I recently caught up with Evidence during CMJ week here in NYC and talked to him for a while about his recent grind and subsequent surge in new quality material. Every song he has been dropping has been fire and I really feel Ev is one of a small number of people in rap music today doing it right (whatever your opinion of right may be). If you don’t know Evidence is from Los Angeles CA the west coast and is a member of Dilated Peoples along with Raka and Dj Babu. He is coming out with an EP that comes with a bonus DVD of 7 videos for the 9 songs on the EP and is selling it at $7.99 for the first two weeks. You gotta respect that. It is dropping on Nov. 25th on Decon Media. Be sure to copp it. He also dropped the Layover Mixtape with Dj Skee which you can download with the link below the interview.
Who were your early influences coming up in LA and more specifically Venice?
I was born in Hollywood, and I was raised for the first four years in Santa Monica, in a pretty good working class neighborhood. My parents divorced when I was 4 or 5 and at that point we couldn’t really stay at that neighborhood for much longer, so we moved to Venice Beach, and um, I wasn’t really aware of why we were moving, you know your parents don’t tell you stuff like that when you’re young you just like go with the flow you know? So I just adapted to my new situation because when you’re young its much easier for you to adapt then it is when you get older, you know? I just took it with a grain of salt , it was what it was. I was highly influenced by what I was seeing in this new neighborhood verses what I was seeing in my old neighborhood you know, um, a friend of mine Eric Britton was a skateboarder named TUMA, was really one of the most predominant black skateboarders, he set the trend for like Ray Barbee and a couple other people and really getting it known that this wasn’t really like a white thing or whatever, especially in Venice. So I moved next door to him, and my first impression of living in Venice was seeing like this like 7 or 8 year old kid riding down the alley way on a unicylce with groceries in both hands, you know what I mean? I was just like whoa..you know, I had never seen anything like this before. So like Venice threw new punches at me and I think that kind of shaped me you know?
Ive been to Venice and I love the place. Its definitely crazy.
Yeah It changed a lot, its a lot more gentrified, like for people on Venice Beach to perform Im not quite sure if its permited yet but, you know, there aint nobody walkin on glass anymore you know its a lot more tame. Its still one of the rawest places in LA though if you aske me.
Yeah I agree for sure. The reason I wanted to ask you that is because it doesn’t seem like there are too many rappers repping Venice like that for such a crazy cultural place.
There was for sure like when I was coming up there was a lot of crews in Venice and I was battling a lot of crews. I came up in like the X Clan time, and Public Enemy time, you know what I mean, it wasn’t like the easiest thing. There was a crew called FIE First In Existence and they were really on some pro black shit! You know so for me to step in and battle FIE, which I did you know, on my homie Blocks street, on Horizon, like in front of everybody at the block party, that was big for me. But there were rappers from Venice and are rappers from Venice. There’s a dude named Ahmad, not sure what he goes by now. Not Ahmad from back in the day Ahmad , a different one. He was killing it. There’s people from around my way that kill it, its inspiring.
I know you’re down with Sid Roams. They’re from Venice too right?
OG Venice! For real. Joey Chavez, Like I grew up on 6th and Rose right? But I grew up just north of Rose, like one block in. Joey Grew up SOUTH of Rose like South of Rose and north of Rose made all the difference you know? I’m sure there are streets in New York that are like that like on this street your cool but if you cross there its not really that cool, you know what I’m saying? So like that’s how I grew up. I grew up like right across the street from the hood (laughter) not IN IT. Joey grew up IN IT. And Bravo, he’s from around the way also, super Venice cat, you know they’re definitely, they definitely paint a perfect picture of what Venice represents, different people from different ages and ethnicities all kind of coming together for a common cause, like either, graffiti, art or music or whatever, there’s a lot of that you know?
So at what point did you meet them and start building with them musically?
