When Devin Gaines called, thousands came. The young promoter knew how to reach out and haul in rap fans to venues large and small across the Twin Cities. Aqua Nightclub? Myth Live? Monarch? Twerk Fest at El Nuevo Rodeo? Didn’t matter. Gaines pulled in a crowd.
Gaines, 22, died April 19 after a car crash in Bloomington.
That day, his mother, Jennifer Gaines, was moving. Devin had asked all his friends to come haul boxes. They showed. Devin didn’t. She instantly knew something was wrong.
“What was magnetic about Devin is he was so cool,” she said. “He is the life of the party. He is always smiling. He just knew how to put people in a good mood.”
As a child, Devin Gaines moved frequently, living in Crystal, Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, Plymouth, and most recently, Shakopee. He went to four high schools — Park Center in Brooklyn Park; Armstrong in Plymouth; and Cooper in New Hope — before graduating from the Paladin alternative school in Blaine. With moving so much, he knew a lot of people, his mother said. “He was known at all the clubs. The clubs downtown in Minneapolis would pay him to promote their shows and come out and meet different artists. Soon he started promoting and hosting his own events.”
He knew early he had a calling. Years ago, a friend talked him into promoting a party at a lake house in Inver Grove Heights. With a few clicks on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, Gaines drew hundreds. So many showed that the streets clogged. Police shut down the party, his brother, David Gaines, said.
“He was just a master at social media,” he said. Gaines promoted homecoming and parties while attending Minnesota State University, Mankato, then hit his stride in Minneapolis where he and two buddies formed Ahmill Entertainment three years ago — just as he became a new dad to Devin Gaines Jr.
“I was pretty proud of him,” said David Gaines, 29. His brother was “chill,” always himself no matter if he was talking to his family or interviewing hip-hop stars. He was coming into his own and doing it well, he said.
Gaines’ father died when he was 6. Back then, times were tough, his mother said. “I had a lot of stuff going on and a lifestyle that was not always real secure for Devin when he was young,” she said. “I was going through addiction issues and I was a victim of sex trafficking. Devin went through it all. Even when I was at my worst, he always loved me and never got mad at me. I changed my life around eight years ago. He was really proud of me.”
That pride went both ways. He also took care of his friends, she said. If they needed a place to stay, he brought them to their home. He also helped several young women find their way to Breaking Free, a nonprofit that helps women who have been victims of sex trafficking or exploitation, so that his mother or one of the other counselors there could help them.
Gaines reached out to Jalen Lambert in high school to resolve a dispute. “I thought that was pretty tight,” Lambert said. Then Gaines remembered Lambert’s birthday, and they became buddies. When Lambert got shot by a burglar, Gaines carried him into the ambulance, cracking jokes to ease the tension, and didn’t leave his side.
Gaines wasn’t perfect. He was arrested for marijuana possession and got 15 speeding tickets. But, his mother said, whenever he was needed, he was there.
“I’m just putting one foot in front of the other, trying to get through this,” she said.
Gaines is survived by his mother; his son; his son’s mother, Chanel Thomas; siblings David Gaines, Dylan Arrell and Destiny Gaines; and girlfriend Lammira Jackson. Services have been held.