DEVMO And The Conflicts Of Stayin’ Here
The music video takes place at a golden hour beach party where friends laugh together by the ocean (perhaps in Santa Monica, where DEVMO hails from). It’s a classic millennial story post-Alessia Cara’s “Here.” DEVMO raps about feeling isolated and disconnected in a summer party full of people. She explains, “Have you ever been at a party while you’re going through a rough time in life? You aren’t really happy to be out and mingling but you know if you leave, you’ll feel a lot worse. So you stay.”
Conflict is the big theme I’m picking up here, whether made intentional or not by the artist and team. There’s the obvious thoughts within the content: I want to go but I need to stay; everybody around me but nobody with me; I want to feel but everyone’s numb; I want you in my life but I’m here without you.
But then there’s a weird, unspoken conflict within the aesthetic and sound.
On one hand, I 110% relate to these lyrical sentiments as they surf the melancholy waves of summery synth-lines and mid-tempo trap. DEVMO’s catchy melodies and the bright, wistful production capture the bittersweetness of endings – mainly of summer and relationships – and I’ve totally been that sad, anti-social bitch reluctantly sippin’ a tequila ginger at the party too. When DEVMO says, “No one would notice if I drown right now” with the ocean as her backdrop, I feel that experience completely.
But on the other hand, and honestly, more importantly, Hip-hop comes from a historically Black and Latinx lineage that deserves due respect. We have in “Stayin’ Here” a white or white-passing or light-skinned non-Black rapper gaining a substantial following from uninventive, mediocre “hip-hop.” DEVMO and her 23k+ Instagram followers will not even be affected by this review. An obvious double standard, there are countless Black and Brown artists subjected to racist, colorist, and homophobic slander by white critics, and therefore have a way tougher time getting the same social capital clout. DEVMO and her obvious access to some kind of budget, a professional team, and the complacency to be mediocre will be just fine. DEVMO can afford to be just an okay rapper.
I can’t go easy on this artist when we have so much talent from Black and Brown queer and trans artists who do hip-hop justice and actually come from those communities whom the art form is for. I’d start with Guayaba, BbyMutha, TAYLOR ALXNDR, or Da Qween. They shouldn’t have to go as hard as they do, but the world won’t accept anything less, because that’s how oppression works, and they’re all so damn talented and brilliant anyway.
Representation is not the be all, end all. It is a part of the solution, but not the complete one. Case in point: DEVMO apparently has been playing a lot of Pride shows and has many more coming up (10/4, Central NACA Showcase, Arlington, TX; 10/11, ATL Pride Show Atlanta, GA; 10/19, Mid-Atlantic NACA Showcase, Buffalo, NY). Surface-level, she relates to other queer people. But honestly, after watching the music video and listening to “Stayin’ Here” a few times, it seems to indicate the entitled desire for white, white-passing, and light-skinned queer and trans people to have their own unethical experiences of what they consciously or subconsciously think is Blackness.
Perhaps, for her and others in the same positional, solidarity is the actual goal – if I’m giving some benefit of the doubt. But if we’re to do the very necessary work of actual solidarity amongst queer and trans musicians, we have to constantly remember that queer is NOT the new Black. And DEVMO’s “Stayin’ Here” is simply decent at best. Complacency is not only a privilege. It’s mediocre art.