Well Joey Chavez was my friend, more than Bravo was. I met Bravo more through Joey. Sid Roams is new. Joey and Bravo have been best friends forever, and they been making music forever but they didn’t decide to start calling themselves Sid Roams until they moved to New York. But yeah them two dudes have been around for so long. See what happened was, I moved next door to QD3, by the grace of God. QD3 is Quincy Jones’ son, and when I moved to Venice I moved two houses down from him. I was 217 Rose, he was 221. And ah that’s how I got into rap, like making rap music just cuz I heard him producing people in his garage every night you know? Sitting in my back yard going “what the hell is this guy doing over there?”. And then seeing people like Too Short and Everlast, like people that I grew up listening to showing up next door, parking their car in front of my house. You know what I mean it was like woaah what the hell is going on. So Joey Chavez found out that was going on. So he’d come over to my house a lot. He was right down the block, so he could find out what was going on next door. And Alchemist heard about it, so he’d come over. Everyone would come over my house so we could go to QD3’s house you know? Will I Am was coming over who was Will 1X at the time. Like everyone was coming over to try to get QD3 demos you know? So people were using me to try to get to Quincy and it was so fresh you know it was like this ill time. So Joey got a drum machine first. He got the EPS after he seen what Quincy was doing. That inspired Alchemist. Its like Joey was first, then Alchemist, then me as far as making beats. But Joey in our crew, even to Alchemist for a while was the man. And then Alchemist got the same computer that Joey got, which was the ASR 10 which was just an updated version of the EPS. And he started going in. Like the first Dilated Peoples album that we did in 1995 that never came out was entirely produced by Joey Chavez, DJ Lethal, E Swift and Redman. Alchemist didn’t have anything on it cuz he was making beats but we didn’t take him serious yet, like that’s how early it was. But yeah QD3 is pretty much the top of the food chain as far as inspiring the majority of my crew.
That’s whatsup so he is basically the one who brought you all together but unknowingly.
Yeah he doesn’t even know it I don’t think, I don’t think he even realizes it to be honest with you. I mean I see him and he tells me how proud he is but I don’t know if he really KNOWS . We were just a bunch of little kids hangin around and he was probably like “let me just give these kids a beat so they’ll just go” you know? (laughs). But he did. He did let us hang and he did give us beats, but in the back of his mind, I know what he was thinking in the back of his mind now that I’m older.
That’s whatsup man that’s a dope story. I wanted to get into talking about your new EP you have coming out “The Layover”. I wanted to ask, why are you releasing an EP before your LP? Is it because you have a lot of extra material, or you’re just grinding harder?
Both, umm, well the main thing is, I came out with my first solo album on March 20th 2007. I toured heavy in 2007. Almost 150 shows. Which is good for being something new cuz with evidence I kinda just pressed reset and started over and did a lot of things that new artists do. I could have easily been like “I’m from Dilated I’m gonna do it like this” so you know so I just started over and started building some new shit up. What happened was I started doing so many shows and just Myspacing and building so many new relationships we looked at the calendar and 2008 is almost gone you know? It’s like yo. It’s not like I don’t have anything to show since I’ve come out. I have done a lot. Even beats wise, production and features and all that kind of stuff but it was like, yo, I can’t afford to dip for two years on a new brand I’m trying to build. So 2008 is almost gone. My second album Cats and Dogs is gonna come out god knows when. Im saying top of 2009 but this is like my second weather man. This isn’t something I can just rush cuz I have a lot of things I want to say so it has to be done properly. So when I was creating this I thought yo I’m not the type to just sit on music anymore and hold onto it like my baby. I’m getting past that point. Now I have all these outlets to get my music heard I don’t want to be like we were on Capital like “we got a hit lets hold onto it for 2 years” like dropping records in 2005 that we made in 2004. I got tired of doing that cuz its not always entirely representing the state of where you’re at. So my manager and I started talking about doing a mixtape cuz you know DJ Skee, one of my favorite DJs on the west coast wanted to do one so we just started going to the studio everyday and just banging out songs because Im off tour and lets start putting out material. Not Cats and Dogs but stuff for the streets. So I started putting freestyles out on the net and got good responses but I was rapping over everyone else’s beats and after like a week of it I got tired of rapping over other peoples stuff and I was like I wanna do some original music now. I wanna do my stuff. So I started creating these 6 or 7 songs that came out of nowhere. And I had these 3 or 4 songs from Cats and Dogs that I wanted to share with the people early. I didn’t wanna sit on them. I knew the people at Decon, and I’m starting my own label Taylor Made. There’s EPs in the past that I thought were the most incredible pieces of work like Ice Cubes Death Certificate and Pete Rock CL Smooth’s All Souled Out. So I was like you know what let me put my best foot forward and put this down and do something creative right now, and bubble with an EP and let it set me up perfectly for Cats and Dogs and at the same time I can almost avoid a sophomore jinx with this because the EP is so tight and focused that there’s no way you can hate on me for this because people aren’t even expecting anything with an EP so when they get what I’m dropping and for the price and the bonus DVD that comes with all the videos its perfect.
