interview, Main

Evidence Weathers the Storm, Juggling Personal Life and Rap Career

20 years later, Evidence is still putting out quality Hip Hop.

Evidence’s latest LP, Weather or Not, is one of the year’s first great albums. The L.A. indie-rap vet remains as consistent as they come, and his third full-length is 40-minutes of pure, unadulterated boom bap production, textbook in-the-pocket flows and a stream of quick-witted punchlines. However, Ev digs a little deeper on his first solo LP in seven years, as he worked on the project while his girlfriend (and mother of his child) battled cancer.

Weather or Not features the gritty, no-nonsense sound fans have come to expect from the Dilated Peoples emcee over the past 20-plus years. Production on the new LP is handled by Alchemist, DJ Premier, DJ Babu, Nottz and Evidence himself. The album’s final song, “By My Side Too,” shows the West Coast rapper at his most vulnerable and emotional, as he tells the story about discovering his girlfriend had stage three breast cancer shortly after their son was born.

“Rappers aren’t just rappers,” he said during a phone conversation with AAHH. “It’s hard with the career right now. But I just want people to understand, yeah I want to be out there touring, doing what I’m doing. I’m weighing a lot in right now. So if you see me out, know I’m there, and if I’m not, it’s for the right reasons.”

In our interview, Evidence also spoke about balancing his personal life while promoting a new record, his relationship with Rhymesayers Ent. and what keeps him motivated 20 years into his career.

Above Average Hip Hop: Congrats on the new album, how you feeling about it, now that it’s out there for fans to enjoy?

Evidence: I’m pretty relieved it’s out. Sitting on a project, sometimes, making a bunch of videos, getting it all ready, wanted it to come out sooner, but I’m glad I had patience.

AAHH: It’s been nearly seven years since your last solo album, but you’ve done an LP with Alchemist and an album with Dilated Peoples in that time. Did you intentionally step away from your solo career to get back into collaborating with these groups?

E: Yeah man, I started with Dilated then went into Evidence, then Step Brothers is something that was just so fun, then back to Dilated. It’s all in the same thing. I do realize not everyone follows everything.

AAHH: Did you have to change your mindset and approach to writing on these solo projects than when you’re working with these groups?

E: I would say so. A group effort is just a different animal. You got to agree on stuff, and you got to find like-minded things to talk about. With solo, it’s not as much buffer. But you can also fall a lot harder on a solo one, but the success can be greater. So it’s just a different kind of thing.

AAHH: You been in music for well over 20 years now, what keeps you motivated to keep doing what you’re doing?

E: It’s still what I love doing. I’m also a producer, so that kind of gives me an extension a little bit. I can see music through other people’s eyes when I’m working with them, and that gets me inspired. And I’m not the typical writer, where I just wake up and write, so that’s my whole new thing. It’s more like I kinda write when the beat tells me to. So getting in a process of making music everyday for no better reason, is why a lot of raps just happen where, I don’t know, other people put a little more on it. Maybe that’s unintentional, this is what’s happening, this flow sounds natural.

I also feel like I’m a little bit of a late bloomer in the sense that, I still feel like there’s room to go. So maybe some people my age dropping off or whatever, but for me I’m still around Alchemist and a lot of creative people – touring with Atmosphere – will keep you motivated because you just see good is good, wack is wack, and age becomes a secondary thing.

AAHH: You mentioned working with younger artists, you recently put out a project with Domo Genesis. How’d that come about?

E: He was on the last Dilated album we did. He was on Step Brothers’ album too. He did No Idols with Alchemist. So yeah, he’s just been around a lot, since 2012. He’s just a homie. People I’m putting out are just people who been coming through – Defari, Madchild, Domo, Krondon. Trying to make a few placements on some bigger records. People on the album, same thing, everyone came through.

Like I said before Domo just fits into what I do. As far as like, we vibed and kinda like think similar. Age doesn’t come up that much. There’s weed, good music, that’s it (laughs).

AAHH: Was that planned for that project to drop around the same time as Weather or Not?

