The lack of soul in music hasn’t been missed lately. New artists claim to produce Trap Soul, Ghetto Soul, etc., but those genres leave the purists empty and reminiscent of the neo-soul days. It’s funny that even when this music was at it’s peak, a lot of artists scoffed at the coining.
Enter Dev Duff, a native Southeast Washingtonian who is looking to bring that soul back to soul music…and from listening, you’ll see that he’s not far off. He stands at 6’1, a hefty gentleman with a look that could be perceived as intimidating at first glance; more football player than soul singer, but once you hear his voice, you’ll be converted to a lifelong fan. Once you hear the power mixed with conviction that emanates, you’ll think you were in church during altar call. To me, it’s a hybrid of Cee-Lo Green, D’Angelo, and a Pastor. After giving his music a listen, you’ll better understand why I say this.
Duff’s musical chops began as a child, growing up in the church and watching his mom sing in the different groups. Singing in choirs himself, doing solos at fifteen, and becoming an ordianed minister at 20 shaped the foundation of his artistry. Although Duff admits that some of his current views and actions do not align with that of the church, he sees himself as more ‘Disciple than Christian.’
As Duff would tell it, his rooting in soul began in 1995 listening to D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar”; the melodic chords, harmonies, and new take on old classics introduced him to a world of soul that he would never return from. Inspiration from ‘Brown Sugar ” mixed with influences of hip-hop and go-go, Duff began his ministry of soul, preaching to the people far and wide. He began writing, linked up with neighborhood friend Jay Sun and formed SE3, Southeast Trinity. In 2007, the group released it’s first project via Bandcamp, with a lead single titled “Radio”. Radio, with a chorus playfully borrowing from Wham’s “Careless Whisper”, laments the current state of radio and content, or lack thereof, that’s being played over the airwaves.
Duff’s first full project, NuBalance (currently on Apple Music) was released in 2011. Produced by Warren Peterson, a native of St. Croix and frequent collaborator of Duff’s, NuBalance carried on the melodic hypnosis of Brown Sugar, but with a DC flavor. His latest project, Have A WonDUFFul Day (available on Soundcloud) carries those same vibes with a range of other sounds and production. His goal with this album, as he says, is to “throw a positive light out in a dark world; ministering through the music and letting his mic be the pulpit.”
I for one, say AMEN.
You can check out Dev Duff and his projects at se3music.bandcamp.com