I feel like all the new joints that you have been dropping your beat selection is truly on point so what I wanted to ask is how do you go about choosing these beats, I mean I know you know a lot of producers and also who do you have for production lined up on the EP if you want to let that out.
Well I make beats, and a lot of people say “why don’t you just do all your own shit?”. It’s because I started out not making beats. I started out getting beats from other people. I didn’t start making beats till 97 or 98. I been rapping since 92 or 91 so before that anytime I wanted a track I’d go to QD3 or Dj Lethal or Joey Chavez or Alchemist you know? That’s how I got beats. So my whole thing is I have to submit beats to myself, and if I can get open off my own beat or it can pass my quality test then I can make my own album, I can’t just make my own album because I make beats, that’s my rule. That’s why on the Layover EP I only have 2 joints, that’s why on The Weatherman LP I had 4 joints, because I had 4 that I felt like could sit next to Khalil or sit next to Alchemist . Its not easy! (laughs) You gotta be careful you know. Im always real selective cuz I feel like I have the best around me so if I can even get close then I’m doing good so. But um, Alchemist is always gonna do the majority of the shit. He did 3. And keep in mind this an EP not an LP. An EP has to be 5 or more songs and not more than 10. I did 9 (laughs) fuck it. I have 9 songs and 7 videos of those songs on the bonus disc. And I’m selling it for $7.99 for the first 2 weeks and $9.99 from then on.
So its like this is for my fans. This is for you. I have to work twice as hard to recoup the money, its just crazy. But this is setting Cats and Dogs up. This is like IT. There’s 3 songs on The Layover that were on Cats and Dogs but what I did was take 2 of my verses off those songs and replaced them with guest verses because I don’t want to weigh down Cats and Dogs with guest appearances. I had a song called “For Whom The Bell Tolls” which was just me and we were trying to get Devin The Dude on the hook and that was gonna be the song, and Khrysis did the beat. Devin The Dude got caught up in Houston having no power for weeks on end. For weeks and weeks on end. He’s one of the millions who once again got neglected by our fucking country. It was so real his manager Rico was like dog we cant do it we have no power. We were like we’ll fly him out to LA. He’s like Devin is not leaving his family. We were like that’s gangster (laughs) you know what im saying? We’ll stop calling you now (laughs). You know like damn. Word ok. So at that point I was like shit I could hold this but I was like I really wanna put this song out now, so I took 2 verses off it. I got Blu in the studio, who is on my current top 5 rappers list and he blessed it. I called Phonte who is also on that list and he blessed it. And they really stuck to the topic of what I was saying. Then I called Will I Am, childhood friend and told him Devin cant do it can you do this? And he was like I’ll have it done for you by tomorrow morning (laughs). It was just crazy. I haven’t really pulled favor cards like that in my career but it’s nice to know I can do that and it’s working. And it’s crazy we released it to the net and it had 14,000 downloads on a z share link in 11 hours. And that’s just the link on my Myspace page. College radio jumped on it and its just dope because that’s not an industry record. I made that record from my heart and it cost a big donut whole to make you know? Not a dollar. And people will here that. Its not like I went and got Will I Am to make my hit record you know? I didn’t do that. The other song that is an example is called “To Be Determined” like what it takes to be determined. Same thing. Alchemist beat, with a title. Took a couple verses off. Called Elzhi. Now I got Elzhi on it. Who bodied me by the way (laughs) greeeat. That’s the thing. It’s like this duality. Do you want a rapper to do better than you on your record? Cuz if he does better than you then it’s like well he bodied you, but if he does worse than you it’s like oh damn he must of not liked that dude so he didn’t come off on his record (laughs). So I wanna get bodied. If I get a guest I want their A+ game on my record. I mean I got Elzhis best fucking verse I ever heard in my life!! Word to everything! I keep saying it. I sat down and wrote it out phonetically on a piece of paper just to see how it lines up it fucked me up so bad.
And its on an Alchemist beat!
WHAT?! What?? Just like I put Slug on an Alchemist beat last time and everyone bugged out. Wait till they hear Elzhi on an Alchemist beat. So then I called up Aloe Black, and I got Aloe Black on the third verse. Then I got Aloe Black on the chorus! (laughs) after I got him to do the verse. And he killed it with the singing. That dude is so multi talented it’s just crazy. Once again Its Evidence, Aloe Black, and Elzhi, Evidence, Phonte and Blu, and Will I Am. I’m just trying to paint different pictures this time. And it was by choice by putting me next to different voices.
