It was around age 12 when Eighty4 Fly, aka Devon Taylor, started making music. He followed the example of a handful of brothers and cousins who rapped—including NoClue, who holds the Guinness Record as the fastest rapper in the world—but in reality music has been near omnipresent since his early childhood. Eighty4 Fly just ran with it.
Born and raised in Seattle, the budding emcee’s first time in a real studio was at age 16 when he ended up in a booth with West Coast producer Funk Daddy (Sir Mix-a-Lot, E-40). But after putting out a single project, Eighty4 Fly was incarcerated and spent 2002-2005 behind bars. He doesn’t advertise that fact, nor use it as a claim to some sort of gangsta street cred; instead, it was a chance for a hardheaded kid to soul search and reinvent himself. As counterintuitive as it sounds the experience was a good one.
Recently—and quickly—that reflection paid off. In April, he traveled to Las Vegas to film what would become his breakthrough music videos, “So Cool” and “Like Planes,” with prolific Seattle expat Jon Augustavo. He followed those with an eight-track freEP titled The Eighty4 Fly Project, and a mixtape hosted by KUBE’s DJ B-Mello, 1st Class ’N Flyworld, is due out Oct. 10. The forthcoming debut full length No Flight Home is scheduled for a release in early 2011.
Listening to everything from The Fray to Crystal Castles, Eighty4 Fly doesn’t look to typical hip-hop influences. But then again, he isn’t about to be tied down by the term “rapper.” He’s an artist, a rock star trapped in a hip-hop artist’s body. Eighty4 Fly doesn’t have one distinct sound, and if he can help it never will; somehow, he evades limiting categorizations while striking a cohesive balance.
Just like every other emcee in Seattle, Eighty4 Fly is aiming to become the flagship of Seattle’s hip-hop renaissance. But unlike most of his townsfolk, he isn’t just making music for Seattle—it’s for everybody. There’s nothing local about what he’s doing.