By: Sam Fatula | A&E Editor
Just a couple of years ago, Devin Miles was nothing more than an undergraduate at Duquesne University with hip-hop pipe dreams. Following a stint at the University that resulted in an early departure, Miles’ casual hobby of writing songs quickly became a full-time reality that could take him to greater heights of the Pittsburgh rap scene.
Now 22, the former Duke has gained the reputation as the next big hip-hop commodity in the Steel City, and fans have been highly anticipating a follow-up that puts his previous pair of mixtapes to rest. On Tuesday, Miles released his first full-length LP titled Pixburgh, which solidifies his stature as the next king of the ‘Burgh.
The ten-track release, which runs slightly over the 35-minute mark, does its best not to glamorize a genre that has recently been largely influenced by gang violence and drugs. Whereas MCs like Chief Keef and Bobby Shmurda embrace the aforementioned lifestyle, Miles completely avoids it. On Pixburgh, Miles discusses some of the hardships that accompany trying to become successful in a difficult industry and ultimately make a name for himself.
“At Duquesne from freshman to sophomore year, I basically had a studio with my roommate (Miles’ producer, Christo),” Miles said. “We were getting a lot of love from people that we knew, and they were saying that I was good enough to consider rapping full time.”
Miles’ work ethic becomes immediately evident on the debut track, “Vamoose,” where the rapper explains part of his reasoning as to why he left school in the first place. Miles’ lyrical confidence on the track is only validated by his calm yet assuring flow, which lazily claims how he had better things to do than spend time in the classroom. The track is silhouetted by a nice piano melody, which eases the listener into the album and prepares them for a much stronger hook on the next song, “Came Up.”
“Came Up” is essentially what identifies Miles as Pittsburgh’s hip-hop son. The hook from the track single-handedly justifies his status, and singles out Miles’ doubters, who told him he couldn’t achieve anything in life, let alone gain success. Miles establishes a candor that fits him quite well. He has never sounded more confident in his material than he does now, and at times channels similar aggression to that of Drake from his Thank me Later days, although Miles would tell you that he prefers to be compared to Jay-Z.
“My brother got me into rap music when I was like 10, and the first album I ever got was a Jay-Z album called The Life and Times of Sean Carter, Volume One,” Miles said. “That by far is my biggest influence to date, ever.”
Much of the lyrical content in Pixburgh is self-assuring, yet positive. Miles confidently strides through the majority of the album, but does so in a manner where the listener can get behind what he’s preaching. Miles says that he has to be confident in what he does; he has been since he made the decision to leave school in the first place, and has received the necessary support from the beginning.
“School was taking up a lot of my time when I really started building up my catalogue,” Miles said. “My focus just wasn’t there in school and I didn’t want to waste money, and my mom supported that. And eventually my dad came around on it and my brother’s always been my biggest fan.”
Miles’ attitude comes from that type of strong support from family and friends, and it shines brightest on Pixburgh. Much of the album continues to contain bold statements that lean towards never giving up on your dreams and putting himself on the map in the rap game, but takes a surprising turn on the final track, “What they Gon Say.” For Miles, the song placed a large emphasis on his position in the music industry; as someone people can look up to and be inspired by.
“I got this e-mail from this person I never even knew, never even met him,” Miles said. “He was going through a hard time and thinking about killing himself, but after hearing my songs he got through it and took a step back, and started seeing things a little clearer. You see, I don’t want to rap about drugs. I think there’s way more to music than that and it can really help people.”
From the production to the “chase your dreams” message of Pixburgh, the local scene has someone in the genre they can identify as a role model. Devin Miles has the talent required to make it to a national scale, but he is developing a niche for hip-hop that speaks much further for a young community that needs a strong voice.