Evidence: Whether or Not

Ever since Evidence signed with Capitol Records in 2000 along with Rakaa Iriscience and DJ Babu as the fundamentalist trio Dilated Peoples, they’ve all wanted to make solo records. Four albums later and one finished contract with Capitol Records, the rap artist that “seems to make too many references to weather” is coming out of the gate first with a solo record, aptly titled Weatherman LP. AllHipHop.com sat down with Evidence to discuss the new album, his approach from both a lyrical and production standpoint, as well as how Evidence feels about his improvement as an artist and what’s in store for the future of Dilated Peoples.

AllHipHop.com: You’ve got the new album, The Weatherman LP, out right now. What were your expectations with the new album?

Evidence: First and foremost, it’s long overdue. If you look inside our liner notes from Expansion Team album, our second Dilated Peoples record, which was 2001, it says “Look out for our solo LPs coming soon.” This has always been premeditated. Our contract [with Capitol Records] didn’t let us do our solo records without tying ourselves up for another five records with them. Being that we fulfilled all our contractual obligations in 2006 at Capitol and doing four LPs as Dilated [Peoples], I got in [the studio] and banged [this album] out immediately. It was something I needed to do because there are a lot of things I might want to say that don’t necessarily fit the Dilated [Peoples] mode or aren’t appropriate for a Dilated [Peoples] record. You also have to keep in mind that Rakaa and I are so different. People walk up to me sometimes and say, “Dog, thank you for being so political.” I can’t take direct credit for that. That’s Rakaa’s angle. Or, certain people embrace the turntable aspect of our group. I can’t take direct credit for that either; that’s Babu. Even though I co-sign, and I’m a part of it, it’s just different sides. I really wanted to put my identity out there and really let people into the Evidence life a little bit.

AllHipHop.com: Why was doing a solo albums always a part of Dilated Peoples’ vision?

Evidence: Because Rakaa and I, Rakaa being considerably older than I am, coming from a different side of town than I do, we hooked up to do this group out of mutual love. We’re both graffiti artists from Los Angeles, we both hold the DJ in high regards, and we’re both of the minds that you can be a dope spitter, but you also have to be a dope songwriter. A lot of people around the time we both hooked up didn’t care about these things. Rakaa is a very smart individual and I feed off of his wisdom. I’m definitely the youth in the group. He might feed off that energy and between the two we form Dilated [Peoples]. But it was always our intentions to let people know who we are as individuals, somewhat similar to Wu-Tang Clan. As another example, you see Prodigy of Mobb Deep doing his thing, H.N.I.C. album. But it’s still Mobb Deep. Dilated [Peoples] is not breaking up. We’re definitely co-signing each others’ movements. Rakaa has his solo album in the making right now, Crown of Thorns, which is going to be sick. My album is The Weatherman LP. And Babu is off doing Duck Season Volume 3 right now. It’s just the year of the solo individual within the Dilated [Peoples] camp.

AllHipHop.com: Why did you decide to call it the Weatherman LP?

Evidence: It’s a nickname my fans basically gave me back in the day. When I was first starting to rhyme, I was really painting some darker pictures and dark imagery with my lyrics. And I still do. But one thing I didn’t realize I was doing was making a lot of references to weather in every one of my rhymes; rainstorms, sandstorms, hurricanes, blizzards. I said these words because it always captured the essence of how I was feeling. I’m also an opinionated person, so whether I’m feeling you just adds another duality to it.

AllHipHop.com: Compared to your Dilated Peoples albums, how did you approach your solo LP? Was it any different?

Evidence: It was very different because I didn’t have to find a common denominator, or a common topic, for Rakaa and me to build on. Sometimes in a group, it’s difficult because I might want to talk about one thing, he might want to talk about another, and we have to end up settling in the middle somehow. When that happens, an identity sometimes gets lost. For example, when we do Dilated [Peoples] interviews, the reoccurring question is, “So how did you hook up?” or “What’s the current state of Hip-Hop right now?” and “How do you feel about this?” Whereas when I do my solo interviews, it’s “What nationality are you?” or “How were you raised?” Being with Dilated [Peoples] is like one big blanket of safety. If I feel like being the star of the group, that day I’ll jump in front. If I want to fall back and jump in the shadows I can. The group allows you to play different rolls. But this is Evidence. I can’t hide behind Evidence. I am what I am.

