Evidence doesn’t do a lot of interviews anymore. The West Coast wordsmith has experienced immeasurable loss in the past year, namely the loss of his girlfriend, Wendy, to breast cancer. Somehow, Ev finds it in him to keep smiling, though.
“Just been trying to stay busy is the best way to put it,” he tells me over the phone. “One day at a time type stuff. I’ve been creative lately, and that’s been good. I’ve been making a lot beats. I’ve been writing a lot of raps. Around a lot of people playing super fire shit. I spend a lot of time with my son and he makes me happy all day long. So I am happy in a lot of ways and I am at a certain sense of peace, but it’s, you know, some days good. Some days: complete shit.”
His candor, of course, is what makes his music so affecting. His last LP, Weather or Not, was his most touching and honest to date. Not simply because of the content, because as Ev will tell you, there were some fierce raps on there, but more so because Evidence found comfort in his voice. For the first time on wax, he was dedicated to making sure his rapper voice matched his speaking voice as closely as possible. Though he’s still working on perfecting his voice, he’s currently in service of Michael, not Evidence the rap character.
“I don’t feel like I’m Evidence, the character,” he says. “I feel like I’m me… You know, you create an image for yourself or you create a voice that makes you, you and you run with that. I don’t mind evolving publically. I’m not tripping off that. We might as well embrace [my voice] here. It’s a little scary, but it’s better.”
As for Ev’s personal life, that’s the mantra: a little scary, but better. The greatest lesson he’s learned in the past year is that he doesn’t know anything. He’s even seen, shockingly, Alchemist make a wack beat. Nothing is promising, but the music and his son make him happy. With his priorities in order, then, Ev even has new music in the works. Nothing, seemingly, can get him down. “It’s all bad, but I got a big smile on my face,” Evidence concludes.
Our full conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: Where were you at mentally when Weather or Not dropped?
Evidence: Kind of in the same place. Personal life has just been overtaking everything, kind of. At that point, I was still in the fight of everything and trying to figure out where my life is going, and now I know where it is. But it doesn’t make it any better. How about we start the interview over [laughs]? How about we start it over? I don’t even want to get into that right now, I’m just trying to keep my head straight, and be focused and handle priorities.
Do you feel a sense of peace now?
No, not really. Just been trying to stay busy is the best way to put it. One day at a time type stuff. I’ve been creative lately, and that’s been good. I’ve been making a lot of beats. I’ve been writing a lot of raps. Around a lot of people playing super fire shit. I spend a lot of time with my son and he makes me happy all day long. So I am happy in a lot of ways and I am at a certain sense of peace, but it’s, you know, some days good. Some days: complete shit.
This is the album that got me through my grandmother’s time in the hospital, so I feel really kindred to it.
Thank you. I’m not even playing that shit, to be honest. And then my album becomes synonymous with struggle and all that stuff and it’s cool, but I’m not trying to go with the sympathy shit right now. I’m just trying to deal with it. It’s just hard to do interviews and get into a rap character and be like, “Yeah, everything’s fire!” Because I don’t feel like I’m living… I don’t feel like I’m Evidence, the character. I feel like I’m me.
You don’t need to be a character. This record is Michael.
Yeah, pretty much. I’m getting to that point. Creatively, it’s just you run into a wall doing the same shit over and over. You gotta either say, “This is me,” or create something else. I just ran into that.
This might be your most celebrated LP to date. Were you surprised at the reaction?
Yeah, for sure. There’s a lot of rap shit, too. Through my raps, it’s less punches and more shit that I’m talking about. Conversations. I didn’t expect it. I had planned for it to come out in November of 2017 and Rhymesayers wanted more time to get the packaging right. My problem was, I had made too many records just because I had so much time. I went and mastered it in one sequence. Then didn’t like it, went back, remastered it again in a different sequence. I had to kill maybe 10 records. That was just because I had a long time to create between album cycles. I think when it came out and I had my videos and everything in mind, it brought everything together.
Are we ever going to hear the records you had to kill?
