With Evidence, it’s not so much a case of starting his story from the beginning, but figuring out which beginning you want to start with.
The Venice Beach-based rapper has had, in a sense, three careers. Most well known is his work with Dilated Peoples, the trio Evidence formed with Rakaa Iriscience and DJ Babu to record a slew of well-regarded longplayers around the turn of the millennium. More recently there’s been a solo career, which last year saw the release of ‘Cats & Dogs’, one of the better US rap LPs in recent memory.
But before Evidence had even thought about laying some vocals down on record, he was out and about as a Los Angeles teen in 1992, attending open mic nights at the infamous Troubadour and harassing producer and future collaborator the Alchemist about getting up onstage.
“I was just hungry. It was new to me, and I was probably a little overzealous,” he says, laughing. “That’s why now I never put down on anybody trying to get on – I understand the concept of it. I’d heard there was an open mic and I was there really just to dance at that time – dancing was what everyone did – and the DJ threw on an instrumental and people could get up to rap. That was dope. This was real early.”
It was through those open mic nights that Evidence would eventually meet Rakaa and Babu, but at the time he had little idea that something special was brewing. After all, as he points out, he was barely 14 years old.
“I wasn’t really up on it, to be honest – professionally. I was kinda just in my own little world. I couldn’t even go out that much. I couldn’t even stay out that late, you know.”
By the turn of the millennium, Dilated Peoples were darlings of the west coast underground, their album ‘The Platform’ attracting the eye of pundits as well as listeners looking to make a break with the region’s gangster rap past. Still, Evidence as an MC would remain a smaller cog in the machine until he struck out on his own in 2007 with his first true solo album, ‘The Weatherman LP’. Now, with the release of ‘Cats & Dogs’ under his belt, the rapper has been introduced to his first dose of major blogosphere exposure.
“Some people think I’m a new artist, which is a real interesting dynamic in itself,” he says. “But then there are those who know me; I’m an artist who’s been around. So there’s this weird duality … But I think it would be real different if I’d just come out in 2000 as a solo artist, instead of 2006 or whenever it was that I did. I think all the experience and all the knowledge and all the ups and downs I’d been through prepared me much more for this.”
Part of the exposure he’s now experiencing is down to Evidence’s hook-up with Rhymesayers, the mid-western indie powerhouse that seems to be thriving in the brave new world of the internet. Evidence jokes self-deprecatingly that he caught label bosses Slug and Siddiq’s attention by holding a gun to their heads, but it was really the quality and distinctive nature of his work that saw him invited into the Rhymesayers inner sanctum.
“I don’t know if they were aware of my full vision or not. Either way, I thank them for giving me a shot on it, because it’s definitely been successful for me. At a time when things have been going down, I’ve been fortunate enough to have some things going back up, so it would be good to keep it going.
“I like the way they work. Obviously, they’re successful. And then they don’t have much on the roster that sounds like me, which is great. It’s a place where you can have your own lane and I feel like a lot of us share the same ideals and the same thoughts and the same goals, but we all spit our rhymes differently and that’s great … When I signed up there I was considering making music in a style that leaned towards what some of their own artists were already doing. But after a conversation with certain people they were like, ‘Please don’t. We signed you for what you do.’ That was great to hear.”
Of course, in the age of the 360 record deal, Evidence has also been doing plenty of touring through Rhymesayers as well. And this coming weekend, he hits local shores in the company of Atmosphere for a string of dates around the country. With a new album to ply and a successful 2010 Australian tour with Total Eclipse under his belt, he’s very much looking forward to it.
“Yeah, yeah. Definitely,” he enthuses, before deadpanning: “So long as there’s some weed.”
EVIDENCE SUPPORTS ATMOSPHERE AT THE HI-FI THIS SATURDAY, MAY 5.