Roughly three years have elapsed since California-based rapper, and producer Evidence closed out a chapter of his career — giving his ongoing weather-based theme a final curtain call with the LP Weather or Not.
In tandem with the universally transformative nature of 2020, he began work on a new LP, Unlearning Vol. 1. The project is not only relaunching the calm-flowing MC after a hiatus which (in today’s social media-driven landscape) feels like forever but kick-starting an exciting new path of creative expression.
“It’s my re-introduction weirdly,” Evidence tells HipHopDX. “I feel like it’s my demo. I got to strip it back; it’s not unlike what happens at the beginning of a career, when someone starts out, you know, not recording in the big studios. They graduate, and they make bigger things.
“I kept that mentality for this … there’s a lot of big steps for me, but they’re more in the details. It’s not like I’m just making some whole new sound of music. It’s just different choices that I made.”
While he initially toyed with the idea of producing the LP entirely by himself, he notes that a lot of his friends and collaborators were eager to lend their talents.
“I have a lot of great people around me who wanted to work … it just felt natural,” he explains. “The tracks that I picked from people felt like beats that I would have made myself, but maybe they had different sample selection and things like that.”
It’s a strategy that he says gives the album an even more organic feel, making it harder to distinguish between his production and that of peers who helped craft the LP’s sound, like The Alchemist, Nottz, Daringer, and more, creating a tight cohesion.
In essence, it’s an artist’s artist type of project — noticeably void of any pandering or concessions.
“I think when you take a break to disappear for a couple of years, expectations go through the roof. You’re supposed to come back with a blockbuster film versus documentary or something,” he says.
“[This LP] is an artist move. I’m proud that I’m controlling my narrative.”
Probably one of the most exciting revelations shared by Evidence is the launch of his new company, Bigger Picture, through which he’ll be focusing on building up his production catalog.
“I feel like, with my production, I never got to lock it in and show people what I wanted to do,” he admits. “I would make placements with one or two tracks on people’s albums, which was amazing, but never got to establish what my sound is … my vision.”
First releases on the imprint include a new project with Domo Genesis — their first full-length foray since 2018’s Aren’t U Glad You’re U? (which Ev executively produced) — as well as a project by Planet Asia.
“That’s all going to be under my umbrella for my production. And that’s all happening … it’s all being manufactured right now. I’ve been working hard at that for the last year. I didn’t even tell anyone about it.”
The new company will also be an outlet for him to push photography, merch, and any other creative endeavors that may arise. While this new LP is being released on Rhymesayers as he works to build the company, he says the plan is to move his entire brand once he’s more established.
He fully acknowledges the challenges ahead as he attempts to open up his fanbase to new acts they may not be accustomed to yet.
“It’s like, you might’ve never heard of this rapper, but I need you to support this because I made the beat, you know. That mentality; that’s a place I have a lot of room to grow.”
However, the independent route is something he’s no stranger to — having experienced a mainstream run as a member of the critically acclaimed group Dilated Peoples with a solo run he likens to a second life, at least musically.
While all of Evidence’s solo albums have been released through independent imprints, the Los Angeles-based Dilated Peoples released their first four albums (and most well-known projects) through Capitol Records.
Playing both sides contributed to Hip Hop vet’s current, well-rounded outlook on the industry.
“I got to have a record deal, I got to have a tour bus and Dave Meyers to direct a video,” he notes, referencing the visual for the group’s 2004 hit single “This Way” featuring Kanye West. “It was dope, but it wasn’t for me at the end of the day. When I look back, that system wasn’t designed for me.”
The soulful record peaked at No. 78 on the Billboard 100, making for the group’s biggest song to date. Still, in many ways, Unlearning is a fresh start.
“I feel like I can just create; I don’t have any pressure or hang-ups in my creative process,” he says. “It’s not that I’m not ambitious or don’t want to have success … of course I do. But, I’m just not chasing it anymore.”
One line on the song “Pardon Me” encapsulates the overall LP’s vibe perfectly: “Nothing corporate; incorporated what I learned to pay my mortgage.” In shedding superficial motivations and making humble music that comes together organically, he is crafting some of his most exciting material to date.
Ev has nothing to prove, and within the embrace of that creative freedom, he’s poised to make the most poignant moves of his career.
“I deserve that,” he states confidently. “I’ve done this long enough.”
Evidence’s Unlearning Vol. 1 drops on Friday (June 25) on Rhymesayers Entertainment with. The beats from The Alchemist, Nottz, Sebb Bash, Animoss, Mr. Green, V Don, Daringer, Khrysis and EARDRUM (QThree) and guest appearances with Boldy James, Conway The Machine, Fly Anakin, Navy Blue, and Murkage Dave.