Following in the footsteps of Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Strider and Tinie Tempah, Devlin broke through from London's underground grime scene to achieve mainstream success. Born in Dagenham, Essex in 1989, James Devlin grew up listening to Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, and the Supremes, but developed a love of hip-hop after buying Nas' It Was Written album. At the age of 13, he began MC'ing on various pirate radio stations and was eventually spotted by influential grime artist Dogzilla, who asked him to join the O.T. Crew. In 2006, he released his debut mixtape, Songs from the Crypt, and two years later, received world-wide attention when Kanye West posted a video of him freestyling on his blog.