To be perfectly honest, the guy sitting on my couch—a Salt Lake City rapper known as the Infamous Dangerous Devil—ain’t all that. Dangerous, that is. In fact, baby-faced 24-year-old Griffin William Bonacci is downright mellow; not a trace of hip-hop bravado is evident as we scarf our respective Arby’s menu selections. Save for a wedding band, there is no bling adorning the fingers that are wrapped around a Beef ‘n’ Cheddar. When he speaks, there is no gold tooth peeking from between his lips and he has yet to drop a syllable of hip-hop inanity—no “hatas” nor “hos” to be heard.
By his very nature, DD contradicts the hip-hop ethos as laid out by the likes of Ja Rule, DMX and Jay-Z, the Jigga. I like this guy.
“I just do my own thing,” he explains of the lack of bling and slang.
It’s simple and direct, as is his philosophy which—and this is his most hip-hop characteristic—he freely preaches. We dispose of our trash, I grab a notebook and camera. We’re goin’ rollin’ (to be fair, not his term).
Dangerous Devil’s car is decidedly more “playa” than DD, but has its own idiosyncrasies. For instance, it’s Korean (!) and a child-safety seat is juxtaposed with a bumpin’ system and trickety blue and magenta lights on either side of the stereo console, just above the floor. (These are hot; I’ll be reminded of this several times throughout the ride via strongly worded neuro-telegrams from my ankles) There are also no hydraulic lifts, no blunts and no weapons. There will be no romping on this ride.
“I’m not into that scene,” says the Devil. “I prefer to be laid-back, low profile, less conspicuous.”
As for the gangsta influence, he’s appropriately unaffiliated. “I’ve had rivals in the past and had knives and guns pulled on me—I was shanked in the neck five years ago—but I keep away from the drama. I just wanna make music.”
At this point, he inserts a copy of his latest CD, a compilation called Area 51: The Playaz Project 2. He conscientiously keeps the volume at a discreet level, even as he introduces his track, “That’s Who I Be (The No. 1 Infamous).” He requires remonstrance before boosting it to full booming glory.
Yeah, glory. Here is where Dangerous Devil earns his name. Against all evidence, this mild-mannered Laketown ex-carpet-cleaner can flow. And it’s not meek-metered speech; Dangerous Devil, in this element, is finally spitting vitriol. And the guy can craft a beat; “That’s Who I Be” bounces like booties in any late-night BET video. Stylistically, it checks both East and West Coast but, as with his demeanor, is refreshingly bereft of cash-and-bitch-obsessed chatter. His creative philosophy:
“Most rap today is played out. It has no balls. It’s garbage. It has no style, no value. I don’t wanna hear about how much money you have or what kind of house you live in. I wanna go back to when people rapped about real shit, like LL Cool J, EPMD and Public Enemy.”
Of his four locally produced “projects” (as he refers to all of his works) Dangerous Devil is proudest of The Playaz Project 2 (two solo discs, 1999’s The World is Dangerous and 2001’s No Fakin’, No Frontin’ and the first Playaz Project, all on DD’s SLC label Son of Satan Records, precede it). It’s better, he says, because of the quality of local and national talent, including Canada’s G-Ride, Washington’s Bullet and Jay Tee, late of N2 Deep. “I have high hopes for this project,” he says simply, before getting as close to straight hip-hop as Dangerous Devil gets outside of a studio or stage.
“Can I throw some shout-outs? I wanna give big ups to G-Ride, Bullet and fellow local hip-hop artists King Cevil and Claydo of the Sicklake Click. They all really came to the table on this record.” Then, almost as an afterthought, he smiles and indulges in a bit of uncharacteristic bravado: “The beats [on PP2] are some of the best I’ve ever written, and you haven’t even heard the ones I’ve saved for my next solo project.”