Photo credit: David Morrison
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Evidence is 1/3 of Dilated Peoples, a rap group from Los Angeles that formed in the mid 90's and released five critically albums, and two at one time, inescapable hits "This Way" and "Worst Comes to Worst". Evidence has been a front man, a producer for other acts, and deep in the music industry this whole time.
He released an album this Winter, the final in his Weather Man series, which he told us concludes a chapter in his life, and leaves him with a wide open future to imagine. We spoke with Evidence about where he is in his life and were he is in the industry. This interview is revealing, especially of what it feels like to be in a career stage that isn't super flashy, but is stabilized by certainty and pride.
ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD: Representation.
EVIDENCE: Happy to be here.
ALI: We have hip-hop royalty up here.
FRANNIE KELLEY: Indeed.
EVIDENCE: I'm looking at hip-hop royalty, and it's a little confusing for me, but yeah.
FRANNIE: Tell me about it.
ALI: What's happening, man?
EVIDENCE: A lot. I guess that's a loaded question –
ALI: Well, give us a loaded answer then. No stops.
EVIDENCE: – we gotta push into. First and foremost, I have my album coming out. It's my fourth solo, my third full-length, and I've done a few EPs. So for people who don't know my history, I started with a group, Dilated Peoples, which is myself, Rakaa Iriscience, and DJ Babu.
And we did independent records. Well, we had a deal early, like '84, on Immortal Epic. And we did an album that got shelved and resurged through independents on ABB Records through the Bay. So there was this big misconception when we came out that we were a Bay Area group, because the records were coming out through the Bay. But we're an L.A. group. And we started pressing vinyl, and this was really around the time Fat Beats was starting to pop, especially on the West Coast.
FRANNIE: So, like, early 2000s?
EVIDENCE: Ninety-seven, '98. And it was just something that was – I would buy your albums at Music Plus or Wherehouse or Tower. I had never bought – that's where I bought my music. I never had went to a record shop where there was artists I hadn't heard of that people were talking about on 12 inches. That was the first time maybe since way before or whatever.
But I was too young for that wave, so this was the first time where I was catching all of that, and hearing about just people I didn't know about. And then people at the counter recommending records and feeling like I was left out of something I should've been knowing. And so I spent a lot of time at Fat Beats and then try to absorb that world.
And these records that we put out, they're really good, "Work The Angles" and "Third Degree." The first record to come out on ABB was Defari, a song called "Bionic," which I produced, which was – did a lot and got the attention of Premier and a lot of the – DJ Riz and a lot of these New York DJs who I wanted to know who I was anyway. So it was dope.
FRANNIE: How did that really feel? Like, the first time somebody like Primo –
EVIDENCE: Really crazy over the top. And then I'm probably just around 19 or 18 around then, so it's really like –
FRANNIE: How did you find out? Who told you?
EVIDENCE: Mixtapes were happening, or people who lived in New York. "Yo, he's on Stretch and Bobbito playing your song right now."
FRANNIE: That's crazy.
EVIDENCE: You know what I mean? You didn't – it wasn't the Internet, but you found out about it.
So that led to our deal on Capitol. Dilated, we started doing shows, and people knew about it. But then we did four albums and had, like, good success but the – I felt like there was always an identity thing within the group. Like, we were, like, doing anthems and we were always letting people in to who the group was. Cause you know that era was more a guarded era. Like, you did your interview in your rap voice almost. You didn't know everything about everybody. You just knew the song and then what you got through the interviews and whatever else you could find really.
And so with us, there was always – Rakaa's really political. He had a lot to say, but he had to dumb it down cause I wasn't on that. And then I wanted to be maybe something else that he wasn't. I might be influenced by Pharcyde or Hieroglyphics, and he was more on some KRS-One. Four or five years older than me too.
So I never got to feel like I established my identity in the group. And then when my mom passed in 2004, I tried to make a song, and we tried to put it on our next album, and it just felt like – it was out of left field. So I was like, "I need to do solo records." And then that was the time we were getting off Capitol. So it all was like, OK – cause we got a five album deal, and the fifth one was for a live record or a greatest hits, whatever they wanted to call it. So after the fourth we were clear.
And so I just did The Weatherman in 2007, and that led to trying to build an Evidence brand, which is hard to start over with something. But now it's been ten years, and I'm like, "Wow." I did build a brand, maybe not as big as Dilated Peoples, but it's definitely its own thing. And so – that was a lot of talking. And so here I am.
But where it got a little tricky is after my second or third Evidence record, I jumped out of that. I went into Step Brothers with Alchemist. We did a project called Lord Steppington, and then we did another Dilated record and then toured that for two years. So there's a big break between my last Evidence one and then this one, even though I've been active doing a lot, especially production lately.
So I'm trying to re-figure it out. And, yeah, it feels good. It's been a little uncertain.
ALI: In what way?
EVIDENCE: Just not knowing where I stand so much, just because of a gap and these times of rap era where they say – dog years and all this stuff. So, you know. But yeah.
ALI: When you say that though, it's interesting – I'm glad you went through that journey, cause a lot of people don't know. Even when you said Fat Beats, I'm sitting here wondering, do people really know?
EVIDENCE: No. Some people do.
ALI: It seems like it was so long ago, but it wasn't. And it was such a relevant record store for hip-hop during, like, mid-'90s to early 2000s.
EVIDENCE: Maybe even longer. 2004 maybe, '05 maybe.
ALI: Yeah. So mid-2000s. But now that doesn't exist, and when you speak about even going into a record store and people recommending, that's a big thing that you don't get that – well, I guess if you equate it to Spotify by saying, "If you like this" –
EVIDENCE: You get it on Spotify now. Yeah, it recommends this – yeah.
