At the tender age of nine, Devin Star Tailes was introduced to her first cuss words. Her dad, mindful of his precocious daughter's vast music taste at such an early age, bought her Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP—the uncensored version. "It definitely changed my life," says the now 21-year-old artist, who goes only by Dev. "I thought it was dope that Eminem was in hip hop but kind of playing around with different sounds…I didn't look at it like, 'he's talking about killing his girlfriend.'"
You can hear the freewheeling spirit of Eminem in Dev's music today. She’s the feathery, rhythmic voice behind the platinum, worldwide # 1 smash, "Like a G6”. In March 2011 alone, Dev could be heard on a staggering three singles ("Like a G6," "Bass Down Low," “Backseat”) on Billboard's Hot 100.
"A lot of people where I’m from don’t get opportunities like that," says the singer, raised in Manteca, in Northern California’s Central Valley. On a fluke, when she was just shy of 19, Dev recorded a dis record about an ex-boyfriend over an Amy Winehouse instrumental. The Cataracs—then, a local hip hop duo—happened to be surfing their fans sites. The song caught their attention. "I sing really soft and weird," Dev says, "but if you listened to what I was singing…I was talking a bunch of shit."
They hit it off and Dev began driving to Berkeley on the weekends to record with the boys. Soon their collaboration “2Nite” began buzzing at local radio and with her parent’s blessings, Dev dropped out of junior college, quit her job at Old Navy, and moved to Los Angeles to record with The Cataracs full time. "We recorded the songs in the summertime,” she says. "You can tell, they’re all sassy." These sessions yielded "Like a G6", "Bass Down Down," and "Booty Bounce."
"Booty Bounce," in particular, went viral, thanks to its dope edge video, shot by visionary director Ethan Lader, and styled by female street-wear brand Hellz Bellz . Everyone from MTV to Perez Hilton took notice, with Hilton asking Dev to perform at his "Out in A.C." showcase during Halloween weekend last year. "He was dressed like Snooki," she says, giggling. "It was amazing."
With the even greater success of the triple-platinum "Like a G6,” The Cataracs and Dev high-tailed it this winter to Costa Rica to record her album. Why Costa Rica? “We had been living in the same loft for a year and a half in downtown L.A.," explains Dev. "And the traffic in and out of that loft was always really gnarly." They stayed there for three weeks, living right on the beach. "The first day or two, we were literally in the ocean for two hours at time, but eventually we got it out of our system," she continues. "We knew we were there for work, but anytime we wanted a break, we put our feet in the sand."
This tropical paradise may be an unlikely locale for an artist known for her ode to popping bottles and sober girls that act drunk. But then the resultant album, The Night the Sun Came Up, out September 20, 2011 via Indie-Pop/Universal Republic Records, ("You can do a lot in the night before the sun comes up," she points out), is itself surprising. It doesn't skimp on the dance, but it also offers more personal tracks such as "Running South." "It's about moving from my hometown that I lived in for 20 years to follow my dream," she says. Then Dev adds with purpose: "I’m 21 years old, and I haven’t been doing this that long. I have cute little stories to tell, and that’s what I got to do."