When I first met Devin Frazer, there was something about him that caught my attention. After following him for several months, I found that through his music and his life, he was never anything but himself.
He greeted me at the door, where I took my shoes off and placed them next to a pair of his beat-up Nikes. With my notebook and camera in hand, I took a seat on the couch across the room from his studio, which in reality was a closet equipped with a microphone and a stool. Posters of Frank Sinatra and Audrey Hepburn hung on the wall behind me.
We didn’t talk much; he was immersed in his latest song, pacing around the room while reciting the lyrics that were opened on his phone. After a few run-throughs, he stepped into the studio, placed a pair of headphones over his ears, and laid down the track. Upon completion, he sat down at his computer outside of the studio and played it for me.
“This is where the perfectionist in me comes out,” he said while shaking his head. “Let’s do it again – it can be better.”
A few more takes and the pieces were there, just needing to be put in order. While he tinkered with the sounds, changing things only the trained ear would notice, I thought to myself – who is this guy?
I was introduced to him as “IMME.” I had followed him for several months, interviewing him a couple of times and attending a number of his shows, but I still didn’t know for sure exactly who the real man was. Looking at his past and hearing the stories he told me about his life, I continually searched for the answer, trying to dissect the man in front of me to find out who was inside. Every time I pondered it, what came to mind was the answer he told me the first time I asked him, “Who are you?”
“I am Me.”
Devin Frazer, a 24-year old musician who resides in Eugene, OR, although his roots lay deep in Bakersfield, CA – a place he likes to call “the armpit of California.” A rocky upbringing resulted in a childhood full of long nights and troubling times. Frazer says it was common to find empty beer cans and mounds of cigarette ashes around the house in his early years.
One of four children, alongside an older sister, and two younger brothers – one adopted – Frazer told me that his less-than-picturesque childhood was not for his mother’s lack of effort.
“My mom worked her ass off, man,” said Frazer. “She was always doing what she could to put us in a better spot. She made sure that there was always food on the table – that we always had what we needed to get by.”
While the tools to survive were there, what may have been missing from Frazer’s early life was a sense of family. His parents’ relationship wasn’t always perfect, and they separated once Devin was out of the house. In his attempts to gain a foothold in life, the idea of AFNF was born.
“All Family, No Friends, man. Shit, that’s the squad motto,” said Frazer. “It’s not something we just say, it’s something we fucking created – something we live by. AFNF is everything, it ties into everything that the 96 stands for.”
96, or 96 Mob as it was originally created, is what Frazer and his friends identified themselves as. Based off the Angel Number of 96, the group was drawn to the symbol because of its complex meaning. When side-by-side, the two numbers form an infinity sign, and the 9 is also said to always have the 6’s back, and vice versa.
It was less of a gang affiliation, and more of what Frazer lacked growing up; a close-knit family. It was in this family that Frazer found his passion.
It was here where IMME was born.
After seeing his high school friend, “JD the Geek,” get started in the rap-game, Frazer decided to give it a shot. He often spent afternoons at the skate park freestyling with his small circle of friends.
“I was terrible,” said Frazer, reminiscing on his early days. “It’s fucking disgusting how bad I was. Sometimes I’ll stumble upon one of my earlier songs and I just have to laugh at how bad it was. It’s hard to listen to.”
As he gained experience, the need to brand himself as a musician became apparent. When he first began rapping, Frazer called himself “DF Villian.” His friends, however, instinctively called him “96,” which evolved into “Mr. 96.” One day, out of nowhere, a new name came to light.
“I was just high as fuck, not even thinking of a new name, and it came to me. I was like, ‘IMME, I am Me,’ you know what I’m saying?” said Frazer.
When spelled out, I-M-M-E, it becomes “I am IMME,” something that formed into an indestructible mindset for the young rapper – a mindset that would shape how he approaches his career.
“To me, it’s developed into what I stand for, and the message that I try to present,” said IMME. “Be you, because I am Me, and that means the world to me.”
In a music industry that has slowly inched its way into the culture of consumerism and materialistic topics, IMME strayed from the mainstream narrative. In his songs, you can feel his soul. In his lyrics, you can see his vision.
When I first subscribed to his SoundCloud account, I knew there was something different about him. He raps with a diction and vocabulary that left me pausing the song to look up some of the words he spoke. His viewpoint on everyday life forced me to assess my own, and how my actions affected others. This line in the “Mahatma Ghandi Freestyle” to me, is IMME in a nutshell.
“What’s the point of lying?
I’m here to get to the truth.
I walk a thin line that leads straight to the youth.
We ain’t talkin’ that cheap, we bring them the strength to recoup,
I spent 50 of 50 hard earned checks up on this booth.”
“Ghandi” was just one of many songs that IMME released during the summer of 2016, part of an EP project he is currently working on. The productive season of work was kicked off with an up-beat track, “Summer is Mine,” featuring another local artist Ben Giland, dubbed musically as Ben Mozes. The two collaborated on a number of songs together, and performed a handful of small shows throughout the summer, most notably at the Wandering Goat in West Eugene.
“From all the years that I’ve known Devin, I have never seen him as motivated as he is now,” said Giland. “There have definitely been some downswings in production and motivation, but he has never faltered from the end goal. He has always been able to get back on track and do what he knows he can do.”
For a “starving artist,” as IMME would label himself, a consistent creative drive is not always easy to come by. He explained to me that there were a number of times where he just wasn’t feeling “it” and wasn’t sure of the vision. Not that he ever gave up on his dream, rather he knew when to let it breathe.
“When you’re not on it, it’s way too easy to convince yourself of all the reasons why it’s not happening for you,” said IMME. “I’ve been lucky to be able to pull out of that though. Like with “Summer is Mine,” – ever since that came out I’ve had myself convinced that I’m going forward.”
If forward is the path, then success is the destination. From what I can tell, the future for this young artist is bright. When I first heard his music, he had my curiosity. When I first watched him perform, he grabbed my attention. I gravitated towards the energy that his lyrics emitted, and knew that there was creative soul hiding beneath his worn-out Thrasher t-shirt.
He wasn’t flashy. There was no jewelry to flaunt and no talk of expensive cars or stacks of money. There was an artist – no stage beneath him – standing with a microphone in his hand and a dream in his heart. He was never anything other than who he wanted to be, and every time you ask him, he’ll tell you straight up:
“I am me.”
“You can see the vision in my eyes, you can see it, I’m a King.
Mahatma Ghandi say the same thing.
When I touch ground, it came clean.
It be like, ‘This n**ga the real thing,’ what’s up.” – Mahatma Ghandi Freestyle
Follow IMME on SoundCloud at www.soundcloud.com/imme-9