ALI: Yeah. Exactly. But in terms of just finding yourself and your identity, and you've been very active, it leads me to think about the first single, "10000 Hours," and what it has taken for you to do all of that and still say you're trying to find your place.
EVIDENCE: I am lucky enough to be around a lot of good inspiration. I'm around Alchemist. I'm around a lot of people who aren't reflecting on their back catalog, in fact, trying to ignore it almost and just keep moving. So that's inspiring, cause you still have a group of people. Cause I think when we were young, we all have a big field of contemporaries or whatever.
EVIDENCE: Yeah. And then you get older, it starts dwindling cause people's life gets in the way or whatever. So I'm blessed that I have that still a lot.
And then I stopped caring a little bit I think is what happened a little bit also. Just like, I watched this Mtume interview. Have you seen it? The one on Red Bull in Japan.
EVIDENCE: And he's just talking about imitation, emulation, innovation. And I realized I'm still on number two. And I was like – cause I still care what you think, and I still care what Premier thinks a little bit. And so I'm trying to move away from that even now. I'm not imitating anymore. I don't put someone's kick patterns up and try to – I'm not copying. But I'm still, like, considering a little bit.
ALI: Well, the thing with the title though is 10,000 hours is – the theory behind that is that it takes that long to master something, right?
EVIDENCE: Questlove says – I think it's 18 – he does something 18 times and then he's got it. I don't know. People have their ways. I don't know what it is.
ALI: So obviously you're a master.
EVIDENCE: That's not for me to decide. But I think I put in the work.
ALI: So when you say you're trying to find your way, I'm listening to that and I want to understand why you feel you haven't found this, like, sure, "I know what this is. I know what my place is."
EVIDENCE: No, I do.
ALI: I know you do.
EVIDENCE: But I – no, but there's still uncertainty out there. I mean, do you know where you sit all the time?
ALI: All the time?
ALI: No. Not all the time, but in terms of making music and the direction I want to go, yeah. Do I always hit that mark? No. But in terms –
FRANNIE: But are you talking about – you're pretty settled in who you are and what you're doing. Your question is how you fit into the world and how it's received?
EVIDENCE: Well, I'm not – it's not, like, the big looming question mark. I know – I like what – I mean, I wouldn't put it out if I didn't. You know what I mean? So obviously that.
What I'm saying is is I've been in a real creative zone, more than ever. I have my own studio. The door's shut. I haven't been that involved in – I keep up – I watch dumb YouTube things, and I find out who new artists are, but I'll know a new artist from their antics more than I know their song. And then I'll hear the song, and then not know that it's them. But I'll know the song also. I'm just not connecting the dots so much anymore.
ALI: Yeah. I get it.
EVIDENCE: I'm still in tune. It's just, that's not my interest. So I've been really focused on creating, and we can get into – my personal life has been crazy, and that's a big part of this also.
So I'm just trying to figure out a little bit when you're a brand – someone's been talking about – I don't know who makes this jacket. Who makes your pants? I don't know, but there's a brand. And the guy who makes this might be going through a lot, but you don't care. This brand, it's going, regardless of human struggle. And so I'm trying to figure out how to be that, but then my problem is it's based on a human.
But yeah, I've been dealing with a lot in these couple years, and then how to find out how to create through that and not be so focused on the industry. Then when you come back out to drop, it's not like I'm uncertain if my rhyme is good or – I was always more considered – I was part of an industry at one time.
Like Master P said, "You're not even industry till you have a hit." But we almost got hits a couple times. "Worst Comes To Worst" could be a hit, depending on how you view it. The song with Kanye might've been a hit, depending on how you view it. We kind of – we went to 106 And Park a few times. We got to experience that world a little bit, but it wasn't for us all the way.
So I was in the industry a little bit but now I'm way out of the industry. So my goals are shows and videos, YouTube, tracking people to watch the music. Those are the only things I care about right now. And so I don't know what industry that puts me in. It's a weird place, but I think it could be really successful. Cause nothing says success like a sold-out show and maybe a bunch of YouTube views. People go, "OK. Something's happening."
But yeah, I love what I'm making. It's proven to me in the last years that music is what I truly love, because checks are not coming or this isn't happening, and I still – it's my weed. It's my coffee. It's the drum machine. If it's good enough, then I start writing to it. It's just what I like – it's how someone enjoys jogging. It's just what I like doing, you know?
ALI: Yeah. What is it that motivates you after so many years and after working with so many different people and having projects that have had different levels of success. How do you still – you're in your 40s, right?
EVIDENCE: Just turned 40, yeah.
ALI: So you've been doing it for a long time. What is it that still drives you? Because the album, it sounds like you're 19. It's so fresh.
EVIDENCE: That means a lot. I think we've been talking about it lately, cause it's been coming up in interviews. I was 16 and 17, hanging out with 20 and 21 year olds. Rakaa, my partner, is four or five years older than me. That was a big difference at that time. It's not now, but it was then. So, like, I don't think I ever really wanted to be the best. Or I don't think I ever really – I just wanted to be down a lot.
And then we were talking about it, cause my album, I have a song – my pops and I had a split. And then somebody was like, "What time was that?" And I was like, "Actually, that was right around there. High school." We had a little beef over a chick he was with that I wasn't liking. And yeah, so these people were probably like father figures a lot. It's like, you're not trying to beat your father figure.
