Exclusive: Evidence explains working in the same artistic space that his late mother used, and how unlike so many rappers releasing albums to survive, he still makes music as art.
“I know that as a person, I have leadership qualities,” emcee/producer Evidence noted during a sit-down interview with HipHopDX in Los Angeles. “I know that when I’m on point, people are attracted to it.” The leadership qualities he has were certainly on display when he walked in to greet media members during a press conference at the House of Blues. There was a confident glare, a smooth stroll and big smile as he casually asked if anyone wanted to smoke. The room, moments earlier, was mostly silent. His entrance gave it a jolt of energy.
That same energy has allowed Evidence to tour the country with Atmosphere most recently, traveling across the map, promoting his upcoming Cats & Dogs album, his Rhymesayers Entertainment debut. That same energy allowed him to build buzz that emanated from his two videos for the disc, including the more recent “You” , produced by the iconic DJ Premier.
Over the rich Premier drums on “You,” Evidence asks, “Who’s the one that’s been running a race? Me.” This line reminds me of what he shared in our interview, that even on what he called an off year, he was still quite busy. Since the Dilated Peoples formed in the early 1990s, Evidence has been “running the race” and hasn’t really slowed down until his most recent “year off.” But the year off was most significant for what it has allowed him to create.
With Cats & Dogs, Ev promises to be open about life, and even love “without being emo,” a result of the cathartic time between albums. He’s dedicated his time writing, recording and growing to make sure it is indicative of who he is creatively. He’s also realized that he’s not longer making music for money, a realization that of course hasn’t stopped the cash flow but one that has sharpened his creative weapons.
During this interview with DX, Evidence explained how he stayed sharp creatively, what fans can expect from Cats & Dogs and what he’s learned about himself during an introspective, thought provoking year. He also explained how life has a way of healing scars in a weird way and why he’s more open to talking about his life, love and mother.
Evidence Talks About Cats & Dogs
HipHopDX: Two years ago, we were basically in the same place and you told me, “I’m signing with a label that’s not based in Los Angeles.”
Evidence: That’s right. It was true.
DX: Soon after that, you signed with Rhymesayers. So, my question now is, what can you tell us about Cats & Dogs that other people don’t know?
Evidence: Not very many people know anything. I’ve learned, with this day and age, with the Internet, it’s definitely a gift and a motherfucking curse. I was thinking about [Dilated Peoples’] campaign between Expansion Team and Neighborhood Watch. Expansion Team came out in 2001, Neighborhood Watch came out in 2004. That was a three-year hiatus. With Twitter and all this shit right now, I don’t think we’d have been allowed to do that, you know what I’m saying? But, the world is a big place and a lot of artists need to understand, with the power to put out so much free music, you need to take the time out to promote it. I had The Layover EP, which people could have seen as just another EP. But, I took a year out to promote these songs, shoot videos for it, tour it and turned it into something bigger than just a regular little EP. I think that comes from my mentality, being on Capitol Records and going through the process of a major label, understanding that this is a big place. You have to work Europe. You have to work South America. You have to do certain things before a campaign is complete. Cats & Dogs is coming out. I took a year off, remodeled my crib, worked on music every day, had people over for sessions every day, created a lot of songs and I chilled. I’ve been staying really sharp creatively. It’s funny, I look back at the taxes and all the tour shit; my off year was still 100 shows. So, I start to ask myself, “I worked hard the last couple of years. I worked hard with Dilated. I did well.” I’m not a guy who’s like, “If I don’t put out this new album or find an advance, my whole life is sinking!” I’m not really putting out music for money right now, which is kind of crazy. So, I ask myself, “What artist wouldn’t want to sit at home for a year, water their palm trees, have people over every night, do wild shit and create?” I had the opportunity to. I’ma live life right now. In the process, I learned a lot of things about myself.
Evidence Shares Personal Growth
DX: I think that’s important. What exactly did you learn about yourself? How did that process come about?
Evidence: Well, I went through cracking the piggy-bank, taking investments for myself, money stuff, from having some money to putting it all on a house, to not having some to getting back up again, doing stuff like that, to not seeing people for a period of weeks, sitting in a room by yourself, making beats and taking it back to the bedroom mentality at my mom’s house. Relationships with girls I’ve been going through, for the first time, I have a song called “I Don’t Need Love” on my album, I’m rapping about women. Never done it before. Stuff like that, to seeing some of my friends not doing well, the reality of where I’m at in my career, so much shit. I touched on it on my album without being emo. At the same point, say, “These are just bars. He actually means what he says and in the absence of rocking a few triple fucking syllables, he said some fly shit.” I ain’t concerned with how the words are locking right now, it’s more about what I’ve got to say.
DX: So, all of that has bled into the pen.
Evidence: Yeah, and it’s bled into my life as a person. As an artist, you have to be ready. As much as they say, “The masses are asses. People don’t get shit.” I think, if the vibe isn’t right, people could smell it. I just don’t want to step on a stage until I’m fully ready to do it. If that means I have to go to Tahiti or climb some Italian mountains to find my roots, then that’s what I’ma have to do. But, I know that as a person, I have leadership qualities and I know that when I’m on point, people are attracted to it. I don’t want to step out in public unless I’m on point.
Evidence Talks About His Mother, His Scars Healing
DX: I know how important your mother was and is. What kind of memories came from writing and recording in your mother’s house?
Evidence: It’s funny, what I’m doing is an exact replica of what my mother did. I didn’t notice that until someone pointed it out to me. My mother was an actress, she was in General Hospital, she had it going on when she was younger. She’d married my father and always wanted to have a kid and had me later. She wasn’t a young mother when she had me. She quit acting to raise me, like the interlude says at the end of “I Still Love You.” My pops and her didn’t get along so he left and, she didn’t have income. So she went to the garage, put up poster boards, they were all black and started taking photos of me. That led to her being a photographer. I’m doing the same thing. My garage is converted to a studio. That in itself, she’s watching me and I know she’s proud.
DX: And you’re paying tribute.
Evidence: And paying tribute.
DX: Thank you for that.
Evidence: And one more thing, it’s coming to a point where I’m able to talk about it. Time heals shit in weird ways. I’m more like, “Let’s celebrate. I know I’ma see you again.”