Entertainment FLY Interviews

Fly Interview: Event Producer Extraordinaire Devin Cobbs, When Preparation Meets Opportunity

Devin Cobbs, 40oz Van‘s right hand man has dealt with his share of struggle. While most would opt to put on a front especially within the industry, only allowing people the chance to watch their highlight reel. Dev’s opted to embrace his past misfortunes and wear them as a badge of honor. Detailing his experiences with homelessness to his 20K plus followers on Twitter, relative strangers, completely uncensored. Never one to shy away from owning his truth, good or bad Dev’s remained unapologetically himself, in an arena riddled with posers and superficiality.

The soon to be 25 year-old sat down with SFPL‘s own Arlene Danna to discuss linking with Van, the inspiration behind his 4 Lovers Only tour, launching his own production company Produced By Dev, working The Meadows Music & Arts Festival, giving opportunities to people of color in event production, and much more.


For those who may not be familiar, who is Devin Cobbs?

Devin is an introvert that for whatever reason decided to throw parties and work on festivals and concerts. An entrepreneur and someone who just really cares about the betterment of young black business men and women. That’s me. I’m a lot of other things, but that is a really good description of me.

Is event production something you always saw yourself getting into?

You know this, I used to work at The Source. We had the opportunity to work on a festival they were producing, The Source 360. Even though it didn’t go so well I really loved the running around and all that stuff. I realized there was a little bit of a lane for me doing that instead as opposed to selling ads for the magazine, or trying to write and be a journalist. It was something brand new, I didn’t really know what I was doing. To this day I don’t really know what I’m doing because there’s still so much to learn.

What were you doing while you were at The Source?

Initially I was selling ads for magazines and then I transitioned into trying to secure sponsors for the event everything from that to spreadsheets, guest lists, fixing the website, building the website, coming up with content, coming up with concepts to get sponsors to buy into the event, handling the social media for the events. It was a lot under that job title but that was my role for about 6 months.

It seems like after the Source 360 you kind of knew that you were making a change and pursuing event production.

Well after the Source 360 I was broke. Even though we had done all that work no one really got paid much. I left directly after that. The Source 360 was the second week in September and I was gone as soon as it wrapped. At that time, I took a little break from entertainment in its entirety because although I knew I really loved event production, there wasn’t another job lined up and I hated where I was at. So for a couple of months I worked at Chase, Home Depot, and then I met Van from 40oz. They had an event where I saw him and that kind of transitioned me to the next phase of event production. So it was like “Oh this is cool,” maybe I can try this and then meeting Van. I was like let me take what I learned and apply it to whatever Van had going on.

So you went to a 40oz Bounce here in the city?

I had gone to a couple of them, but that wasn’t really what inspired me to hit him up. Really he was suppose to do something with The Source, but money wise what he wanted we couldn’t provide so it didn’t add up. I still kept his contact and I studied the event throughout the months I was at Chase. I think he did an event with Modelo. It was this huge event they had ASAP Rocky and Ferg at this warehouse in Brooklyn with 1,500-2,000 people. I saw that and I was like “I want to do more of that.” It’s new it’s something that at the time wasn’t too popular. Now everyone has a party tour.

Hamburger Helper and 40oz Bounce celebrate Helper’s 40th birthday at the Good Room in Brooklyn, NY. Credit: Natalia Lens, Dinner Land Network

Yes, back then it was only really Henny Palooza.

Even then the party existed, but the tour going to LA and San Francisco that part of it wasn’t around at the time. I saw Van and I was like maybe we should do something. For whatever reason he believed in me and he let me do it.

That’s really dope. Is there anything you’ve taken from your experience working on 40oz Bounce that you’ve applied to your own agency, the production company you started Produced by Dev?

Of course, everything! I had to learn everything on the fly. When I started working with Van there wasn’t like anyone training me. Van had been running the business by himself along with one or maybe two other business partners, but that was just clothes. There was really no one just doing the events 100 percent of the time, so I had to learn. I apply stuff I learned with 40oz Bounce to The Meadows. Even a festival that big with Hov headlining, when I’m in the planning room I’m like “We did this for 40oz Bounce, we could probably apply this to Meadows.” It ends up actually working because no matter the scale of the event it’s still the same formula. People want good sh*t. You just have to package the good sh*t right and present it to them a certain way. That’s probably the number one thing I learned from Van. How to package things and put them out for people to consume.

When you originally started doing events with Van did you eventually see yourself starting your own event production agency or was it something that kind of evolved?

No, the idea of the agency started in 2016, but I always had these ideas. For Lovers Only the 90’s R&B party was something I had posted on Twitter back in 2015. It was something that was so old, that just now came to life. But no, I had no idea it was going to turn into me having my own production company. It kind of just happened. I’m thankful that it happened that way, that’s just the way of life. Even with everything from The Source, to going there to do one thing and ending up doing another, working with Van on events. Everything just kind of came together organically and I’m happy for that.

Is there anyone in particular who may have pushed you or said yo dev you should be doing this on your own?

No, not necessarily because even though the agency is my own thing working with Van is kind of that too. He runs his clothes and I run the events. It’s not like the two worlds are necessarily intertwined. It’s not him micromanaging me 24/7. I have my own event staff for 40oz Bounce and we manage that with Roc Nation and D’usse. Then the clothes is something that he’s 100 percent involved in. For the events it’s kind of like running my own business anyway. I just have to show him what were doing. It was always like that. The agency came about because I knew I couldn’t do a 90’s R&B party under the 40oz brand so I had to do it under a different brand; which is something that Van himself brought up to me.