So now, it's older, and I'm not tripping as much. And I think I'm probably having freedom and fun a little bit. And then the other thing is that I don't feel like I'm competing really. I don't. It's weird, cause I feel like I'm trying to make rap music, which is –
ALI: You're doing it. You're not trying.
EVIDENCE: No, what I mean is I'm not trying to exemplify bars over good beats. I'm trying to do what y'all did. I'm trying to do what – even if Phife was better than Tip on this song or vice versa, it was still about the song.
ALI: The song. Yeah.
EVIDENCE: You know what I mean?
EVIDENCE: So that's what I want, to be different mostly. Cause I think Rapsody did better than me. But I'm not going to be like, "Oh now I'm going to go back and" – and I think my verse led to Styles P's verse, and then I think that – when she heard both of those, that's what led to her thing. It's like taking Busta Rhymes off "Scenario." That's what led to that, was everybody bringing it to his point.
ALI: Yeah. Some of those guys are competitive though. I won't name names.
EVIDENCE: I know they were. I'm not – but it was obvious who was supposed to go where.
FRANNIE: Can you tell the story of when you met Rakaa?
EVIDENCE: I met him at graffiti art first. I was with Vision from West Coast Artists who was a big influence on me. And he had one of those ladders that you could – you could make a table out of it or it could go high or whatever. And we were using it, and he was down – I didn't know him, but he was doing a character. He wasn't doing letters. And he asked us if he could borrow the ladder to finish the top of it. We gave it to him, and then we just met each other.
And then I didn't see him for a few years. And then I went to the Hip Hop Shop, which is a place on Melrose way back. It was owned by Hex and his wife Omega. And that was the spot. And he was a manager in there, and they had open mic. So I'd go rap in there. He and Alchemist would go rap in there. And we'd go back and forth.
And then I was living next to QD3. I moved to Venice, and I moved next to him. That's how I got into rap music. That's a whole 'nother story. But I got a beat tape from him after being his neighbor for a while. And so I was the man, cause I had beats from QD3. So I stepped to Rakaa like, "Let's do a song together. I got these beats. And we could record it next to my house." So we just did a demo, and it was probably not that good. But it was good enough to keep going.
And then we just kept going for awhile. The thought of a DJ wasn't even a consideration. Cause we would just use different DJs for shows if we needed cuts. And then he was really adamant about that. And then when we found Babu, that's kind of when it became the group.
ALI: I want to talk about the record a little bit. I only got a quick very brief listen, so wasn't able to really deeply digest it. But what was your thought process in going in to make this album? It's titled Weather Or Not, right?
EVIDENCE: I knew I wanted to close this weather thing out. My first album is The Weatherman. The second one's The Layover, which is based on bad weather. Third Cats And Dogs, heavy. And now I want to be Weather Or Not. Like, take it or leave it. For better or for worse. Just, like, as heavy as it can get, and then just close it out.
Cause I'm getting a little bit tired of trying to keep making the sequel thing. Even though it's not really a sequel. I envision it more as Business As Usual, Strictly Business. To me it's just not that serious, but still I'm getting tired of it, even that. And so I was like, "I want to just dead that." So Weather Or Not was the cool way to do that for me, was, like, the title of it.
The part that was confusing to me is I didn't know when this would happen or not, cause I always thought this would be the last of a career record. And so my plan was Dilated, solo records – learn about us individual – and then do the last Dilated. And we did that. And so after that, it was like, that was the end of my goals.
FRANNIE: The plan. Yeah. I know what that feels like.
EVIDENCE: I was like, "Oh no. Now what?" That was always what I had planned, since I was a kid. I was like, "Oh no, we're here." Fuck.
FRANNIE: You're only 40. Now what're you going to do?
EVIDENCE: Yeah. And I started making this two years ago, so I was 37, 38. So it was like, OK.
ALI: Why'd you think this was the end?
EVIDENCE: No, I meant the title would always be the end of the solo career. Weather Or Not. Like, it's over. It was like the –
ALI: It's interesting, because I was just talking to a young, aspiring artist last night, and they were trying to figure out whether they should keep their day job or really quit and pursue music. And they were expressing that just the thought of waking up because you had to go do that job that you didn't want to do, knowing that you really wanted to do music and were around so many inspiring people, and I tried to share my experience and just say that, for me, it was always music. The drive was just music. And I don't want to sound like I'm obsessed or it's compulsive, but it's just, I don't see anything else.
And when it comes to – well, I think Q-Tip said it: we do it till we die. So when you say, "This is it." And you seal the project and what would be a career, and you're going to maybe retire –
EVIDENCE: No, it's not panning out like that, thank god. Now I'm like, this is just the end to this. Now I can make my next album and call it Color TV or just something else. I can just actually move into that innovation thing I'm talking about, where I don't feel like I made something that works that I have to keep making.
ALI: So would you – are you thinking – I know it's too new, too early, to ask you something like this, and the album's just dropping. So you going to change your sound? You're going to change your style? What're you going to do?
EVIDENCE: No, I want to produce it myself.
EVIDENCE: I think it's a little safe having Premier and Nottz and Alchemist and – they're my friends, so it's not fake. But it's a little safe for me. I want to try to move into the next thing where – I want to make my best or my worst album.
ALI: So you're ready to take more risk?
EVIDENCE: I want to go to more risk a little bit.
ALI: That's a good thing.
EVIDENCE: I think so. Otherwise I'm not going to be excited, you know? I feel like I graduated my weather thing. It's deserved. It's not a bad thing. I feel like, yo, I tapped out of this now. Cool. And I'm proud of this record. So I don't want that to get confused. I've been doing visuals, seventh or eighth video right now, I've gotten in the bag.
EVIDENCE: I've put out three so far, so.