AllHipHop.com: How do you think fans are going to react to this album?

Evidence: I’m always optimistic. I feel like there is going to be a direct connection. When you take that step forward, you show vulnerability and you don’t hide behind something, people end up appreciating that more. They say, “Okay, this is someone I can get behind. This is a leader. He’s not just a dude out there for an ulterior motive. He’s really standing for something right now.” I know that’s the kind of people I’m attracted to. I’m a fan of Hip-hHp as well. Those people really make me believe that if I go to their shows, or if I buy their record, I’m part of something that they really believe in. I think when you perform, if you’re not real and you insecurities, people can see that. People can say that the “masses are asses,” but I don’t really believe that. I think people can smell a fake buzz a mile away. People can tell when someone isn’t ready to take the reigns and be a leader of a movement. I really feel like I am right now. People are going to see me as a leader and not just as another member of a group.

AllHipHop.com: How does being a former graffiti artist influence you now?

Evidence: Doing a piece and making an album is very, very similar; the same principles apply. You sketch, fill in, outline and highlights. That’s the same thing with the album. The sketch is like collecting tracks from people, gathering concepts. The fill in would be actually recording it. The outline would be me mixing my record. And the highlights would be me mastering it, promoting it and doing the artwork. It’s very similar. Graffiti, if anything, prepared me for this inadvertently without me even realizing it. It’s pretty amazing now that I think about it.

AllHipHop.com: What didn’t make the cut for the Weatherman LP?

Evidence: There was a lot of material that didn’t make it. If a song didn’t live up to my expectations and my goals, I threw it out. There are 21 tracks on this album; 16 powerful songs with some good interludes and some clever stuff placed in between. I couldn’t have anything shorter than that. There are Alchemist beats that didn’t make it. There are Evidence beats that didn’t make it. There are also some concepts that didn’t make it. For instance, I had a song called “Pros & Cons” where I was talking about everything pro and then everything con; pro meaning good and con meaning bad. But I’ve also got a song called “Hot & Cold,” which did make the album; everything hot being “hot” and everything cold being “cold.” So I couldn’t have both “Pros & Cons” and “Hot & Cold” on the same album. That’s not how you build a masterpiece. You’ve got to have consistency. And “Pros & Cons” didn’t make it. Why? Because I had already created something else too similar and I wasn’t afraid to throw it out. It wasn’t because of a lack of creative energy, that’s for sure.

AllHipHop.com: How does producing, for you, compare to rapping on a track?

Evidence: They’re just different energies. They’re both very gratifying but completely different; opposite ends of the spectrum. Rapping is something that comes out of my body, it’s my voice. Music doesn’t physically come out of my finger tips. I have to play it through another device. If all the power went out all over the world tomorrow I wouldn’t have the power to hook up my Triton or my ASR-10, I couldn’t do it. Rapping is gratifying because it’s something that comes from the body. They’re just different. Sitting at a million dollar console watching Linkin Park rap on a beat you made, you feel like a million dollars, you really do. But performing at House of Blues to a sold out show with everyone jumping up and down, it’s just another energy that can’t be described. I love them both. Being home and producing something is where I see myself in later years. But right now, it’s grind time; it’s rapping. I’ve got another five years ahead of me going hard while I’m still young and have all this energy. I feel like that’s my best opportunity and I’m really focusing on it from a lyrical standpoint.

AllHipHop.com: What do you measure improvement by?

Evidence: When I go back and listen to my last stuff, and then I listen to this, I can hear in my rapping. For example, I’m hitting the drum better now, or that I’m speaking a variety of topics. I might have been more linear and one-dimensional before. Instead of testing myself, going into the booth and saying, “I rap. And what I’m putting down is dope … so I’m dope.” Instead of that, I’m going over my rap maybe 100 times until Alchemist says, “That’s it.” I’m losing my ego, that’s the best way to show you’re getting better.

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