Instagram post, alongside a profound message: “Music is a time capsule. Songs live on forever and people do not. But when it comes to injustice, artists have some what of a responsibility to merge the two to educate and inform the people,” he said. “Music lives on, and I need these precious souls to live on with the music. Their names can’t go forgotten. I know that this is only a SMALL, percentage of the people that have been killed by police, but i’m using this to represent them as well. Along with all the people who DON’T get mentioned when they die by the hands of the police.”

Besides using the tape as a way to contribute to reform efforts, the rapper/producer says SayTheirNames has also been an outlet for self-care. “I’m Black, so I know the vibes with this injustice. This is something I’m feeling every day,” he says. “I’ve been trying to stay busy and stay informed. It’s very hard to put my phone down. Like, of course, you gotta take a break every once in a while, but you also wanna be informed at all times. So, that’s what I’m battling with right now.”

SayTheirNames will remain on Bandcamp so that listeners can continue to donate to both Floyd and Taylor’s families. Burgess says he’d also like to donate to the Cincinnati Bail Fund to assist local protesters who have been arrested.

“I wasn’t expecting as big of a turnout for Cincinnati [protests] and for it to be this consistent – people are still out there protesting,” he says. “Good has already started to come out of this, we just need more good. We gotta fight harder.”

Besides protesting, supporters can also sign petitions, donate to the National Bail Fund and reform efforts in Minneapolis and Louisville, and support the Movement 4 Black Lives Coalition and Black Lives Matter Network.

“Don’t just scroll past these petitions, ‘cause they’re just as important as the donations and the money,” Burgess adds. “Money’s cool, but money doesn’t always make everything happen. Do your research. Keep donating to these families. Continue to protest. This shit will not stop after a week, this is something that we have to keep going.”

Find a list of charities, petitions, and resources in the fight against systemic racism and police brutality below.

Cincinnati Bail Fund – sponsored by the Beloved Community Church
Movement 4 Black Lives
Campaign Zero
Justice For Breonna Taylor Petition
Justice For George Floyd
Know Your Rights Camp
The Bail Project
Donate to Breonna Taylor’s Family
Donate to George Floyd’s Family
Louisville Community Bail Fund
Reclaim The Block

Devin Burgess Gets ‘Alone’ EP Off His Chest

Devin Burgess / Alone

Devin Burgess / Alone
Photo by Roberto

Jumping into 2020 head-first, Devin Burgess released his 14-track Alone EP last week. The 26-minute project finds an engaging balance between Burgess’ introspective and unfiltered lyrics and his gritty self-produced beats. The tape’s flow can best be described as short bouts of transparent expression – whether it be frustration, fear or solitude.

“The project is so self-reflective,” Burgess says of the EP. “I feel like this project was for me, so I can exhale. Just get this all off my chest.”

Alone starts off strong, with lyrical notes of insecurity and resentment. Burgess masterfully juggles his introspective yet biting verses, not to be overshadowed by the tape’s hypnotic beats.

On “Freelance,” the Cincinnati MC shares financial woes that many freelancers – including myself – can identify with. “A lot of it stems from insecurity about being appreciated musically,” he says. “That, and I did a lot of freelance work last year and I need my paper! If you’re taking time to do something, you want to be compensated in some way, shape or form.”

Devin Burgess / Photo by Roberto

The EP truly takes form with “Wallet.” A project highlight, the song contains incredible duality. Despite Burgess’ vibe-creating drawl, lyrical undertones confront police brutality, with a gunshot punctuating the track’s abrupt ending.

“There’s a lot of undertones in the project. ‘Wallet’ is about me driving with weed in my car and my fear of being stopped by the police,” he explains. “I’m a black man, and an extremist, so in my mind, I’m thinking if I get pulled over by the cops, it’s a wrap. It’s about me being irresponsible, obviously, but also the fear of police brutality happening to me.”

Alone was predominately recorded at home, so that Burgess could tap into his most vulnerable lyrics. “I’ve been real keen on being self-aware about when I get anxious and what makes me anxious,” he says. “A lot of times when I write [music] I learn things about myself that I didn’t know.”