ALI: It's a dope album. "Rain" stuck out.
EVIDENCE: "Raindrops falling on my window."
ALI: "Rain Drops." I don't know what it was about that.
EVIDENCE: That was the first time where I was like – I always dreamed about doing – talking a record through, just like this. And so I really tried to do that on that one. Just the mic super loud and no rapping really.
ALI: Can you talk about the producer on that, Twiz?
EVIDENCE: Twiz is crazy. He did the intro as well, "The Factory." Him and I have a whole EP out that we couldn't really promote, cause it was all Beatles samples. But it's called I Don't Need Love EP, and we made a promise like we wouldn't pitch any of it. So it's all at the original – we didn't speed anything up or slow it down, which was a challenge. And then he produced on Step Brothers as well, the first song we put out, the only video, which was "Step Masters." He produced it with Alchemist together.
He's really good. We gave him a hard time for a long time cause he kind of looks like Alchemist and he's inspired by him and stuff. We would call him like Chrysler 300 or whatever. Like, "You're not the Bentley, dog. You're almost there." But nah, he's graduated, man. He's an innovative guy. I'll say it here. I haven't really said it. But him and I have almost a finished album together.
EVIDENCE: In the bag, just by working. Cause he moved to Venice where I live, and so I was going over there, just creating for no better reason. It's good. What do you think of the whole – can I ask you questions?
ALI: Yeah. Ask me – this is a conversation.
EVIDENCE: Alright. So boom bap, the boom bap thing, I'm starting to move out of it a little bit, in the sense of like, you've got a really good loop going and everything's fine, and then you just have to add your drums just cause. And I feel like it was blended better in a previous era. Was that cause of tape machines and the big boards? Like, it was still boom bap, but it wasn't so – how was the blend better on all the Tribe shit? You know what I'm saying? I feel like it's – I want to move with it all starting to sound like one piece of music more than it's like, there's the loop and then the drums thing happens.
ALI: That's a good question. Are you speaking from a Low End Theory, Midnight Marauder or are you speaking from –
EVIDENCE: Yeah. Not the new stuff. No.
ALI: – cause the latter stuff is –
EVIDENCE: Sounds more digital to me.
ALI: Exactly. It's a different process, and even –
EVIDENCE: No, I'm talking that, those two especially.
ALI: Yeah. So one, I think it was the choice of records that were sampled, which already in its style of recording from jazz records just had a feeling to it, an openness to it.
EVIDENCE: But was it more loop-driven?
ALI: It was a lot more loop-driven. The latter stuff was a lot more chopped up, right?
EVIDENCE: It was like you would take the kick to the snare and then everything in – it wasn't just like snare, kick, hat, right?
ALI: No, probably like the first album I think there was layered –
ALI: – even if you found a loop and then you have a separated kick or snare, to layer it just –
EVIDENCE: Ghost notes and all that shit.
ALI: Yeah, to just kind of give it a different frequency texture. But for Low End and Midnight, not a lot of layered, chopped up like that. There was blending of certain drum loops at times too, which is a secret. I don't really talk about that.
EVIDENCE: It's in the mixing too. It's in the mixing.
ALI: Definitely in the mixing. We have a two-inch tape here because the sound you get from tape compression is just unmatched.
EVIDENCE: What is it? Harmonic distortion, they say.
EVIDENCE: Yeah, yeah.
ALI: And you can't get that in digital recordings.
EVIDENCE: Well, I'm just talking about, they have a sample from over here and they have a drum from over here. I know what I'm asking, cause I do it. But what I'm trying to say to him is, it felt like one. Whereas lately things feel like the producer is showing that they have to put their drums on it, because that, like, gives them their identity. Whereas in these ones, I couldn't always tell what everything was. It was still –
ALI: Well, Bob –
EVIDENCE: Bob Power.
ALI: I definitely give Bob Power – in terms of – there was a great challenge in finding the frequencies to cut out to make it lay so that it sounded actually like those records came together.
EVIDENCE: Dull almost.
ALI: It was recorded that way versus you taking layers and placing them together to fit. And so that was definitely a challenge. It wasn't easy. There was many times where he was uncertain, especially in our early days when Q-Tip and I didn't understand the language, and it's just like, "More bass." And you say that to someone, it's just not like – if you had back in the day, a very simplified amplifier, which just had bass knob, treble knob. Like, we're just saying bass, but to an engineer that's like, "Are you talking 20 Hz all the way up to 250 Hz. When you talking about low end, give me" – so it's things like that that became a challenge based off of the type of records that we were sampling.
Now, the other thing is that the drum is pushed to the forefront. And it's a good question, because I've been going back to listening to older records. I'm like, man, the drums weren't really in your face. At times I think –
EVIDENCE: This is what I'm talking about. Right now the drums – this is what – you just said it. Why are they up so high now? Let's turn them shits back down.
ALI: That's a thing, but I think instantly, it's just the drum, especially for hip-hop. It speaks to you. It connects instantly.
EVIDENCE: But with the Tribe, the drum felt loud but not intrusive. So that's that blend. And I think it's just in the mixing, the mastering, the board, the two-inch, the loop combination, so many factors.
ALI: It's a lot.
EVIDENCE: Yeah, yeah.
ALI: And we're in the age where things are separated. It's a lot of separation. Like, kick isolated. Snare drum is isolated. The hi hat, everything is isolated, and it doesn't – that isolation, we hear the isolation, and because there's no air or cohesiveness, like what you get from an acoustic kit. You get – if you hit the kick drum, but you also get the ring the of the tom, that gets into – it's all these little – we're geeking out a little bit too much for our listener, I apologize.