I’m working on a new record, and I felt that if it didn’t make it, it didn’t make it. I think those hit the cutting room floor because some might’ve had a verse or just a chorus. Incomplete thoughts. I would have to go back and polish them off, and I don’t wanna do that.
You’ve said this one featured your most natural rapping voice, no more forcing yourself to sound deeper. How did you come to that place of confidence?
I’m working toward it still. I don’t think I’ve mastered it yet. I definitely took a good step in the right direction with that. I felt like a rap character in previous work. You know, you create an image for yourself or you create a voice that makes you, you and you run with that. I don’t mind evolving publically. I’m not tripping off that. We might as well embrace [my voice] here. It’s a little scary, but it’s better.
Has embracing your voice made it easier to make records?
Yeah, and no. Yeah, for the reason that I’m less concerned. I’m not thinking about it while I’m doing it. I’m just doing it. And that’s such a good freedom. The no side is that I end up talking too much. When you get in your rap voice, or your energy or whatever, you get a certain cadence and you emphasize on the snare or the kick and really punch the rhyme out, I gotta make sure I’m still spitting. I’m not just having a conversation.
Which record on Weather or Not was most important for you to make?
“By My Side Too,” obviously that was the one that I had to do. I just don’t like it because it was an optimistic record and it didn’t work out the way I planned. So it’s a sore thumb for me.
Could you have made this album without being a father?
Yeah, because I made a lot of it when I wasn’t. That’s the crazy part. I said, “No son, but I father this verse.” I said that before Wendy was pregnant. Some of that material was sitting around because I had three or four years in between [records].
What do you want your son to learn from your music?
I haven’t thought about that too much. He likes a lot of it already. I just want him to feel the energy in it. Just the raw… I want him to… Some things pass the time test, and others didn’t, but when I recorded everything, I always thought it was good to go.
Do you think Weather or Not will pass the time test?
I think so, because I can perform it. I have been performing 10 songs off of it, and that’s not normal. I normally work three of our songs into the set, and try to ease people into the new material instead of pounding them over the head with it.
What is it like performing the record and seeing the fan response?
That’s the ultimate payoff from all the hard work. When you’re touring, you’re traveling far, it’s a life you have to be built for. Sometimes you show up to a venue and you feel like a circus act, almost. I just did my best show last night, what am I gonna do tonight? The energy, just keep trying to top it, and top it and top it. So when people give that back to an artist, it can really keep them going through all that shit. It’s like the ultimate reward.
Biggest lesson you’ve learned in the past year?
I don’t know shit. Nothing. I know absolutely nothing. I can’t tell you if the earth is really round. I don’t know if the moon is close or far. I don’t believe the sun is really that far. I seen Alchemist make a wack beat. Shit’s all fucked up.
I don’t believe you. Alchemist doesn’t make wack beats.
It’s all bad. It’s all bad, but I got a big smile on my face.
How do you find it in you to keep smiling?
Stay busy, do what I love, take care of the important shit. Keep good friends, and drum roll, smoke good weed.
Where are you headed next? You tweeted about a new album in the works…
It’s been good! I’m not quite sure where it’s going yet, but I’ve been making a lot of music. It feels good to be making a lot of music and to be in lab, it feels therapeutic. Especially after touring. I went record shopping crazy all over the planet. I got mad fucking records. I was aiming to make it all myself, I don’t know if that’s gonna happen. My biggest thing now is to decide [on], do I make two albums? One that I do myself, and one with my favorite people, or do I blend the two? I been talking to a lot of other people, trying to figure out what the sound and the shape of the record is. I don’t want to make another weather record, I’m just trying to figure it out. I have three or four songs that I’m using as the way to shape it.
What’s the general energy of those records?
I would say they’re sad, and I don’t wanna have a sad album. I feel like I’m kinda getting those out of the way and as time goes on I’ll balance it out. Once again, sad but with a smile.
What does freedom mean to you now?
I’ve lived long enough to know money doesn’t ultimately make me happy, but right now, I need a bunch of it. Money will be the freedom for me, because I’m not tripping off it, and I feel like I could use it right. Money, right now. Not to define my happiness, just for stability. Freedom is I go to the park with my kid and do what I want. I already do that. I just need security now.