Climbs, Rhymes & Life – REI Co-op Journal


For this climber-rapper from Indiana, life is about lyrical stream, crags and galvanizing the subsequent era.

Devin Dabney is a routesetter and head climbing teacher at Hoosier Heights in Indianapolis. He’s additionally an aspiring rapper who got here to our consideration as a result of Mountain Project, a website and app owned by REI and ubiquitous amongst outside climbers, seems within the lyrics of “My Favourite Route,” a observe on his self-produced album referred to as Tape.CLIMB.Repeat. (embedded under).

“…Drop the mic. Cease the hype. Truly half the crew acquired magazines about my rocks and ice. So this dialogue is a deadpoint. Let’s transfer on to that new Pink joint I discovered on Mountain Mission. It’s about to be my undertaking….”

We shared it round our Boulder, Colorado, workplace, and one after the other, heads started to bob to rhymes about diabase, donuts, Mad Rocks with black socks and clipping chains. I knew we would have liked to study extra about this man, so naturally I challenged him to a rap battle. He declined (thank God), and we simply had a cool dialog about music, the Pink, heroes, make climbing extra accessible to minorities, comps and pizza as an alternative. Women and gentleman, Devin Dabney!

How lengthy have you ever been climbing and rapping?

I’ve been climbing constantly for about 5 years now. I used to be terrible once I began, however I caught with it and ultimately acquired employed to work part-time on the wall at Ball State College. I had an superior group of comrades there who I regarded as much as. One weekend, they took me to the Red River Gorge for the primary time. After that, I fell in love with mountaineering and by no means regarded again. That’s once I grew to become a climber.

I began rapping once I was a preteen, so about 12 years. I’ve all the time beloved hip-hop, and round that age, my friends had been doing a variety of cyphers and freestyle rap battles at college, normally throughout lunch or within the hallways between lessons. I by no means precisely slot in with my classmates as a result of I used to be bookish and shy, so I noticed rapping as a method to attempt to make myself appear cooler. I’d document stuff in my estranged father’s basement. 

Since these days, I’ve up to date the know-how a bit, however not by a lot. I’ve a studio microphone and a very good laptop computer, however I document within the closet of my childhood room at my dad and mom’ home! 

Devin and a co-worker setting at Hoosier Heights | Photograph: Courtesy

High three rap influences?

Primary is unquestionably Kanye West. After researching the place most of his samples come from for his beats, I branched out to a variety of new genres of music. I do know he’s type of a polarizing particular person, however man, when School Dropout got here out, I didn’t have a look at rap the identical anymore. He was the primary particular person I keep in mind rapping about actual points, not simply idealized gang stuff. 

Second is Eminem. I had a ton of his songs memorized once I was seven or eight years previous, and I ain’t even know half of what all of it meant! As I acquired older, I noticed the genius in his rhyme schemes. He’s the gold commonplace for crafting a stream and weaving collectively complicated rhymes. 

Lastly, Lupe Fiasco. The Cool is likely one of the biggest hip-hop albums of our time, and Meals & Liquor might be proper up there with it. However what actually acquired me hooked on him was his mixtape. He would make the nerdiest, most obscure references, however that’s what made the payoff that a lot sweeter. His traces are filled with allusions, metaphors, homophones, double entendres and nearly each literary gadget you studied in English class. He’s a lyrical savant.

Bouldering at West Virginia’s Cooper Rock | Photograph: Courtesy

How about climbing influences?

I’ve by no means had anybody ask me that! Jason Kehl, primarily as a result of he is likely one of the coolest climbers I’ve ever seen—coolest and weirdest. He’s an enormous supply of inspiration for me as a setter, since he not solely units, however he shapes holds! How dope is that?

Kris “Odub” Hampton is my function mannequin. I think about myself fortunate to be associates with him now, however even earlier than that, he was somebody I regarded as much as as a result of he’s constructed this wonderful model for himself as a climber, coach, activist for climbers and, after all, as a rapper. Kris offers me one thing to try for and likewise exhibits me that the unconventional, multi-faceted profession I would like in my lifetime is completely achievable. I type of consider him as my Dr. Dre, within the hopes that I may very well be his Eminem sometime.

Subsequent is my shut good friend Ryan. He, together with my good good friend Neal, had been the 2 who first employed me at Hoosier Heights. All through my maturation as a climber, setter, teacher and coach, he has been there to assist. 

What’s your expertise been as a minority in climbing and what recommendation would you’ve got for younger black children who’re fascinated with climbing?

It’s been a reasonably adventurous one, I’d say! Truthfully, I’ve by no means precisely slot in anyplace, so being the token black man in all places I went to climb wasn’t something new to me. There have undoubtedly been some extra rural locations I’ve climbed outside the place I felt a little bit, uh, uncomfortable let’s say, however I’ve by no means felt like every climbers I got here throughout had been judgmental of me due to the colour of my pores and skin. 