ALI: But it's just all those dynamics that doesn't really exist in the way music is produced now. And so especially when you chop up, for an example, kick drums, so you're cutting off – you're truncating the front air, the end of the air, the breath of the kick drum behind – so what do we do though? We turn it up to make it feel like it's that thing, and a lot of other elements are missing. Drums stand out. And then it's a battle for everything else to find its place. The vocal to sit on top of the drum now, so we're raising the threshold level of gain, and it's just a little loud and the feeling is lost.
EVIDENCE: A little bit, but that's where I'm trying to go right now. I'm trying to –
ALI: You're probably listening to a lot of vinyl, unlike a lot of other people.
EVIDENCE: Yeah. Everything –
ALI: And so when you listen to vinyl, things come down, and – I don't know – I've been thinking about that too, cause –
EVIDENCE: Leaving more room.
ALI: Yeah, more room.
EVIDENCE: More room and all that shit.
Say I take a sample and I hit the one of it, but the one of it, when it starts playing, it's still echoing from all the shit that was being played before it. They played music, and it sat for years, and they pressed it to vinyl. It got mixed and mastered and pressed to vinyl and sat for years, and then I'm sampling it. And I'm going to mix it and master it, and it's so hard to do that with live music, get that feel, from all those generations.
ALI: What's the process like when you're working with such great producers? And you're a great producer yourself. When you're with Premier, what's the process?
EVIDENCE: I just go into artist mode and just let him – he usually sends me one beat, to be honest. I've got to watch Premier make beats before, but they weren't always for me. But yeah. He made the one for Dilated – we had on our second album, Expansion Team – he made that on the spot in D&D. But the rest of them have been mailed or given to me on a CD or whatever, so yeah.
ALI: So when you guys are working together, is it just kind of like everybody's just throwing ideas – what's your process?
EVIDENCE: Well, I built a studio at my house. I used to have it in an office building, separate, but now it's in the detached part of my house. So that's just become where I'm working, or I'll go to Alchemist's, and his is similar, a little better but similar. And yeah, people come over, and a lot of times we're not aware we're making the album, which is fun. Cause we just be making music every which day until something happens.
I think weed is a big bond, and people need a place to go where they can smoke weed and chill. I know Young Guru. He always comes through my spot. He's like, "This is the place I can do what I need to do here to navigate properly." So yeah, a studio is always a good place for people to be. My thing is, it's a small room, so too many people, it just never works out, which is good. So each session has been real individual.
The one thing about this album that was cool is I've had a pretty big wishlist fulfilled just cause either a) having a budget or b) knowing a lot of people. So with this one I didn't have like a lot of big goals to get features like I had on previous ones. So I figured whoever made it would make it, and a lot of things happened real natural that led to a really good feature roster, line-up.
Like, 9th hit me asking where a good place would be to stay in L.A. so I told him about an Airbnb area close to my house where I could show him the L.A. that I know. So him and Rapsody were coming over a lot. Styles P was at Alchemist's crib, and I said, "What are you doing tomorrow?" He's like, "I'm still here." He came to my crib and recorded it there. Slug from Atmosphere, same.
Mach-Hommy, who's someone I'd like to talk about, he's on a song with me. He didn't record it at my place, but he came to Al's studio. I got to build with him in person a lot too.
ALI: Where's he from?
EVIDENCE: He's from Jersey but in Atlanta now. And what he did last year was crazy, if you're peeping that whole thing. Jonwayne, super – he came to the house. He was one of the first features on the record.
Yeah, so it just happened naturally, and all on my microphone so it doesn't like a big mess.
ALI: All over the place. Yeah.
ALI: What do you want from the listeners to get from this album? Because you said something I think was really key: making the music for yourself. And some people don't get that.
EVIDENCE: I think they view it as like NBA or something. Like, you do it for a little while, and then you become a coach or you become an owner or you're supposed to move out of it. So you always think, "I'm going to do this for a while, and then when it's over, it's like an NBA thing or whatever." But then you get to that point, and you realize that you're not good at anything else. Cause you did 10,000 hours on this, and if you want to go start becoming a movie director, now you gotta go to class and start over. And then they already been doing that, so, yeah, we're all fucked basically.
ALI: It's true.
FRANNIE: How is it different for you when you're a producer, when you go into other people's circumstances and –
EVIDENCE: It's dope. It's something I'm liking a lot. So in the last couple years I produced my friend Madchild from Swollen Members. I did a solo album for him. I did one for Defari. I have one that's almost finished with Krondon. We just put out an EP with Domo Genesis from Odd Future that I produced in full. And then I have an instrumental album. And then, knock on some form of something, but I'll hopefully make a couple placements on some bigger things. I've been fielding out some tracks a little bit.
So it's been really fun to do that, because I think even Dr. Dre has to have somebody talk to him when he gets in the booth. You lose perspective. And so it's so easy for me to see it for them sometimes that it helps me with me.
And then one thing that I've really worked on is the social skills of being a producer. Not just the beat side of it, but genuinely conveying a message to the person that I'm working with that all I want is the best for them, just want them to be the star. And I remind people like, "I put myself through more torture so if I give it to you, at least I do it to myself too." I grind my teeth down, so, hey – and I'm not afraid to admit when it's right. If that's it, I'm not going to start a fight for no reason either. Yeah, I really like the whole trust issue and how –
And then the other thing about being a producer and doing a project is when somebody trusts me enough to make a bulk of work, we don't have to hit it out the park on every single song. It's not this pressure of having – and so you start making this well-rounded record instead of banger after banger after banger. So then you start getting in a workflow, cause they're not even tripping anymore. They just feel like whatever you put down, that must be good enough to warrant their rhyming. So nobody feels like – rapper's not saying, "This rhyme is too good for this beat" or vice versa. Everyone feels even. It's dope.
