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: N’awlins Rapper A. Levy Is Proclaiming Positivity Through His Music

“It’s a great time…even better it’s the best time of my career thus far.”

New Orleans rapper A. Levy wears many hats: hip-hop artist, audio engineer, t-shirt brand owner, father, and husband. His music is a mixture of lyrical storytelling, and golden era aesthetics, and contemporary production. “I’m influenced by a lot of things and try to touch on subjects I feel are neglected,” he tells AAHH in an interview.

The celebrated emcee started off his career making parodies and remixes of radio songs. “I’m from New Orleans,” he says, “so Mac, Fiend, Mystikal, No Limit and the Cash Money camp influenced me,” he says, also naming Nas, Outkast, and Kendrick Lamar who give him inspiration from to pen songs.

His journey has been long, with many drops along the way. “To date, I’ve released too many projects to remember,” he says with a laugh. “I started off under the name Young Duece. After a conversation with a local radio personality, I changed it to the most natural thing I could think of … my name.” Some of his past projects include Commercial Break, Best You Never Heard Of, Crashed Harddrive, Super Ugly, Crescent City Classic, and a few others.

“Right now, I’m working on collecting original production with no samples,” he reveals. “My heart tells me to do samples, but financially that’s not the wisest move when it’s time for radio, tv, movie and video game placements.”

He’s received a ton of recognition thus far. “The Source has covered me, XXL, 2DopeBoyz, BBC, performed in Thailand, London, Aruba and successfully did three national tours all in the last three years.” That has all been independent, too. “I’ve [also] been nominated for and won a few NOLA music awards,” he says proudly.

“I record mix and master my music,” he adds. “I book my shows and do my PR, all while holding down a full-time job. My studio — The Hut Studios –has been a local staple for the last decade for some of the best indie artists in the area. In addition to all that I also throw monthly showcases and festivals in the states.”

He is quick to note his primary goal as amassing as much influence as possible. “I want to put my city in the best and most accurate light possible. We’re a city full of lyricists, pop artist, and street artist, but to date, only one part of our story has been told prominently. I want to be a part of spreading positivity.”

“I’m signed to myself. I don’t foresee myself signing any major label deals. I’ve personally had horror stories and heard twice as many from my peers,” he says. Next up is more touring. Bigger and better stages. Festivals, TV, and radio are all in play right now.”

“It’s a great time…even better it’s the best time of my career thus far.”

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“Ye” Fails To Reintroduce Mr. West

At times, Kanye West’s polarizing media posturing is his strongest attribute. We can’t wait for the next idiotic gem to…

At times, Kanye West’s polarizing media posturing is his strongest attribute. We can’t wait for the next idiotic gem to rattle between his ears and tumble from his lips. That noise is great content; filling blog pages and gossip sites, sparking debate across social media and music platforms. But after a casual listen to Ye, his newest disaster, does his brand of pigeonholed creativity matter anymore?

This perpetual media circus is where Kanye operates best. He’s a freewheeling spirit; a madman at the boards, a producer with infinite vision and a MC with a caustic tongue. He’s a master at manipulating a turn of phrase while simultaneously dumping the world upside down-remember when he flippantly suggested that slavery was a choice? This sort of buffoonery is exactly what West has spoon-fed the public for the past few years; and still the world anticipates his every chess move with a panicked FOMO that only Kanye can induce.

West has mastered the art of celebrity, where nothing is sacred or left to our imagination. He lays low only long enough to manifest his next move. The past few months have been no exception. He’s been holed up in Wyoming and Utah crafting a series of projects aimed for release this month. Among them is a collaborative record with Kid Cudi, Ye,  Pusha-T’s Daytona, and an as-yet-untitled record from Nas. Kanye is apparently producing seven songs for each project, digging for samples through some 2,000 vinyl records he purchased and shipped out west.

This most recent version of Kanye is the one we cannot stop talking about. These days we’re constantly confronted by Kanye the enigma- the uncanny fool who can’t dislodge his foot from his mouth- until he releases new music. His art has a timely way of silencing the shit talking; of zeroing the critics back to his inevitable genius — which brings us up to speed in 2018.

Kanye’s production on Daytona will be ranked as some of the year’s best. On the flip side, his newest offering — the slim and trim Ye — is an unbalanced and easily forgotten mess. At a running time of twenty-three minutes it’s chaotic and disconnected, attempting to borrow the best working bits of The Life Of Pablo and Yeezus while ignoring any of the soulful introspection and self-depreciation that made us fall in love with the Old Kanye ages ago.