I’ve developed a robust ardour to introduce this sport to extra black individuals—particularly underprivileged, younger black individuals. This sport has been nice for me in so some ways; it’s modified me bodily, however more-so has modified me mentally. My priorities have shifted in more healthy methods, and climbing has helped me set higher objectives and push myself additional in life. I would like nothing greater than to doubtlessly create that constructive shift in additional individuals, particularly individuals who want it most.  

Devin between burns at Horse Pens 40 | Photograph: Courtesy

I feel that we may very well be doing extra to deliver climbing to minorities and to seek out methods to make it extra reasonably priced to be a member at a health club. Truthfully, if I didn’t work at one, I couldn’t afford a health club membership myself! I feel we are able to all agree that individuals who climb are normally very keen about it, and this ardour can translate into different elements of 1’s life to positively gasoline them to do higher for themselves; I would like that for as many individuals as potential, however I particularly need it for black individuals.

My recommendation to younger black children who wish to get into climbing is that this: DO IT. I do know it’s not probably the most accessible sport, however attempt to go to a health club should you can. I do know it’s fairly whitewashed as of now, so if that makes you uncomfortable, search out minority climbing teams just like the Brothers of Climbing (BOC), and if there isn’t one the place you might be, begin one! Additionally, should you’re like me and cash is a matter, attempt to get one thing began by your college. Ask your academics or college officers to make mountaineering a part of bodily training. See if a health club will provide a reduced price. There may be a variety of floor to be coated, however the extra we struggle, the nearer we are going to get to creating mountaineering accessible for everybody.

Within the intro to considered one of your songs, you point out teaching. Inform us extra.

I began assistant teaching for my health club’s youth climbing crew again in early 2016. I’ve beloved watching them compete at their highest talents in varied comps, and it’s additionally finished wonders for my concepts as a route setter. However to me, the best half about being a coach is being a constructive affect on the longer term era of climbers, and that has nothing to do with how robust they’re or how effectively they do at competitions, simply seeing them develop as individuals. It actually helped give me perspective on my function with mountaineering.

On the 2016 USA Climbing Youth SCS Nationals | Photograph: Courtesy

What’s your opinion on music on the crag? 

Once I go to climb exterior, it’s to expertise climbing outside, which implies immersing myself in nature as a lot as potential. As hippie as this will sound, an enormous a part of climbing exterior for me is connecting with the earth. Having somebody play music on the crag would make me really feel like I’m again on the health club. Silence is golden as a result of nature is golden.

You rap in regards to the Pink River Gorge fairly a bit. What are your favourite areas? Do you’ve got a undertaking going?

I really like the Gorge a lot, it’s onerous for me to select a favourite space. I really feel like there’s nonetheless a lot of it I haven’t seen or climbed in, however from what I’ve skilled, I really like The Solarium, Left Flank, Military and Drive-By. All of these crags have some incredible traces of various problem. Once more, it’s onerous to select favourite routes, however 5 that stick out to me instantly are Too Many Puppies (5.12a), Air-Ride Equipped (5.11a), Whipstocking (5.11a), Thrillbillies (5.10a) and Return of Doug Reed. 

Truthfully, I’ve by no means been a lot of a projector. Normally, once I come to a crag, I strive the issues I wish to strive, then if I fall on one thing and suppose I can ship it in one other burn—and wish to—then I’ll strive it another time. In any other case, I simply maintain shifting. I’ve probably the most enjoyable climbing when I attempt to get on as many issues as I can. I’m seeking to expertise one thing new, similar to I did once I climbed within the Pink for the primary time. I’m chasing the dragon referred to as mountaineering for the remainder of my life.

Favourite toppings at Miguel’s?

Ahh, the glory of Miguel’s Pizza! I’m a meat lover, so I virtually all the time will get both bacon, hen or pepperoni—typically all three, haha. Among the many meats are normally inexperienced peppers, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes and—right here comes the shoe drop—pineapples. I really like scorching sauce on it, too.

Dude, wow. Lastly, let’s put you on the spot. Freestyle a couple of lyrics for us—bonus factors should you can embody Mountain Mission in one other line!

You’ll be blissful to know that I really placed on the Shady 2.0 Cypher beat, freestyled these bars, then wrote them down. I attempted to not cheat! 

Ever since I used to be a gumby, dreaming of 5.9,

Had a dream like Dr. King of working prime traces,

Chilling with a fantastic dime, all on prime time,

In search of enjoyable? Effectively, climbing is the place I discover mine,

The Pink Gorge is my Taj Mahal,

You heard it right here on Mountain Proj and all,

I’ma open doorways, watch all of it spark and fall,

You understand it’s recreation on once I lastly drop the ball…

I really like climbing, I really like rhyming,

I really like doing issues with good timing,

My new undertaking’s popping out this fall,

You heard it right here first on Mountain Proj, you all! 

…So what’s my rating?

5 Stars for certain man! Thanks, Devin!

Observe Devin’s Insta for information of his subsequent album, out this fall. 

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