- Thu, 2011-11-17 11:51
Evidence should need no introduction. One third of Dilated Peoples - one of the best-loved independent hip hop groups of the first decade of the new millennium - his reputation as both emcee and producer is assured. Since Dilated Peoples went on indefinite hiatus a few years ago Evidence has been pursuing a solo career, to which end he signed with the brilliant Rhymesayers Entertainment for the release of his recent second album, Cats & Dogs.
I Like Music caught up with Evidence backstage at the Rhymesayers label tour to chat about his love of music, his writing process, working with the Alchemist and being a part of the Rhymesayers family.
”I Like Music because…it sounds much better under the influence of really good marijuana.” Evidence
ILM: How are you? How are you feeling about being in London as part of the first ever Rhymesayers European label tour?
Evidence: A lot of mixed emotions. Happy, nervous, excited, cold, mildly stoned, full.
ILM: Do you typically get nervous?
Evidence: Not a bad nervousness. The same way I imagine a baseball pitcher would feel before he’s about to take the mound. Or a football player in England, to use a metaphor that would make more sense to you! The day that goes away is probably the day you should end with it.
ILM: What do you think makes a good hip hop show a great hip hop show?
Evidence: The ability to connect with the audience. “I’m the rapper, you’re the audience,” type of thing, but encompassing everybody to feel like this is a celebration or party… and coincidentally spitting words that might have a message if you choose to take them as such. I don’t think anyone should be out there preaching, but if you have something to say then why not say it loud?
ILM: You've dedicated a lot of your time to music and a lot of people are very grateful for that...! What is it about music that keeps you coming back for more?
Evidence: It keeps me young. A lot of youthful energy, adolescent energy is put into music. A lot of ignorant energy maybe. A lot of educated energy. But, you know, if I was to revert back to the blueprint of where I started… I was living at home, I didn’t have any bills, the weight of the world had not yet hit my shoulders, I’d never had my heart broken, didn’t have children… I hadn’t experienced death amongst family and friends yet. I was really innocent and was creating every day. Why? Because something’s telling you to.
Then you move out and have bills and you get a wife and you have this and that – not that any of it’s bad: it’s beautiful – but you can very easily deviate from the path of what you’re trying to do through the necessity of trying to make a job out of this. It’s a living, if you choose for it to be. Otherwise you can make music for your friends anytime, anywhere. Doing this you’re gonna put education or college behind you, or your job with benefits. To do something like this there has to be something that you love about it. To me it all stems back to being young, loving what I was doing, not a care in the world. Just to be able to hold on to 65 or 70 percent of that – I maybe lost a little bit of it through making this a career – but to still have that… I don’t know what else I would be doing that would keep me like this. It would have to be skateboarding, or a sport, or something where I would feel redeemed by doing it every day.
I love being my own boss and working under my own terms. To be able to making a living off that shit is a gift. That’s why this tour is different. It’s about a lot of people with that DIY attitude. That transcends genre. That transcends everything. It just says “I love what I do, I have great energy, check it out.” I hope I didn’t stray too far away from the question there!
ILM: How has your approach to your lyrics changed and developed over the years?
Evidence: Because I’m a producer as well as a rapper I kind of keep one foot in both, to keep a good balance. People often ask me what comes first: the rhyme or the beat? I usually say “I dunno, it could be a beat that inspires a vocal one day, or I could write something down one day that inspires me to try and make a track,” but enough of the bullshit; the truth of the matter is that I love to wake up, sit down at my drum machine and cook up a record. Sample something, play with a bass tone. Whatever I do, that is usually the catalyst for me to write. Nine out of ten days the first thing I want to do when I wake up is make a beat, more than I want to write. I’m not a poetry guy who keeps a journal and is a stream of consciousness writer. Some people really do that, and take little portions of it and turn it into a song, but I always write when the task is at hand. That can be a bad thing or a good thing.