Take the album opener, “I Thought About Killing You”, for exactly what it is and you won’t be let down. West, the egomaniac, nervously vents about his punishing mental illness and nagging insecurities while never allowing the listener a second to process or feel what he’s living through. The song serves as a false entrance to a world that’s as contrived as the album cover, and hardly as deep as the internet will lead you to believe. Is Kanye really the poster boy that mental health is looking for? He certainly wants you to believe so.

For the album’s actual release, West invited hundreds of “influencers” to Wyoming for a listening party- the industry’s equivalent to a real time gallery walk. Kanye took his show on the road, and in the meantime alienated himself further from the culture he’s spent years crafting and molding into something people once truly believed in. Rather than hitting any impactfulmark by relocating his camp to The Equality State, he created an even larger gap between us and them.

Ye can’t help but put a serious divide between Kanye and his fans. There are moments that work, like the beautifully crafted “Ghost Town”, featuring a rejuvenated Kid Cudi and an incredible hook courtesy of 070 Shake (a star in the making), and the bouncy and biting “All Mine”, which contains plenty of chuckle-worthy bars like “I love your titties because they prove I can focus on two things at once”. But those moments of silly bliss are buried beneath cringe-induced, head scratching blunders which normally aren’t the defining moments of any Yeezy album.

By the time you get to the albums final three minutes, where Kanye recognizes his role as a father to little girls on “Violent Crimes”, you desperately want to believe in Ye, but the damage is done. Kanye West doesn’t want to get out of his own way, andhe might be too far gone trying to create, recreate, and monetize his Calabasas world to make something we can honestly believe in as common folks in 2018.

Kanye’s fall from grace is a marvel; complete with a public breakdown in 2016, a few hobo-chic fashion interludes, and a baffling reemergence into our consciousness with a pledging of love for Donald Trump. It’s without a doubt one of the strangest stories in all of popular culture. The problem is, Ye fails to captivate us as a re-introduction to Kanye West and this new chapter in his saga. It’s lackluster at best, which is a bar that’s far too low for one of hip-hop’s true trend setters.

Ye comes and goes without a single memorable moment. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Instead of debating the quality of the final product like we have so many times with Kanye releases in the past, we’re left with a mediocre soundtrack and the hollow images of famous people in Wyoming dancing around a bonfire.


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Lifelong rapper, artist, and fashion mogul A$AP Rocky has at long last delivered his third album: TESTING. The project was…

Lifelong rapper, artist, and fashion mogul A$AP Rocky has at long last delivered his third album: TESTING. The project was quickly overshadowed by Pusha T’s synchronized drop that sparked beef with Drake, but still maintained relevancy with mixed reactions from fans and reviewers.

The project opens with an uncharacteristic bang on “Distorted Records,” and then settles in with a feature heavy remix of “A$AP Forever.” The next three tracks feel like a return to his previous album with trademark Rocky flows that lead into an interesting acoustic track featuring Kodak Black through a prison phone. The rest of the album seems to find its own voice and ends on a strong note with Flacko and Frank Ocean rapping over a distorted Lauryn Hill sample. Most had a positive reaction to Testing but some people claimed it was overhyped and even disappointing.

At first listen Testing is honestly hard to get through; it’s a dense project. This may have caused some people to write it off as lacking much progression from his prior work. But Testing is only dense because it’s Rocky’s most mature project to date. At 29 it seems as if the rap legend has finally honed in on his “too cool for you” style without even having any super notable lyrics. Flacko nails his verses on more experimental songs with consistency and swagger in place of lyricism. On tracks like “Brotha Man” and “Purity,” Rocky can be heard spitting/singing with the help of notoriously experimental artists Frank Ocean and Dean Blunt, but reels listeners back in with slaps like “Praise the Lord” and “OG Beeper.” The intro song to the album, “Distorted,” doesn’t seem to fit the project or introduce its vibe too well, but as a stand alone song it’s pretty decent.

And despite the awkward first track, once you’re a few songs deep the album does become cohesive. Rocky makes sure to pay his tribute to Bone Thugs and Three Six Mafia by blending in some chopped and screwed instrumentals, and somehow complements them with acoustic guitar and singing. It was this combo that really made Testing distinct from his previous work.

Overall, compared to Rocky’s electric, Ciroc infused debut album LONG LIVE A$AP, this project is more like a fine wine. I predict Testing will age better than his first two records because it’s scattered with gems that will easily skip your radar in the first few listens.

My favorite songs from the project are: “Praise The Lord (Da Shine),” “Brotha Man,” and “Purity.”

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HSVN – Changes (LP)

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#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...