The project also sees an appearance from Kei$ha, Burgess’ wig-wearing producer alter-ego. “It was a Halloween show, it was costume themed. I wasn’t gonna wear a costume, but I didn’t wanna be the only guy there without a costume, so I got a wig,” Burgess explains about how Kei$ha came to be. “A week later… I was talking with [Cincinnati artist] D-Eight about the time before we were born. I was like, ‘Yeah, my mom thought I was gonna be a girl and she was gonna name me Keisha.’ And he was like, ‘You should be Keisha.’ So I came home, put the wig on, and Kei$ha was born,” he continues. “That’s my producer alias.”

No stranger to artistic antics, the rapper explained how swapping his bathrobe for a wig helps him have fun at shows. “It’s just something goofy to do,” he says. “It’s another way to keep my name in people’s mouths and stay interesting.” Kei$ha’s production style can best be described as a “beats hoarder,” with Burgess saying she adds a little “dustiness” to the EP.

As usual, Burgess has several production jobs on the horizon. But for now, with the release of Alone, he can breathe a sigh of relief.

Stream the EP below.

PLAYING CINCY: Hip Hop Showcase Brings Out Cincinnati Talents

hip hop

Dayo Flow at Urban Artifact in Cincinnati rounded up some of the city’s top-rated hip hop acts. The evening showcased headliners Dayo Gold and Eb&Flow, singer Joness, Kelby Savage, Devin Burgess and more.

hip hop
Freestyling underway at Dayo Flow. Photos by Victoria Moorwood.

The show started out with some playful freestyling, where rappers and artists in the crowd were welcomed on stage. Kelby Savage started off the individual performances. His most recent production appeared on Big18foot’s Hogwash, which came out earlier this year.

K. Savage, hip hop
Kelby Savage at Dayo Flow.

R&B singer Joness opened up her acoustic set talking and joking with the crowd. Her debut EP, Rule Number 9, came out in 2017 and will be followed up Thursday by her forthcoming album, Sheep: An Extended Play, produced by Joey Thomas.

Joness/ hip hop
Joness performing at Urban Artifact.

Emcees Dayo Gold and Eb&Flow and producer/ rapper Devin Burgess ended the night on a high. Eb&Flow’s 6-song EP, Sympathetic.Audience.Control, came out last month. He and Dayo Gold collaborated on “Dayo Flow” in 2017.

hip hop
Dayo Gold, Eb&Flow.

Dayo Gold released two singles, “Twang” and “Came Up” late last year, while Devin Burgess, clearly out of retirement, bopped some singles off his 2018 album, Trash.

PLAYING CINCY: Robe-Clad Rapper-Producer Devin Burgess Will Not Retire After His Best Year Yet

Devin Burgess

Devin Burgess
Devin Burgess rocking his robe. Photo by @lunarthoughtfilms

He may wear slippers and a robe to his shows, but this Cincinnati artist is hardly staying comfortable. In fact, he’s busier than ever. Producer and rapper Devin Burgess adopted the laid-back ensemble after doing over 70 shows in 2016 and, deserving a break, jokingly declared he’d be retiring. Although he’s kept up his comfy wardrobe, Devin didn’t rest for long. 2018 brought the release of his album Trash, the launch of his new podcast, shooting the music video for “Bounce Back,” and preparing for new music, videos and shows in 2019. Right now, Devin is in the planning stages of new videos for Trash songs “Glimpse” and “Prosper,” will soon be jetting off on tour in California and is about to undertake an ambitious producing project. He found a spare moment to chat with Audiofemme for Playing Cincy; read on below.

AF: What are you most excited to work on in 2019?

DB: I’m literally sitting on like two bodies of work right now—I just have to finish them. I produce as well, so I’m gonna start producing for people [more]. I have this idea of—you know how Wendy’s has a Four For Four? That’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna take four artists, and make four EPs, that have four songs on them. It’s just a way for me to be hands-on with peoples’ music. A way for my fanbase and the artists’ fanbase to kind of mesh together.