E: Not that close, we were trying to get it out at the end of the year. But I was also trying to get Weather or Not out at the end of the year. So never happens the way you intend. It was kind of cool the way it lined up. Because I had put out Defari’s album – I didn’t put it out but I produced it – the same way with Domo. Just put it out with tweets and not heavy promotion. Let people find it over a slow burn.

AAHH: You were already established when you signed with Rhymesayers. You’ve now released two solos and two group projects with RSE. What is your relationship like with them? And are you glad you signed with with them instead of self-releasing material?

E: Yeah, I’m happy I did it with them. My business is good with them, to begin with, so that just makes everything else go well. Maybe if I did it myself, maybe I could have a little bit bigger of a split. But what does that mean? I would still have to hire everybody and do everything and end up having less. So it’s a tremendous benefit. It’s not always about like a mathematical split, there’s other things to consider. They’ve really helped me and built me into their structure as far as touring.

AAHH: I feel like with each of your records, there’s always a standout track or two that are very personal that sort of gives fans a very close look at your life. On ‘Cats & Dogs’ it was “I Don’t Need Love,” on the new project it was “By My Side Too.” Are these songs you push yourself to make, or do they sort of come out organically?

E: Yeah so it’s like “I Still Love You” (from The Weatherman LP), these aren’t records I’m performing and promoting, you know. It’s just like what happens when you’re dealing with stuff like this, and you don’t have a label telling you you can or can’t make this type of music, I have the opportunity to. This song “By My Side Too” came as a presentation to her, like listen to what I was making. And she thought I should share it, so I did.

But it’s like, what if I don’t do that? And then, what’s gonna replace it? A song about rap (Laughs)? It just becomes this weird thing. But I don’t want to be like known for selling struggle, or selling pain or sickness, death, I’m not trying to be that. But it’s just inevitable in our life, and close people – my mom and mother of my son – are things that are tough to talk about. Right now, we’re fighting this fight, and she felt having the positivity out there would be good for her. And yeah, who am I to deny that, when I made it for her anyway.

AAHH: Yeah, for sure. It’s definitely one of my favorites on the record and probably one of my favorite songs you’ve done.

E: Thank you. I’m doing a lot more than just having a record out right now, you know. I’m trying, I’m really trying to keep everything strong. It’s a lot out there, you know. Cause it’s like, rappers aren’t just rappers. It’s hard with the career right now. But I just want people to understand, yeah I want to be out there touring, doing what I’m doing. I’m weighing a lot in right now. So if you see me out, know I’m there, and if I’m not, it’s for the right reasons. It’s not just I want to be taking long absences between projects, tours and stuff.

#IndieSpotlight, Main

#IndieSpotlight: MusicbyKO “Life In Element” Is The Soundtrack For Pre-Fall Blues

A new LP floated across my desk by an Oakland, California, singer/rapper named MusicbyKO. A warm blend of jazzy 90s…

A new LP floated across my desk by an Oakland, California, singer/rapper named MusicbyKO. A warm blend of jazzy 90s Hip Hop and a cadence reminiscent of acts like Isaiah Rashad. Having shared stages with names like J.I.D. and Earthgang, he appears focused and composed — as evidenced by Life In Element, his new LP.


 
With a very consistent sound, KO slowly unravels a series of tracks that let you into his world just enough — without blatant TMI, or inducing a “yeah right” effect. What listeners get are the tales of a low-level drug dealer (this is both referenced and downplayed at different points), who is taking a chance on a dream, as he slowly but surely uncovers that everything the glimmers isn’t gold, and just because someone calls you brother, it doesn’t mean they have your back — or at the very least even your best interests at heart.

It’s an almost paranoid sense that snakes are roaming the grass that is revisited numerous times throughout the project, like on the song “La La Land,” “Empathy,” and “Let Me Talk With Ya/While I’m Here,” where he notes “I Know niggas right now that want to see me fall.”

He also paints a picture of himself as someone who overextends himself — such as on “Too Much Falls Short,” where he preaches that failing to leave your comfort zone is a fail before even leaving the running block.