ALI: What do you miss most about Prodigy?
EVIDENCE: I'm still processing that right now. It's too – it's just new. I think when you make such an impact it's hard for us to realize you're not here, cause you're just, like, still here.
EVIDENCE: So the Prodigy one is weird for me. He was at my house two weeks before he passed with his daughter, and we made a new song. And now it's just sitting in my computer, and I don't know what to do with it. I don't know what channels to go through, and I'm just letting it sit.
But what I realize is I wasn't as tight with him as I thought I was. Alchemist is really his real friend. I'm friends with him through Alchemist. And so what I feel can – it's just not even a little bit of what – they're feeling it. It was – I was – I just respected him a lot and just trying always to look out and show him, "Yeah, I respect you." And got to work with him a lot, but I kept my distance. We never – I wrote him a letter in jail. He wrote back. That was fire. But we weren't in constant communication either, so feels like Guru to me a lot. Probably how Phife feels. I don't know. It's just hard to process.
ALI: Yeah, it is.
EVIDENCE: I haven't grieved. I didn't go to the funeral. I just haven't all the way dealt with that one yet.
ALI: Yeah. I understand.
FRANNIE: Can I ask you a kind of personal question? Have you done a lot of therapy?
EVIDENCE: I said it. I said –
FRANNIE: You talk about it a lot.
EVIDENCE: "I've been a lot of places when I stare at the map, but never been to therapy, for me that's rap."
FRANNIE: Right. "My lyrics take care of me, they therapy. Get shit off my chest." But –
EVIDENCE: Yeah, I've never done it. Never just – there's enough of this.
FRANNIE: Yeah. I mean, there's something about the way that you've always talked that you kind of have some of the language of it.
EVIDENCE: Of what? Of a therapist?
FRANNIE: Of people who've spent a lot of time in therapy.
EVIDENCE: Oh. Trip out.
FRANNIE: Like Jay does it. Jay has been in therapy.
FRANNIE: There you go. And it's a thing that people don't – everybody says, "Black men never go to therapy." But people in hip-hop don't go to therapy, and I think some of it is because –
EVIDENCE: We have a tremendous outlet.
FRANNIE: That's what I'm trying to say. Yeah. But I don't know that people, fans, get to see things that happen in the studio, the ways that friendships are maintained, and people support each other and listen to each other. Like, weed is really important, because it allows people to – one of the things it does is let people just sit with things, talk about it if they need to.
EVIDENCE: It also costs money, so if you have it, "You got weed? Tight. I'm broke."
FRANNIE: That makes sense.
EVIDENCE: Yeah. But yeah, that's true. Music and weed, yeah, those are reasons to hang out.
FRANNIE: Yeah, but I'm – you've been through a lot, and you have stuff currently going on in your life. But the way that you continue to produce and you continue to be a responsible person is not easy to do. And people really don't ever expect it from artists, cause the stereotype is that they're irresponsible.
EVIDENCE: I'm sure I'm irresponsible in plenty of things.
FRANNIE: Well, sure.
EVIDENCE: I mean, to be an artist, you have to be childlike a lot and do things to not fit in a lot. So yeah, I'm sure there's grown-up stuff that I neglect. You know what I mean?
FRANNIE: Yeah, I mean, I was thinking more about emotional honesty and kind of bravery in expressing weakness, and just sort of talking about things that are, yeah, out of the norm or whatever.
EVIDENCE: I think it's cause I had my first half of my career where I didn't do any of that, so this was a like a big opening to – yeah, my solo stuff has allowed me to have therapy. Cause the other half wasn't allowing that, cause I was just rhyming about rhyming or rhyming about anthems or things we could both agree on or whatever. Not to say I was ever held back, that's just the way the group functioned. That's what made it what it was.
ALI: What do you want people to get from you as an artist?
EVIDENCE: No idea. I do like that people say, "You get older and you can get better" thing. I like that. I think it's just about staying inspired and being able to – creating an environment to be able to be older and better. Cause that's what's breeding it. It's not your lack of ability to rhyme words or sample a snare drum. It's just you have time to really – not just for a couple hours a day or after work. Can you make this your world? And if you can afford to do that, then the age is not going to be as big a factor.
ALI: Yeah, it's like a two-fold question. If you want to share, what has been the biggest disappointment in your journey as an artist?
EVIDENCE: I'd have to say that with the waiver before it that I'm not a could've would've should've-type of person.
ALI: That's fair.
EVIDENCE: So I'd have to be reaching for it. It's not something that's sitting on my mind. You know what I mean?
ALI: Other question: what has then been the biggest lesson and what will aid you moving forward as you're closing the chapter on the weather?
EVIDENCE: The biggest lesson is – my biggest lesson would probably be that you're going to end up liking everyone you thought you hated. Cause you see someone and you're like, "I don't like that guy." But then you meet him, and you're on the same fucking mission. You're like, "Oh, I didn't like your song." Or, "Your jeans were ripped funny. You're awesome." So it's that. A lot of people I thought, "I ain't going to like you. We're different." And then you finally meet them years later or you tour with them, and you're like, "Oh. Same shit."
EVIDENCE: Even if the music's totally different. And the other one is – what was it? My biggest fuck-up?
ALI: Not your biggest fuck-up, just the biggest disappointment.
EVIDENCE: Oh, disappointment.