AF: How long have you been producing?

DB: That’s how I got into making music. I started making beats in 2010. I wanted to be like a DJ. That’s my first love, production, but all of that equipment can be relatively expensive and in 2010 I was like 16. I didn’t really have a job, so I couldn’t really afford a lot of it and one of my homies was like, ‘You should rap,’ so I rapped. I spit a verse for him, and he was like, ‘That was dope.’ I’ve been rapping ever since.

AF: So do you think 2019 will be heavier on the rapping or producing?

DB: We’ll see! I’ve been telling people that I’m not into rapping right now. All of my creative energy has been going into production. I’m an engineer as well, so I mix and master for other people. I don’t really have the time or the mental capacity to rap right now. I just put out an album out with 15 tracks. After I put out Trash I felt, like, empty. So I’m trying to find another way to get inspired, another angle to approach with rapping.

Devin Burgess
Devin Burgess performing at The Comet in Cincinnati. Photo by @oussmane_.x

AF: Could you see yourself releasing another solo project in 2019?

DB: Only time will tell. With all of this producing for other people, I still want to keep my momentum going. 2018 [was] one of the biggest years I’ve had and I’m very aware of people’s short attention spans. You drop something and it’s cool for two months, but after that, they’ll forget about it. So I’ve got to still find a way to put my name in people’s mouths, whether it’s through production or engineering. I’m finding other ways to be creative.

AF: Tell me about Trash.

DB: After this year, I had this whole ‘I’m Retired’ campaign going on, which is why I’m in a robe right now—I’m in my pajamas, I’m comfortable everywhere I go. With that was going to come a body of work called I’m Retired. I wasn’t going to really retire, it was just that in 2016 I did like 75+ shows and I dropped like five to seven bodies of work, so I was like, I’m burnt the f*ck out. So it was a joke, but then it turned into a body of work.

Then the year progressed, I was doing so many things and I still didn’t have this body of work done. I was making all of these other songs in between me doing I’m Retired that weren’t necessarily tied to any body of work. I’d call [them] my throwaway songs, hence where the name Trash came from. I didn’t necessarily seek out to have a message because as I was making these tracks, they weren’t supposed to be one body of work. When I was making them, they were either part of other projects I wanted to do and I scrapped them and essentially I took my best 15 songs and put them together as a cohesive project.

AF: All together, it sounds like a cohesive record. But you’re saying, conceptually, it started out scattered.

DB: Yeah, for sure, it was all over the place. That was one of the things I was afraid of, it sounding like I threw it all together. I definitely tried my best to make sure it didn’t sound that way. Transitioning and making sure the songs flow is very important to me. I am a body-of-work-type of artist. I’m not really huge on singles, I drop bodies of work.

AF: So what were some of the connecting themes that brought these songs together?

DB: I talk about love a lot, the different parts of love. Being in love, trying to get over a love. I wrote “Drive” when I was in a relationship and I tried to write it from the perspective of my girlfriend. I tried to take myself out of myself—I think that’s what the theme is, self-refection. “Glimpse” is definitely a favorite of mine, and “Bounce Back” for sure.

AF: And you mentioned you have lots of shows coming up this year?

DB: Yes, the plan is to travel as much as possible. I’ve done a show in every venue in Cincinnati. I’ve been going out to Columbus a lot, but I’m trying to go out to Chicago, New York, eventually. I’m going to LA with Patterns of Chaos in January. My idea is to go to a different city every other weekend. Travel is definitely in my future and a lot more shows.

AF: Who are some of your biggest inspirations?

DB: Jay-Z is my favorite rapper of all time. I’m very influenced by Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse is like my afterlife wife. Directors inspire me, like Quentin Tarantino.

AF: What do you think makes the Cincy hip hop scene unique?

DB: The Midwest is a melting pot of sounds and genres, so I don’t run into people sounding the same. I really appreciate the diversity that exists. And the love in the city.