Evidence is celebrating the release of his latest album, Weather or Not, which marks another success in an already strong succession of projects – including both his solo work and his work with celebrated rap group, Dilated Peoples. Gingerslim spoke with him recently about the new album, his discovery of rap and his love for photography, among other things.
The new album is out now. What can we expect from it?
So I’ve done two albums before this and an EP, so this will be my third full length. I did The Weatherman LP, The Layover EP, Cats & Dogs and now Weather or Not. To me it’s like the final chapter, like I’m closing the book on the Weatherman thing, so I really wanted to make a dramatic album, kinda throw everything at the wall. I wanted to make it hit real hard, make every track really big, so I’ve pushed it into the red as far as the mix goes. So yeah, basically go big or go home on this last one.
That actually leads into my next question because I read that you were planning to make this one the last in The Weatherman series and so I was wondering if you have a vision for where the next chapter is going to take you, or is it a more organic process than that?
It’s a gigantic question mark and that’s what I need right now, you know? That uncertainty is what made me make my first Weatherman album, so I kinda want to start over and move into innovation. Make my best – or possibly my worst record – instead of already knowing I’m good at a certain thing.
That’s refreshing to hear because I know a lot of artists who want to tackle these things with a definite plan.
Well I’ve been working a lot these past couple of years, I’ve been producing a lot and working with different rappers – Defari, Krondon, Domo Genesis, Mac Miller – so I’ve been able to just sit back and scope things again, as like an outsider almost. Its got me excited; sometimes you’ve gotta not be afraid to just go away for a second.
You’ve got some great guest features on the album. I was particularly happy to see Rapsody’s name on the credits. How do you go about choosing who you want to be involved, is it based on who would work best with each track, or do you have an idea of who you’re going to ask, before that?
Oh man you would probably laugh your ass off, if you knew individually how it had happened vs. how I intended; it just never works out that way. With this album what happened was the people who came over are the people who are on the record. I got blessed cos 9th [Wonder] and Rapsody were coming to town, and Khrysis was in LA, so I hooked them up with an Airbnb kinda close to my house. I knew that area, so I could show them around, move through LA the way I thought was good, which meant they were coming over a lot so that means that Rapsody was here. Styles P I saw at Alchemist’s crib, so I invited him to come by the next day and he did. So the majority of the vocals were done at my crib, all done on the same microphone, which gives it a nice cohesive sound to it.
I know Stephen Vanasco has played a big part in the overall aesthetic for the album, including directing the 10,000 Hours video. How did you guys end up working together?
It was fucking Instagram. I didn’t know him from shit before that [laughs]. I met him one day with 13thWitness, I might’ve bumped into him earlier some places here and there, but yeah we went on a photo mission one day and hung out. The I started noticing his work a lot more, he was shooting a lot of stuff with girls, but I noticed that he was better than the clichéd work you get on Instagram, with filters and whatever. Then I think he changed his name on Instagram from like Van Styles to his real name, lost a bunch of followers and started doing all these black & white shots, so then I was like ‘this is the sort of person I wanna fuck with’, you know what I’m saying? So then I just convinced him to do a video, like ‘can we make these stills move?’ and he said yeah, so we did and that’s basically how the collaboration happened. I love the way he shoots and why he shoots, so yeah it’s the beauty of this new era.
Now obviously photography is a big part of your life too. Do you see yourself ever moving into that field full time, maybe after the hip hop’s died down?
I don’t think so, I mean maybe. I think my whole photography thing got fucked up because my mom’s a photographer and you know your mom wants you to do what she does, but I wanted to be a fucking rapper. But then mom passes away and along comes the iPhone, then Instagram, before anyone was on it, so I was like you know what I’ll just start taking photos on this Instagram shit and not tell anybody I’m a rapper, just try to have like an alternate ego; you know somewhere where I can just be somebody else and take photos. Then what do you know, that app becomes super big and I went from posting music on Twitter and photos on Instagram, to all that shit colliding. People ask me all the time what am I doing with my photos, but to me it was always just a hobby. I mean I’ve made some money off of it, a couple things came my way and I did them cos they were alright, but no I’m not trying to like shoot Wiz Khalifa for Spin Magazine or some shit [laughs].