ILM: If that’s the way you do it, that’s the way you do it…
Evidence. Right. I was a graffiti writer, and I had a black book that I would sketch in every day, and I’d look at page one to page two to page three to page four – four days work – and think “good, good...good, a little bit better.” Then I'd end up having to go somewhere, or I'd get caught up in something that meant that I couldn’t sketch for a couple of days… so I’d take a few days off before I did another one. I’d notice that in those few days off the evolution that occurred was way more. I was getting better because I took a few days off. The next one was really good because there was a lot of excitement and energy, it wasn’t just a repetitious thing. So, I think it’s possible to write too much and get lost. I think I’m more of a producer in my day-to-day life than I am a rapper, even though to most people I appear as more of a rapper than a producer.
ILM: It’s about letting an idea gestate in your subconscious...
Evidence. Right. Alchemist is one of my biggest inspirations. He’s always just pushing himself. He’ll make a great beat and I’ll be like “I love it!” Then he’ll turn it off, erase it and say “NOW I’m about to make something better than that shit! FUCK that beat.” You ask him “what’s the best beat you ever made?” He’ll answer “the shit I’m gonna make next week.” The best work sometimes comes when you start at seven o’clock in the evening, you make a beat ‘til ten, fall asleep on the couch, wake up at one and don’t like it anymore, erase it and start over. That one’s alright, you fall asleep again…when you get in this weird maniacal groove. I don’t think it’s something that you can just sit down to all the time and accomplish.
ILM: If it was that would almost make it too easy...
Evidence: Yeah, it would. There’s something intangible about this music. You don’t see it unless you put a visual to it. You don’t smell it. You don’t taste it. But yet it can raise a hair on your arm, or do all sorts of stuff. It’s an amazing sense.
ILM: What sorts of things are inspiring you at the moment?
Evidence: What I do is heavily sample-based. A lot of people define sampling differently. Some people say it’s theft, some people say it’s an art-form, some people understand the evolution and how it made hip hop as it is today. There are so many degrees of sampling. There are people like Alchemist who are taking bits and pieces of sounds from records, like a tapestry. They take shit from all over to make something great. Then there’s other people who take the Mona Lisa, put it in a different frame and call it theirs. That is what it is. The idea is infinite. So I would say that what inspires me most musically is old records. Record-shopping different genres and learning about them; you find out about Swedish prog rock from buying a record and you think “fuck, this is interesting!” You read about it, and YouTube it, and it takes you into this world that you’ve never been to before… I’m very much into finding old records and letting that dictate where I’m gonna go. I don’t play keys, or piano. I did take piano lessons as a kid, and that gave me a sense of notes and a few chords, but for the most part I don’t know what the fuck I’m really doing! I really don’t! I just watched a documentary on Kraftwerk, and a lot of what they were doing at the beginning was like what a lot of our friends were doing. We’re not musicians, yet we’re selling out shows for something called our ‘music’.
ILM: What would be your advice to people just beginning to try and realise their musical dreams?
Evidence: Yeah, don’t quit your day-job. You can’t lie to yourself. You can lie to everybody else, but you can’t lie to yourself. You can fool yourself for a little while, but it always comes back. If you’re doing rap, or rock, or punk or jazz, or you’re trying to be an actor, or you want this job or that job because you want to get rich and you want to get pussy or get guys, or you want social status you didn’t have in school… Any ulterior motive is going to smack the shit out of you eventually. Do this because you love to do it, and if you don’t get paid for it today you’re still happy with your fucking creation. If it turns into something that’s paying some bills and you’re one of the few percent that can say that and you still love your music then that’s cool.
ILM: What’s it like being part of the Rhymesayers family?
Evidence: It’s still an evolution. It’s new. Every day. I know a lot of these people loosely through being with them since 2009 – fuck, that’s two years, crazy! – and have become really good friends with some of them. It’s a weird thing to be on a record label like this… The record label is the place where the artist says “fuck you, you’re like the cops, you’re sabotaging our shit,” and now it’s like “ah man, I love you!” It’s really weird. And then you get paid on time and it’s even weirder! I don’t really wanna go anywhere else right now, I’m kinda cool where I’m at. What I am proud of is the fact that I did sign with Rhymesayers, and I didn’t come into the office like “everyone move apart, Evidence is here!” I took a year and a half to put out a record, made a lot of friends, went on tour with them, soaked up a little of the lifestyle and philosophy, implemented what I liked and threw away what I didn’t, and found my place within the team. So yeah, at this point I feel really comfortable.