ALI: In the journey of music. Because you've been around for a long time, so you've seen a lot from a lot of different perspectives.
EVIDENCE: The biggest journey.
ALI: As starting out as to then beginning to tour with people, being in different rooms with different people, going from independent to a major, traveling all over the world. For an example, my lady says, "Tell him that 'Main Event' was my ringtone when I was in the ninth grade."
EVIDENCE: That's so fire.
ALI: And she's from Russia. So just – how old are you when you're in the ninth grade? You're 14?
ALI: In Russia. So my point is you've touched a lot of people all over the world, from Los Angeles. And to exist in a very fierce industry that at times it seems like it embraces you and at times you feel completely isolated and alone and that no one is your friend, you've experienced a lot. So I'm just saying, based off that journey, what has been the biggest disappointment? And that's why the other question was the follow-up to that. Because it's kind of the balance between the two.
EVIDENCE: Biggest disappointment. It would probably be the Eminem thing.
ALI: Have you guys talked?
EVIDENCE: Nah, we never spoke.
EVIDENCE: Yeah. That whole thing was just a big misunderstanding. I don't – never talk about it. I like him, so it's like, I'm sitting here going, "Bring it up. Don't bring it up. Bring it up. Don't bring it up." But yeah, that whole thing was fucking weird. Just being so young. So weird. But yeah, we had a problem over some shit someone said, who said.
ALI: Was it like a behind closed doors kind of a someone said or was it –
EVIDENCE: Dude, it was the biggest mistake in the world, man. You have no idea. But basically, just imagine, the Internet is not here. There's some kid – so I have a friend. His name's Kenny, and he played Atreyu in NeverEnding Story. It's like, it's my guy.
FRANNIE: We're keeping it.
EVIDENCE: His girlfriend's name's Erin, and she goes to UCLA. And fucking they keep talking about some kid named Josh. This kid named Josh. And he raps, and his name's Eminem.
So basically all that was happening to make a long story way short, fucking Eminem had a friend out here named Aristotle who was a rapper. And pre-Internet I guess Aristotle was kicking Eminem's rhymes to girls, because nobody fucking knew yet, because it was a tape. No one's signed, you know? So he would go saying his rhymes to chicks getting props. So she's going, "This guy's fucking amazing," and I'm going, "OK."
And this unsourced Hype thing comes out and is like, "His name's Marshall Mathers and he's from Detroit." And I'm like, "No, he's not. He's from fucking over here." Cause I know – cause there's no fucking Internet yet, and we're all just – and then in my mind, I'm like, "That's not real" or whatever. And then some guy stepped to me one time I was in Fat Beats, and he was like, "My name's Paul, and I represent Em. You made 'Bionic,' and I'd like some beats." And in my mind I'm going, this guy's not who he says he is, "Anyway, no." "OK, fine." And that's a whole bunch of shit right there.
But it was all –
ALI: We label this today alternative facts, fake news.
EVIDENCE: Yeah, all that. I've never even told that story publicly.
ALI: You're in safe hands, man.
EVIDENCE: I know. So yeah, here is it for everybody to check out. But it was just dumb, being dumb, young, and no Internet.
ALI: Well, the –
FRANNIE: It could happen to anybody.
EVIDENCE: It could happen to anybody.
ALI: Yeah, it could happen to anyone.
EVIDENCE: So that was all it was. But then that was it. And then Everlast dissed him on my record. On The Platform, we had that song, "Ear Drums Pop (Remix)," and everyone did their rhyme. Planet Asia, Phil Da Agony, me, Defari, Rakaa, and Everlast. And Everlast said a subliminal. He never said his name. It was under his tongue. We were all in the studio just like this. He came out the booth. Nobody walked out and went, "Damn!" "Buck a comet at Hailey." We didn't catch it. I wasn't even that delved into his career to even know what that meant at the point. He was still on the rise.
So that came out. By the time it got pressed, we all – brought to our attention what was happening, but we were coming up, shit's pressed, Capitol Records. I'm like, that's between a) grown man and b) grown man. And he singled me out, because he felt like for – whatever. So the whole thing was just over dumb shit. But Alchemist is his DJ now. Me and Proof – rest in peace – and Bizarre, all on the phone together, squashed it a long time ago, and it's been cool ever since.
But that – had I not said no to Paul maybe right there, whoa, career fucking –
EVIDENCE: But then, you know, maybe I wasn't meant to go that way. Maybe this is where I'm supposed to be. I don't – I never pondered it. But yeah, thinking about it right now, OK, that's the only, like, fork in the road that went straight or something.
ALI: Yeah, it's a life lesson and great observation of things. We're not, like, exposé type of a conversation, but because I'm blessed to be able to speak with people who've had a great impact, and I myself, I understand life a little bit. And I think it's important for us to share some of our experiences.
EVIDENCE: Yeah. And that's 20 years ago, so we can all talk about that. It's not high school.
ALI: Yeah. That's why I said you're in a safe place. What is the definition of skills when it comes to being a rapper?
EVIDENCE: It varies so much right now. There's such a wide scope of what can define that, and I'm learning that more and more producing a lot of people. Some people are rhythmic rappers. Some people are about the flow more than the content. Some people have the voice. Some people have it all. Some people have it all, but it's not good for some reason. And then like there's just so many things. There's no one way to point somebody on that. It's – there isn't.
So I like different rappers for different reasons is the best way to put it. And I think you don't have to be one way. There's not one set flow or one set technique that's going to work. Cause I could just give different examples, you know?
But I think the obvious things are being able to convey your message, the same message in the studio, live. That's really important. Doesn't seem to be as critical anymore. But for me, that's important.