No I know, man, but you’ve got a real talent for it.
Well maybe if I could do it on my own terms over time, or something like that, when I get older. But I shoot my kid for now, that’s my shit.
You were known as Mr Slow Flow for a while back in the day, but your style has changed quite a bit since then. Was that a conscious effort you made to switch things up, or was it just how you naturally evolved as an MC? I know you touched on it on Jim Dean recently.
When I started rapping, I really focused on how people saw me as an artist, I lowered my voice really deep and tried to act hard. Thinking back I realise I wasn’t letting them in, even when they were knocking at my door and telling me to win, I felt like losing. Like how could I be worthy? I was just young and hanging out with big, older people and I’ve always just been part of that, so yeah I was trying to be something I wasn’t. Not lyrically, or what I was writing, no one ever wrote for me or anything like that, it’s just that I was trying to be taken more seriously. I’d slow records down, before chopped & screwed, or before I knew what that was, so I would sound deeper. I’d just do dumb shit to try to sound older, but then as I’ve actually got older I’ve just become more comfortable with who I am, but I’ve also evolved publicly. Some people just figure that shit out one way, but I didn’t do that, it took time. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing?
I think it’s good, man. Rather than just setting a plan for what you want to do, how you want to sound, you just let it happen naturally.
Yeah I think that’s good. I mean hanging out with Defari a lot, or hanging out with whoever a lot, I get influenced by people I’m around a lot so that will be a part of it also.
Yeah but that’s a sign you’re comfortable with the people you’re hanging around with, so I would take that as a positive, man.
When you established yourself as a solo artist, was it an easy transition having been a part of Dilated for all those years?
Yeah because I had my mom’s passing and I had things to talk about that I knew wouldn’t work confined to a group. I knew that was going to be easy because I just knew that I had to do it. First The Weatherman LP was the easiest record I ever made. I recorded 16 songs and 16 songs went on the album – I didn’t question anything, so what it was, was what you heard. Where as the other records I’ve done since then, I’ve done the other way. I’ll record 25 songs, whittle it down, combine lyrics from one thing and put it to another, actually build the record. That first one was just the easiest one. But that doesn’t mean it was the best, it was just easy to do.
You guys released the Directors of Photography album back in 2014, after a pretty long hiatus. What was it like for you all being back in the studio together?
It was awkward at first, then we hit some strides and it got good. Not awkward in the sense of ‘who are you?’ cos we’d toured every year together and we’re a tight crew, we’re in each others lives a lot, but awkward in the sense of all three of us going to a studio together every day, having to be in one place. Yeah it was different cos all three of our lives had driven us in different directions, so it took a minute to hone in on it. Rakaa and I had started in one direction, then Babu came and was like yeah this is cool, but you need to go produce like this and that kinda created something else. But that’s what the beauty of a group is, it’s not about any one person, so the final product that came out of it, I stand by for sure.
I’ve asked a few artists these next questions because I think its nice to get an insight into how music came into different people’s lives, so I was wondering what are you earliest musical memories? Was there a lot of music in your family home when you were growing up?
They’re not musicians, but they may have possibly been on drugs and wilin’ out in the late-70’s and early-80’s [laughs], it was a crazy time. So yeah I just remember a lot of people at our house and me dancing, people cheering me on and I remember one of my dad’s friends, or maybe his girl, or his wife, and she was standing on the fireplace. We were playing music and she was just jumping up and down, like straight up and down. I was like five or six and I said why are you doing that? That’s not dancing. And she said, yeah this is what rock’n’roll people do and I was like ooohhh [laughs], so I had some good early tips, you know? I remember my mom playing really funky shit and I remember my dad driving really fast, playing Michael Jackson, playing Foreigner, just good shit. I just remember good music, I don’t think they ever had bad taste.
And do you remember the first hip hop record you ever heard?