That’s just the first few layers of this project; touching on socio-economic issues facing the black community nationwide, and even relationships (see the super dope “Spirit Rise”), he creates a lot of depth. Though the vibe is consistent — almost bordering on redundant — it manages to remain engaging. Also, that instrumental on “A Devil’s Advocate Corner” is a bucket of flame emojis doused in gasoline.

 
Like a bride on her wedding day, Life In Element is something old and something new; all that Hip Hop is dead shit goes out teh window when you hear younger cats with cohesive projects like this. With enough amazing quotables to create a success Instagram daily quote account (“I couldn’t heal in eth place I got sicker”) and an admirable ear for production, MusicbyKO NEEDS to be on your radar. It’s just good for the soul.

Early.

Continue Reading
interview, Interviews

#Interview: RoQy TyRaiD in ‘PLYNwcha’

RoQy TyRaiD drops a brand-new single “PLYNwcha” produced by NYC’s Motif Alumni with a psychedelic backbeat over hypnotic chants that…

RoQy TyRaiD drops a brand-new single “PLYNwcha” produced by NYC’s Motif Alumni with a psychedelic backbeat over hypnotic chants that groove. With an edgy prose, RoQy TyRaiD takes Hip Hop to the next level and Above Average Hip Hop wanted to know more. What can be said about his subject matter personifies the culture that raised him. Coming up in the game can be a struggle, but for RoQy, it’s all about keeping it real. “I don’t have to play by the rules. I’m going to do what I want, and I’m going to find my success regardless,” says RoQyTyRaiD.   

 

I get placed on this green planet for a finite amount of time and I don’t feel like I’m surrendering any of that to people who are championing consistencies and stratification and all of that nonsense. – RoQy TyRaiD

However, there are different modes of success, and whether it equates to monetizing your product or artistically expressing and further developing your brand, the rapper RoQy TyRaiD stays true to his values in the culture that brought him his new single “PLYNwcha.”

Tell me about RoQy TyRaiD. Who are you and where are you from?   

I reside in Phoenix, Arizona. I’m originally from southern California, born and raised. I’m just here to advance my artistic pursuits and find myself deeper in the culture that inspired me and gave me a live soundtrack. I feel that artists, at the end of the day, are just glorified fans. I’m finding my way further in the culture that inspired me, and this is why I’m here.

Some would describe you as a socially conscious rapper. How would you describe your subject matter?

I mean, people have classified me like that. I’m just more aware to life. I mean, it happens to fall in it in terms of just discerning your surroundings. Unfortunately, and fortunately as opposed to politics and things related, social climate plays a role. So, I could say, you know, they’re right. I’m just a normal dude.  I mean sometimes the content touches on political topics.

What is your most recent single?

It’s called “PLYNwcha.” It’s me flexing my capabilities lyrically, providing some hype music. I’m breaking away from the direction that I was sent down artistically and just getting back to making music that makes you want to throw a merch table across the venue. I detail instances where I was just being delivered pipe dreams just waiting for this nonexistent idea of success or mythical ideas and just really being fed up with it. I guess I deliver it in a more aggressive energy forward manner. But what it is — I have no time.

I’m not like a 21-year-old dude who can play trial and error. I get placed on this green planet for a finite amount of time and I don’t feel like I’m surrendering any of that to people who are championing consistencies and stratification and all of that nonsense. We’re with the advent of social media, Internet, and advancing technology. I don’t have to play by your rules. I’m going to do what I want and I’m going to find my success regardless. I guess it’s realizing that feeling and you know, taking the gloves off.

It sounds like you have a different set of values on what constitutes success. Would you say that is accurate?

Absolutely, my role is looked at differently from the next man or woman. Even describing the adversities and the games and you know, standards you have to abide by. For example, I have two sold-out dates in the UK, another one lined up press and individuals waiting to get the piece of this new music and you know, I think that reflects taking your destiny by your own hands as opposed to abiding by what you’re told to do.