What about the art on the Layover, with the LA symbol and the Backwards EV. That is crazy dope. Who designed that?
Check this out! I did not come up with it and neither did the person that did my artwork come up with it. A fucking kid on myspace suggested that that we do that!
He was like why don’t you turn the EV backwards and spell Layover (laughs). And we were like ooooh.
You gotta give him a shout out or something ! (Laughs)
Oh hell yeah I went to his myspace and left a comment like : You are the reason for this you have inspired the cover. That’s the perfect example of why I love being on myspace and interacting with my fans.
So who designed the cover as far as the rest?
Oh ok. I talked to a dude named Sev once. I believe he did the Weatherman cover.
Yeah Sev is the king. He was my hero in Venice growing up. He wrote Severe. He was the best Graffiti artist in Venice along with Risk and Den, and a couple other sick motherfuckers. So to have Sev to my first album cover was like having QD3 do a track for me you know? It was like TOO fresh. I’m a graffiti artist so I’m inspired by more than just music. The reason I didn’t have him do this one is cuz Im with Decon Media for this record. It’s a multi media company. They have an art department, a video department, and they’re really sick like that so, for me not to take advantage of that would just be like why did I do the deal with them you know? I’m gonna drop a new video every week until my release you know? Decon is thinking future and I like that. I come from the past. Not like dinosaur shit, but from like vinyl, having a prominent DJ list, just traditional shit. I’m trying to bring that to Decon to combine the two. That’s Taylor Made meeting Decon Media. But yeah Yoram Benz designed the cover for this one but even with this one we kept referring back to Severe’s art work to make sure it stayed in suit to make sure my whole career and my whole legacy is all flush.
So with Cats and Dogs is that gonna be on Decon?
No this is a one off I’m doing with Decon. I have no idea where I’m doing Cats and Dogs right now. I don’t even want to know. I’m not even looking that far. We got some deals like from the who’s who of underground I’ve got some respectable offers right now and also from some labels that are breaking the underground mold. But whether the money or the terms haven’t been right yet or whatever. They might not understand that I’m thinking a bit bigger than what I’ve been presented with so far, so I haven’t gone back to those deals yet. I’m gonna give myself a little more time and let this build. I think it’s gonna get bigger. I’m playing the stock market! (laughs)
So what are your goals for this EP and this album and this year to close this out?
My goal in 2007 was that hopefully by 2008 if I do enough grinding, hopefully I can get to the point where people stop like on every flyer or every time I get introduced to somebody on the street or I do a cameo or something and they call me for the credit, hopefully I will have earned the respect of not having to be Evidence of Dilated Peoples everywhere I go. You know maybe you’ll get comfortable enough to just call me Evidence, you know? If I work hard enough. I always use the analogy of Ghost Face Killah, like you stopped calling him Ghost Face Killah of Wu Tang Clan a long time ago. He just earned Ghost Face, so I feel like that was my goal, hopefully I could earn Evidence If I work hard enough. That was my goal then and I’m still working on that one but now my next goal, from 2008 to the end of 2009 is I wanna start selling out shows. As a solo artist right now I’m good for like 150 to 200 good night maybe 300-500. But Dilated Peoples I know what we’ve done with that. Like House Of Blues sellouts, or Metro in Chicago back in the day selling out. I wanna get back to that respectable level with Evidence, bring like 500-1000 people you know? Maybe even bigger. But ah yeah that’s it Alchemist and Evidence are on tour with Redman and Method man from Oct. 27th thru Nov. 11th and we (Evidence and Alchemist) started a new group called step brothers but we missed that on this one so we’ll have to put that in the next one (laughs).
I heard the hits from the bong 08 joint on the Mick Boogie mixtape.
Yeah that’s out but theres a song on ..I’ll tell you this there’s a song on my EP called “So Fresh” and that’s the first official single from Step Brothers. I’m premiering it on The Layover. And also on November 12th thru the 28th is Dilated Peoples in Europe.
Download DJ Skee Presents: “The Layover Mixtape” HERE
Preview Evidence ft. Phonte, Blu, & Will I Am “For Whom The Bell Tolls” HERE
Preview Evidence “Tip The Scale” HERE Evidence ft. Alchemist & Fashawn “The Far Left” Video