Just Evidence: LA’s Mr. Slow Flow Opens Up About Going Solo
“Are you a Radiohead fan?” Michael Perretta – better known as the rapper Evidence – asked me during our interview. I sat blankly, slightly confused by the question. Not so much because I don’t expect rappers to be eclectic in their music tastes, but because I’m the one that’s supposed to be asking the questions. I answer cautiously, “Yeah …. I like Radiohead.”
Then came the Daily Double. “Can you name all the members of Radiohead?”
Silence. No, I couldn’t name them.
“There are Radiohead fans who know every member of the group, and what they are doing,” Evidence explained to rationalize his analogy. “Then there are Radiohead fans who don’t know who the members are, but can say, ‘I like the music and I’m a fan.’ That’s how it is with Dilated [Peoples] on a microcosm. There are people who listen to all my solo records and know Rakaa’s solo albums, are focused on all the records from [DJ] Babu, they know we are all over each other’s projects and tour every Summer in Europe. They know the next Dilated Peoples album is coming next year and we are tighter than ever. Other people don’t, and it’s not their fault. You’re allowed to like Dilated and not know everything about us.”
Evidence is making a point that really doesn’t pertain to Radiohead at all. Instead, he’s drawing a connection between Radiohead – and my inability to name the individual band members – and Dilated Peoples, the group that gave rise to Evidence as a rapper and producer that we know today.
His point is simple: The overwhelming success of the group can make it hard for the members to make a name as solo artists. Sometimes, Evidence feels trapped by the name he’s built as a member of his group and unable to emerge as an individual.
In 1992, a trio of teenagers got together to assemble a sound that was missing from the west coast. Hip hop was in the midst of a war during the early 1990s, the battle of east coast vs. west coast, headlined by Biggie vs. Pac. With the west coast expectation being a sound reminiscent of Pac, Ice Cube or Eazy-E, it was Babu, Rakaa and Evidence that bucked the trend. “We come from the west coast, but sound more like Gang Starr than gangsters,” said Evidence of the trio that is now recognized worldwide by their one-eyed logo and humble rhymes.
“It would be cool to have a solo project and know who actually fucks with me, and not from an egotistical standpoint, but for a minor validation.”
The successes for Dilated Peoples piled up quickly. So quickly that it didn’t really hit Ev at first. He described when they started making serious moves by saying, “I was at home living with my mom. I didn’t have any bills yet, I was still in high school. The weight of the world hadn’t set in yet. I didn’t care about a million dollars because I didn’t know the concept of rent.” For a group that is still widely considered “underground”, Dilated Peoples has quite the resume, with hundreds of thousands of albums sold, a major radio hit (See: “This Way” featuring Mr. Humble, Kanye West) and sold-out tours around the globe. With this success though, Evidence has become more a piece of a whole rather than an individual. He’s become Evidence “of Dilated Peoples”.
Evidence says he’s come to terms with the title. The success has been worth this lifelong association, he says, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t looking for to make his own mark.
“I will never forget, we were on tour with Little Brother in Philly, doing a group in-store with Little Brother and Dilated Peoples, and someone walked up to Rapper Big Pooh, handed him Sleepers, and said ‘I love this album’,” he says, describing it as a moment of inspiration. “I asked him what Sleepers was, and he told me it was his solo album, and that the fans fuck with it. I knew right then, I want that. Just for someone to come up to a show or an in-store and hand me a solo album and have it mean something to them. With a group, you never know if someone is there to see you. Being in a group is confusing for a lot of artists. It would be cool to have a solo project and know who actually fucks with me, and not from an egotistical standpoint, but for a minor validation.”
And with that, Evidence set his sights on a new goal: To release a successful solo effort. His cohorts Rakaa Iriscience and DJ Babu followed in toe.
The terms of the deal with Capitol Records that the group were signed to was holding them all back from individual endeavors. So, the group left Capitol Records after the 2006 release of 20/20. Evidence didn’t take long to get to work. Pulling from the experiences surrounding his mother’s passing, Evidence concocted an audio notebook as a form of mourning and coping.
On March 20, 2007, The Weatherman LP was released. Almost exactly 13 months after Dilated’s 20/20, it was the first step toward the sort of validation Ev was looking for. “I’m living off my solo shit, and I’m not struggling,” he says, describing the satisfaction his solo career had provided. “It’s not like I got my validation ticket and am going to leave the parking lot, its more like I know I got a ticket and I like it over here and think I’m gonna kick it with y’all for a bit.”
The Weatherman’s emotional journey still holds its place for Ev and is part of what continues to drive his solo career. He has still yet to listen to the record’s final track, “I Still Love You”. He didn’t even listen to approve the mix, he told me. “I needed to say it to put it down, and not even for my replay value, but for therapy purposes.”
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