Continue Reading
Main

Video Spotlight: Mean Joe Scheme & Optiks

In this video spotlight, Joe and Optiks discuss the new project, the state of east coast hip-hop, and what to expect from BEAMS. Be sure to check out both singles below, and follow @meanjoescheme and @thisisoptiks on your socials.

NYC artists Mean Joe Scheme and Optiks are putting the finishing touches on BEAMS, their new collaborative project. If “Cannonball” and “Hands Down” are any indication, we’re in for a viscous slice of hybrid hip-hop- a fusion of beats, rhymes, and anxious 2018 energy.

In this video spotlight, Joe and Optiks discuss the new project, the state of east coast hip-hop, and what to expect from BEAMS. Be sure to check out both singles below, and follow @meanjoescheme and @thisisoptiks on your socials.

Continue Reading
Main, Reviews

Eminem: Kamikaze- A Relapse of Epic Proportion

Poor Eminem. He’s damned if he do and damned if he don’t. His last album, 2017’s pop-heavy Revival, flopped by…

Poor Eminem. He’s damned if he do and damned if he don’t. His last album, 2017’s pop-heavy Revival, flopped by way of social media yet wasn’t a total disaster. It moved units and afforded him headlining spots on the summer festival circuit- but it didn’t give the fans what they needed. Or did it?

This conundrum surrounds Eminem’s career. When he’s on there’s only a handful of rappers alive who can compete with his pen and his fury. But when he bogs down projects with introspection- giving us a break from his hyper-aggro screaming at the mic- it feels like we’ve been cheated. Stans can’t deal with the sappy pop-crossovers, and today’s charts simply do not have space for good old-fashioned rap acrobatics. So what’s an aging top-five-dead-or-alive rapper to do?

Marshall Mathers unleashed Kamikaze as his response to the Twitter army (and critics) who condemned him- an unexpected and venomous (although carefully measured) surprise album packed with more syllables than a semester’s worth of English-as-a-second language classes. As we all secretly hoped for, rappers ain’t safe from Em’s verbal barrage of double and triple time bars on Kamikaze, and if you have time to unpack these 13 tracks you’ll find some genuine heat.

Unfortunately, if you really unpack these ferocious bars you’ll find a grumpy old man rapping for the simple sake of reminding us how technically skilled he truly is. The problem is we’ve known that for ages. Reverting back to early 2000’s Eminem complete with the use of “faggot”- his favorite homophobic slur on the otherwise bulletproof “Fall”- does little to contribute to his relevance in 2018.

There are a few maniac standouts on Kamikaze, songs that young rappers should study for the intricate art of word play and cadence (check “The Ringer”, and “Not Alike” featuring Royce Da 5’9). Yet, those lessons are harder to learn when it’s impossible for the listener to catch their breath. For most of the record, Em is in such rapid-fire mode that you absolutely have to run back verses and entire songs to truly digest his messages. Rap nerds and old heads will revel in the task, but is that what the game needs these days? I’d argue no

Kamikaze is a rare full-on barrage of supernatural MC’ing; but it comes and goes without much meaning when the target becomes Machine Gun Kelly-who tweeted about Eminem’s attractive daughter back in 2012. Is there really a hip-hop fan alive willing to side with MGK on this one? And if you’re looking for the most lukewarm, mediocre diss track (possibly ever recorded) check out MGK’s response, “Rap Devil”, a headscratcher that splits its time attempting to discredit Em while simultaneously praising his longevity and abilities. You either want the smoke or you don’t? Like it or not, the whole thing feels like a charade.

Eminem has always carried a chip on his shoulder. When the critics go low, he goes lower. While Kamikaze is far from a low point in what will be viewed someday as a catalog of studio hits and misses, it’s far from the return to form that it was intended to be. He might not be afraid to take a stand, but it’s become tiring trying to figure out exactly who Eminem is standing against.

Continue Reading
More in interview, Main
#WeeklyPlaylist: Week Of Feb.20

A$AP Rocky, Gucci Mane, and 21 Savage - Cocky The lead hype song for Uncle Drew the movie, this is...

Close