Meet Devz, the East London Rapper Who Spawned a Million Memes With One Freestyle
LIKE WHO WHAT WHAT WHAT WHERE NAH WHAT WHO WHO WHERE?
Earlier this year, a fresh-faced unknown rapper from East London called Devz stepped into the booth at Blackbox studios and delivered a freestyle he'd been working on. Sounds innocuous enough, right? Except, no, it wasn't - because when he stepped into that booth, and drew his breath to spit out the bars, this is what shot out of his mouth: "LIKE WHO, WHAT, WHAT? WHAT, WHERE? NAH, WHAT? WHO, WHO, WHERE? LIKE WHERE, WHERE, WHERE? HOW DID WE GET RIGHT THERE? LIKE NAH, NAH, NAH!"
The rest, my friends, is history.
For those who haven't been scrolling aimlessly and constantly through Twitter like a human buffering sign, Devz went viral in a matter of days following this reigning shower of spitfire questions. Someone snipped those first 30 seconds of his freestyle and it rapidly became a universal meme used to express moments of complete speechlessness (and trust me, 2016 has been a vintage year for feeling speechless). The bars found themselves tacked beneath Arthur cartoons, dubbed over Family Guy clips, and scattered over the internet like fake snow at Christmas, making Devz the greatest and most addictive human meme generator since Drake danced out of his mother's womb. Here are some perfect examples:
And when we say this meme went stratospheric, we mean it – there are numerous Instagram posts with plus 1.5million views, and tweets in the thousands. There is even a brewing campaign to make it Christmas number one. But who is Devz, really? What prompted him to ask the who's and the what's and the where's and the nah but who's and where's? What made him so damn existential? How does he feel that his most notable foray into public recognition, thus far, is via the flighty medium of internet memes? What other music is he working on? So many questions, so we phoned him up to lay them down.
Noisey: Hi Devz. Firstly, who? Secondly, what? Thirdly, where? And lastly... Nah, but, how?
Devz: Yeah, I'm Devz from Leytonstone. I want to shout out all the people supporting me.
Let's chat about this freestyle. How did you come up with it?
Lotes got me the freestyle for Blackbox, so shout out to him... but me saying "who what where?" was an exclusive for the people. And then it obviously took off from there.
How did you come up with that catchy hook? What's it about?
I don't really know, it just relates to me. I just put the "who's" together with the "where's" and the "what's" and all that, and made it five "w's". I wanted to do something different, and to stand out from the crowd.
Who are the questions directed at though?
Man... I hear that. When did you realise the track had exploded?
When I hit about 30-something-thousand I thought, "Wow, this is going viral!" From what I know, some guy [with the handle] @AbdiTV made it into a meme and then from there people started doing that as well. And because he's so bait on Twitter, it started going viral.
What did you think about all the memes?
As soon as the memes started popping off, I was thinking, "Are people trying to treat this like a joke?" This is something that I'm trying to do professionally, and I'm trying to go far, and I thought there were certain people doing memes that I weren't feeling at all. They were making me think, "Rah, they're violating where I'm coming from." I'm trying to bring something new to the scene of grime and rap, and some of those memes are negative. But I'm pushing through it, and anyone that's trying to mock it, I'm still going to do what i'm doing. The memes had a positive effect so I'm happy.
What were the one's you weren't feeling?
There was some relating to girls that I didn't like. There were so much, actually. And I didn't like it when people were trying to mock.
Were there any you thought were funny?
Yeah there were, but I can't remember them now.
So tell me about this campaign to get it to Christmas number one. What's up with that?
Lotes from Blackbox put that idea out first and then everyone started retweeting it; GRM Daily, SBTV, Link Up TV… they're all behind it. If it got to number one, it would be a huge achievement for me – it would be a big change in my life. I'm still in shock that people are actually pushing this to go to number one.
I didn't think this would actually lead to where it is right now. It might have started as a meme, but people are feeling the track now. The only reason it was a meme is because people were confused that it was a 30 second video online, and they were like, "What's 'who what where?' He's saying it about five times." But they didn't realise that after that, I came in with some other lyrics, and those lyrics touched the people. It's not all about this "who, what, where". It's a story.
That makes sense... So, is life all about asking questions?
Yeah, yeah definitely. Everyone's got different lives, and everyone's different, so it's all about who, what, where. What you're about, where you're from, all of that.
Is there now pressure on you to write a hook that's as catchy as LIKE WHO WHAT WHAT WHAT WHERE NAH BUT WHO WHO WHERE?
Nah, there's no pressure at all. I'm not going to write anything similar to it, but I can write something that's just as catchy.
What does the future hold for Devz?
I'm working on the second track that's on that Blackbox freestyle that I've done. I'm going to release that and fix it up and make the people feel it a bit more. "Who what where?" is the talk of the town right now, so I want to also push that to number one. I'm also going to release a "Who what where?" music video, and try and get a remix, and see then just what happens.
Incredible. Thanks for chatting Devz.
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