ALI: Me too.
EVIDENCE: Breath control. Learning to not out-write in the studio what you can do live. Cause some people, they write all this shit, and they get live and, "I can't do that. It's not natural even. Things are overlapping and oh fuck." So learning that skill. And then just communication. If you're not reaching anybody, it's completely pointless.
ALI: OK. That was my slick my way of asking you, so what young MCs you feeling right now? But I'm not going to do that to you.
EVIDENCE: No, I can. For sure. There's so much. I'm saying Mach-Hommy. I don't – God Fahim. I don't know – I'm not really that – I haven't been going to Google the age of it, so some people might be in their mid-30s, young-30s. Some are in their 20s. I don't know that many teen rappers right now probably that I have a list of. But yeah, I love Roc Marci. I love everything that stems from that. I love Earl. I love my classics.
Mach is doing his crazy – so Mach-Hommy is a dude who came out – think Earl even produced an album for him this year. But he just called it dumping. I mean, he put out a whole career in a year, ten albums or something like that. And I got to be a part of a couple beats on some of them. So I put him on my album, cause I really feel the way he's rhyming and moving is unorthodox. I really like it.
I like a lot of the rappers that everybody knows. Some of them are dope. Like I said – but it's not as much – I've been more working with Domo Genesis, so I'm fucking with that. And then he's telling me about J.I.D., and I'm going checking that out, and that's leading me to this thing. You know what I mean?
EVIDENCE: More organic. But there's a lot of really good stuff.
ALI: You planning to tour for Weather Or Not?
EVIDENCE: Yeah, that's everything for me. So I got my release party, a New York show, and then after that start going out with Atmosphere. Canada, Europe. I'm still working on being a headliner in America. That's a goal of mine. I haven't got that yet.
EVIDENCE: California's selling out really fast. New York is looking like we might catch a sell out by show date. A couple other pockets, Minneapolis, certain part of Texas, Arizona, go up the coast, good. But then what happens when I start going in between all of that, it's still unproven. Cause I've been working Europe so much these last years. So you get out what you put in.
ALI: Yeah. Well, go see your friends in Russia.
EVIDENCE: Fuck. That's more fun – I don't know if this is fucked up, but I mean, to me, going to Poland sounds more fun than maybe a state in the middle of America somewhere. I don't know. It's like, hey, going to Italy sounds a little doper.
FRANNIE: No arguments.
ALI: I mean, there's not a huge support if you're in Oklahoma for certain things, so I mean, that's no disrespect to Oklahoma, that's just –
FRANNIE: Go where you're wanted.
EVIDENCE: Yeah, you gotta go where the people want you.
ALI: Yeah. Go where you're wanted. What about South America?
EVIDENCE: Chile has been amazing for us, and shows are looking good to go back, and Bogotá and Brazil. Those are the three so far. Did Mexico City. I know that's North America, but still. And yeah, world's getting a little smaller in that sense. It's dope. I'm excited to perform this record live. I think that's where it's going to do its best. Cause like I said, it's big, and I think it's written in song format, a lot of it. It's got a place, so.
ALI: You touch a lot of people. Do you remember a moment where one of your fans touched you the most?
EVIDENCE: Yeah, that's happening. I mean, it's happened a lot. It's weird, cause my solo stuff, there's been a lot of topics based on loss and tragedy and going through this. And so I don't always want to be the guy who every time I only talk about a subject it's something that's heavy, cause then it's like, you feel like you're the shoulder-to-lean-on rapper. And I'm just not trying to be that. But then to ignore what's happening in my life is a lie also, so then what kind of artist is that? So I'm battling with that a lot.
But so if you do a song about your mom passing, you're going to have people who relate to that, and they're going to hit you with their stories. And then it's going to come back, and you're going to find therapy in it. And go, "Oh, this wasn't just for me. This is helping others and stuff."
So yeah, there's a girl in Poland and her husband, and they always come to the shows. They came to L.A. They brought me all this vinyl. Boom, boom. The mother of my child has been dealing with breast cancer, now reoccurring. So my whole last two years, like I said, personal life has just been nuts. To even make an album, some people are like, "What are you even doing?"
And so she came out here. I'm helping – they're bringing me vinyl. I'm showing them Venice Beach, cause they're really good fans, and we've hung out a lot in Poland. And then we're talking about what I'm going through, and she's helping me. And now she's got – and I'm like, "Ah." Now she's recovering, and my girl's on the other side of it. And it's just like, "Wow. This is like" – it's kind of deep, how it all – support system through fans, strangers, it's definitely bigger than just music.
ALI: It is.
EVIDENCE: Yeah. For sure.
ALI: Thanks for sharing that.
EVIDENCE: My g.
FRANNIE: When you were very young, how did you imagine your adult life?
EVIDENCE: Like this.
EVIDENCE: Mhmm. I couldn't see another way around. I just never saw that. Cause I've only had one job, and it was developing photos. So it's like, yeah, this is it. I wanted to be a baseball player. I hurt my arm, and then I found weed and acid and fucking music, and that was that. And it was like, not going to do anything else but this.
FRANNIE: Well, we're lucky.
EVIDENCE: I don't know. My mom's a photographer. You just learn – my grandfather made clothes. It was always based on their hobbies. They never – and they were always their own bosses, so you just emulate what you see pretty much I think. Imitate what you see.
FRANNIE: Thank so much for coming here and spending time.
EVIDENCE: Thank you guys for having me. This was great and unexpected.
ALI: Dope. You gotta come back.
EVIDENCE: Oh, yeah. I'm coming back regardless of interview.