Yeah the Newcleus Jam On It record was the one that made me really go ‘what the fuck?’ cos I was hanging out on Santa Monica Pier, seeing dudes dance to that and 19 by Paul Hardcastle, even though that wasn’t really a hip hop song. So those records, when I saw how people were moving to them, I was like yo this is that shit. But the best part about it was shortly after that, Wild Style, Breakin‘ and Beat Street all came out and to me it wasn’t that foreign, where as some people were seeing it for the first time if they lived in a suburb or something. But I was watching them thinking yeah this is what it’s like round by my house, you know what I mean? Cos Venice and Santa Monica at that time were definitely funky, but then all that stuff came out and I’m really young, so I’d go to the beach and feel like I was living in a movie a little bit.
And then how long was it before you knew that was what you wanted to do, to be involved with hip hop?
I didn’t know for a while. I skated, I played baseball, I did all kinds of shit; I didn’t want to be a rapper that’s for sure. Then I moved next door to QD3 (Quincy Jones’s son), from like the southside of Santa Monica, to the northside of Venice pretty much. Moved next door to this guy who was playing music all night, he had dreadlocks, he was driving in and out of the garage all the time, the music would start stop, start stop and I didn’t know what was happening over there. So I introduced myself eventually and he was like yeah I’m QD3, I’m a music producer, I do rap. So I was like no shit, cos I was into the music but hadn’t thought about actually doing it and then he invited me to go hang out in his little studio in his garage, like I have now and I just watched him produce for rappers. I got to see how that all worked, so my introduction to it was through a producer. I got to see him make the beat, then I got to see the rapper come over and do what they do, then I saw what he would do after they would leave. I didn’t want to be a producer, but that made me want to rap cos I got to see it through Quincy’s eyes. Like I watched him score the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and crazy shit like that. I saw him work with Ice Cube and Too Short, then I introduced Alchemist to him and obviously The Whooliganz and that led to their first demo. QD3 is basically responsible for all that. will.i.am used to come to my house, so we could then go next door to his place. Yeah it was really crazy, man. He is responsible for a lot of shit; QD3 is who made me want to rap.
You’ve been responsible for some incredible production over the years for a ton of different artists. Do you think you have a production album in you? Is it something you’d ever consider doing?
Okay so that is actually happening, but unintentionally. I did a Squirrel Tape instrumentals album and then slowly when people come over and they’re not doing shit or whatever, I pull up that album and I’m like yo spit over this beat, so basically I’ve been filling up the Squirrel Tape instrumentals for the last year with vocals. So in a sense it will be cos it’s a production album without me rapping on it, just a bunch of other people rapping. So yeah I did it without even thinking about it, but it will come out instrumentally first and then a vocal version of that instrumental album after.
And what’s next for you after the album is released?
After the release, the tour starts. Touring with Atmosphere in Canada and then another tour announced, so yeah hopefully just keeping busy. I’ll be promoting the album this year, just trying to keep things flowing. I can’t say when the next thing will be in terms of an album, but yeah another Step Brothers album possibly and another Evidence one, that’s for sure. And lots of production – Krondon album coming, Domo Genesis album, an EP dropped today in fact, right before this interview. Fuck it I should be tweeting it [laughs]. Yeah we just dropped a surprise EP called Aren’t You Glad You’re U – Phonte’s on it, I’m on it. And then that instrumental album with vocals coming after that. Hopefully, knock on wood, a few placements with some beats here and there.
Well that’s it from me, but thanks for speaking with me.
My man, I appreciate you. That beard is fucking impressive and it matched my beanie, that’s what’s so fucking cool [laughs]. [Editor’s note: Gingerslim has a dope beard
[Laughs] Yeah it was all planned, man. Take care.
You too, man.
Weather Or Not is out now on Rhymesayers Entertainment. Get it here.
Gingerslim has been a hip-hop fan since 1994 and has written for various blogs and websites since around 2006. During that time he has contributed to style43, Think Zebra, Headsknow and Front Magazine. His main interests in rap are UK hip-hop and the underground movement in America, with a focus on Rhymesayers Entertainment and the once mighty Def Jux label. He lives in Bristol and has a beard. All other details are sketchy at best. Follow him here.