You mentioned that you came up with the idea for the R&B party in 2015. Why R&B?

It was just what I was listening to at the time. I was with my ex-girlfriend. That’s just the type of music we would play whenever we were in the car running around etc. I only listen to R&B. At the time that I posted that I was listening to John B “They Don’t Know” and I was just like someone needs to do a party with this type of music. Even now people are taking the idea of using 90’s R&B and incorporating it into their entire event. We all know at event’s that one 15 min set where the DJ plays it, but now it’s more so a lot of parties want to do 90’s R&B the whole night. Which is cool, but when I posted it that wasn’t really the thing. People weren’t really playing that type of music in the club. Not for people our age it was more 35 to 40-year-olds not 21 to 25-year-olds.  I realized there was just a disconnect. This idea that young people don’t like R&B. That’s stupid because a lot of people I know listen to R&B. In the club at the ratchet parties they still drop “Pony” and it goes off. People still love it they just needed something to go to.

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4 Lovers Only Philadelphia

One could say that was kind of the inspiration behind it. You trying to come up with something given the current climate music wise?

That was a part of it. Then the whole aesthetic of it. The way the fliers look, and why I chose the color blue. Why it’s a sexy looking flyer, why the logo and all that are a certain color. I went into a bathroom, I was in San Francisco and the bathroom just had blue lights. This is going to sound weird, but I told my homie “Come into the bathroom real quick, look at this shit.” He was just like “I see what you mean. We can just do an all blue with a little pink here.” So the party itself was inspired, like you mentioned because of what was going on in the city party wise. The feel, the type of party, and vibe that I want you to get when you walk into the venue was inspired by a bathroom in San Francisco. Shoutout to the bathroom.

Funny where inspiration comes from.

It’s weird because you find inspiration anywhere. Yesterday I figured out what I want to do for my birthday in terms of what I want to post. Not anything corny like I’m finally 25 or twenty-fine or some caption like that. I want to post something, but I want it to not be about me and it be something I’m giving to people. It finally clicked on my way home from the gym. I was dead tired, I was so tired and for whatever reason it clicked. You can definitely find inspiration anywhere, from anything, anytime. When you have it you just have to write it down, or record it, or have a whiteboard in your room so you don’t forget it.

Speaking of your birthday, what was your great realization?

I can’t say too much, but essentially it’ll be a guide to help young entrepreneurs. It’ll be a quick and easy guide with some bullet points that I’ve already come up with. The way it’s going to be packaged people will enjoy it. It’s one of those things where the good thing is that I’m going to Jamaica for my birthday. I won’t be online to really see what people are saying about it. I’m just going to post it, airplane mode, and come back 5 days later. Hopefully people f*ck with it.

Do you think it’s necessary when you drop things to kind of disconnect?

Yea, because you would go crazy. You work so hard getting to the actual point of where you can put something out, then you put it out, and you’ll spend the whole day looking. This person doesn’t like it, this person does, this person said you copied them, another says it’s trash. It’s like too much. You kind of just gotta put your shit out and get the fuck out the way to let people enjoy it. If they enjoy it great! If not you come back to it, fix whatever’s wrong, and you put it out again. I don’t really like to sit down and look at everything that is going on. You do that and you end up fucking dizzy. Just get what you need to get out and take a couple days off because you go so crazy trying to make things happen.

Inaugural The Meadows Music & Arts Festival Oct. 1 st & 2nd 2016 in Queens, NY

You previously mentioned that you just wrapped up the Meadows for the second year. How was that?

The Meadows is definitely by far the most fun I have all year. It’s like 45,000 people. What’s tight is that it’s the same team that does The Governors Ball, but with The Meadows it’s a little bit more relaxed. The Governors Ball has been around since before I was a part of the team, so it’s kind of set up the way it’s going to be set up. I’m kind of just there to plug and play and do what I have to do. With The Meadows you can bring in more staff, you can bring in some of your friends to work. That’s the dope thing too. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of black people who produce the event. There a lot of black people that clean up, but there’s not a lot of black people on the production team who can actually hold some type of weight. Getting to bring some of my friends onboard in the past two years has been dope. You can see that there are jobs out here like this that pay really well. You can travel, do all that, and you don’t have to compromise yourself. You can have this grand result, have 45,000 people enjoy it. You have to bring people in though. Unfortunately it’s a world that’s very tight knit. If you don’t know anyone it’s not like you can apply online, that’s not the way it works. However, overall it’s amazing.

Is there anything else you’re currently working on?

There’s a project called “Picture Perfect Christmas.” I’m working with Adidas, General Mills, and other brands where we’re partnering with a shelter and a school in BK to give out clothes, sneakers, food, gloves, hats, basically everything to the less fortunate. That’s what’s going to be taking up a lot of my time after this month. I want to make sure that it’s perfect no pun intended. That’s the main thing then the guide I’m dropping for my birthday, and obviously planning for 2018.

What does fly mean to you?

Ownership is fly. Buying a house is fly, if you’re an artist owning your masters is fly, owning a publication or section of one if you’re working for someone that’s fly. Fixing your credit is fly. All that other s**t is whack. It’s cool to have chains, but you really have to put things into perspective. Being a grown-up and making smart moves.