Some legends move in silence, others move with the rain.
Evidence, a veteran MC from Los Angeles, moves with the torrential downpour. His perfect storm of a two-and-a-half decade-long career includes being one-third of rap group Dilated Peoples, winning a GRAMMY as co-producer on Kanye West’s debut, The College Dropout, and acting as “Rhymesayer number three, behind Slug and Ali.” Somehow, the newly-released Weather or Not is only his third solo studio album, but as we all know, the third—and the first, and the second—time’s the charm.
Weather or Not is 16 tracks of Evidence sauntering down a rainy boulevard, half past dusk, with empty cigarette packs and mini bottles of booze flowing down the eaves of the street. The production on the record is a clinic in building mood without obtuse synths. Between Nottz, Babu, Alchemist, and Evidence himself, among others, the album is packed with tepid bangers. Each beat has a tittering quality and comes to life once graced by Ev’s billowing flow. His words hang over the rhythms like fog over the shoreline on “Rain Drops,” and the waltz-paced “What I Need” is a pensive hustler’s anthem.
Equally impressive is the rap legion Evidence assembles on this record: Rapsody, Styles P, Slug of Atmosphere, Rakaa of Dilated Peoples, Mach Hommy, Jonwayne, and more. Therein also lies the record’s main issue: a majority of the features are stacked together and bloat the middle of the album. Suddenly, the project becomes a bit drab, because, truth be told, not everyone can rap over a shades-of-gray boom bap beat and manage to keep ears engaged.
That’s not to say that any of the guest verses are weak. On the contrary, Weather or Not is a rare record where not a single feature feels like filler. It’s always better to be craving more of the headlining act than fiending for the next outside voice; Evidence has a good problem on his hands.
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While Evidence does his fair share of storytelling on Weather or Not, there’s special attention to detail paid to the skits and samples that carry the subconscious plot. The main skit, a chopped up service call about scrapping a pair of his old speakers, gives us a picture of a man who is letting life slip out of his grasp. Pair that with a sample that explains the many meanings of the phrase “whether or not,” from apathy to bold assertion, and we find a man who is admittedly lost in the undertow and rapping his way to the surface (“But never been to therapy / For me, that’s rap”).
In that way, and despite some well-earned braggadocio (“10,000”), Weather or Not spends a lot of time tensing up under the weight of loss, but never buckling, not even on the final track, “By My Side Too.”
A descendant of the era of stealing your own heart and bragging about the pain, Evidence takes this album as an opportunity to deliver one of his most personal raps. On the aforementioned closing track, “By My Side Too,” Evidence is seated beside his wife during chemo, recounting how their son discovered her breast cancer. Inviting us into what must have been one of the most intimate and most daunting moments of his life takes a particular brand of courage that does not go unappreciated.
At his core, and to his benefit, Evidence is a golden era holdover whose swagger has allowed him to survive through all of hip-hop’s growth spurts and growing pains. In that same breath, Weather or Not is Evidence at his peak, capturing the brief liminal space before you jump into a puddle of rain over a pack of boom bap beats that have none of the dust of the early 90s, but all of crunch and heart.
Three Standout Tracks
“Throw It All Away”
A potential song of the year candidate, “Throw It All Away” is the tone of the album distilled into a reaching piano line and Evidence ruminating on his self-destructive habits. Ev finds confidence in letting go and keeping his circle tight and he does it all without breaking a sweat or breaking into a double-time flow.
“Weather or Not”
Here’s a track that spotlights the innate menace in Evidence’s delivery. His uncanny ability to build anticipation as he slices syllables makes for an addictive listen. For rap nerds like myself, the title was derived from the Dilated Peoples song “Guaranteed,” where Evidence spits: “Some think I’m clever, others think I’m the one who makes too many references to weather / or not.”
“By My Side Too”
A gutting song that’s half-raps and half Evidence speaking of his love and gratitude for his son, Enzo, "By My Side Too" is at once harrowing, hopeful and heartwarming. Beyond words and reproach, of the 16 songs on this album, this is the one that demands a listen.