I’m doing good. These interviews are a great way to start the day if you ask me.
Are you happy with how your debut solo LP, The Weatherman, came out?
Yeah. I put a lot of work into making this. I feel like this is a breath of fresh air. I worked on this album and I’ll stay on the road all year with this.
What was the challenge in making a solo album versus a Dilated Peoples album?
It’s all on my shoulders. That’s not very comfortable. It took me out of my comfort zone. It really made me focus hard, but the result is what it is. It sounds focused. Being in a group, you can definitely get comfortable sometimes. This record was really to show people that I can hold my own. When I told people I was making a solo album, they said it was cool and asked me who I was featuring on it. I had to say it was about me and I had things to say. I realized I had non-believers and they were in the back of my mind when I was making this album. I had to even convince Alchemist. Nobody gave it to me easy on this one. I think that was part of the drive in making this album. I definitely had something to prove.
Is there a reason you didn’t handle the entire production duties on The Weatherman?
I did a fourth of the album and that’s just as much as I would do on a Dilated record. I produced Planet Asia’s The Medicine, so I proved I am capable of producing an entire album. But to have Alchemist, Joey Chavez and all my people around me willing to work, I would be a fool not to use them. I wanted to focus on the pen and get my lyrics off. I had to show a lot of improvements. It’s not like I had an A&R finding dudes I had never met before. It wasn’t like that. These are people that I would have worked with anyway. Also, keep in mind I’m still a producer. Even if I’m not making the track, I’m still working on the arrangement and all that. I would be a fool to not have Alchemist on my album if I had the accessibility to him.
How have things changed between you and Al as you’ve both grown as artists?
Nothing. We’re still just as tight. We’ve been best friends forever and that’s my dawg, but when we get into the studio, I make sure our business is straight. I treat him like DJ Premier and Just Blaze because I respect him. I’m not taking advantage of him because he’s my friend. When it’s time to get the check cut, I make sure the contracts are right. I handle that shit. I don’t play him. I don’t want to get over on him.
Our worlds are different. Alchemist gets more love in the ‘hood than I do from running with Mobb Deep and working with Nas where my world is more of an underground/backpack world, but somewhere in the middle we meet and we both have a mutual respect for each other.
Were you able to try new things on your solo album that you couldn’t do on a Dilated album?
The underlying theme of the entire album was paying respect to my mother who passed away two years ago. That’s not something I really wanted to do on a Dilated Peoples record. That’s not fair to bring my whole group into that even though they were my biggest supporters when I was going through it and am still going through it today. I wanted to talk about the things going on in my life without having a judge and jury looking at it. I wanted to talk about where I was from and having three verses to do it instead of one to get it off. I wanted to get it off and explain that I’m not just the guy from Dilated. I wanted to show who I was as a person. I’ve always been a fan of artists like Eminem and Kanye West for letting you into who they are as a person. I’ve never really done that before.
On “Mr. Slow Flow” you talk about how you’ve come “too far to not be respected.” Do you get the respect you deserve?
At my shows, I do. The major outlets don’t always show it. Dilated are the unsung heroes. That line is just me expressing another one of my thoughts. I’m never really going to give up. I think all this pressure is eventually going to kick the door down. Sometimes I feel like we don’t get it here, but we go overseas and we sell out the shows. Then we come back home and we struggle to sell out the House of Blues. It’s all love though.
“Down In New York City” is another great song. How much time do you spend in New York City?
My family is from Coney Island and I’ve been going back and forth my whole life. I’m California born-and-raised, but I’ve been going back and forth. When I made that song, I didn’t have to look at a map. Dilated Peoples has done a lot of recording out there and we did “Worst Comes To Worst” out there in D&D Studios.
When B.I.G. wrote “Goin’ Back 2 Cali,” he made me proud to be from there. That’s why I have line, “Chillin’ at D&D.” I was showing the love right back. I was painting the opposite picture of what B.I.G. did.
Do you feel like your writing changes when you write in New York versus in Cali?
Definitely. Art imitates life and life imitates art. When it’s 80o outside and there’s palm trees, that evokes different emotions versus being on a plane going overseas. Going to New York makes you write different things and it definitely influences my style. I focus on different things, like how I’m saying something. A lot of cats have a great work ethic in New York. They work, sleep for a couple hours and go back to work. I love that. California is a little more laid back.
What inspired “Chase the Clouds Away”?
After my mother passed, I was just real depressed. I’m a pretty strong person and that’s the first time in my life when something overrode that. I was having a lot of trouble. Nothing was helping. I was talking to people. I smoked weed more and that didn’t help. Then one day I woke up and I didn’t feel so bad for some reason. I guess time heals everything like they say. I just woke up, got dressed and went about my day. I tried to maintain and I started looking through beats and I found this Alchemist beat. I had heard it before but I didn’t recognize it. I pulled all my shades up and cleaned my apartment. It felt like a good day like Ice Cube’s “Today Was A Good Day.” I said I was going to write a song about feeling good and how it’s okay to be happy. I was with my girlfriend that day and I showed her how to record on Pro Tools, then I went in the booth and recorded it.
You’ve already quoted Ice Cube and B.I.G. in the interview so far. How much does that music influence what you do?
A lot more than the music today. You can’t sit down a 14 year-old today and expect him to get it. Music reflects the time. It’s a journal of what’s happening. Rap music has always been, like they say, the CNN for the ‘hood. I can’t take kids back to experience that, but I can draw from those as inspirations and use that to create new memories.
On “Evidence Is Everywhere,” you have a line saying, “Those who can’t do, review.” Some artists pay a lot of attention to what’s written about them and some don’t. How much attention do you pay to what’s written about you and do you remember what’s written?
It’s funny. I can have a thousand good things written and then one person writes something bad and I want to jump out a window. I’m such an influenced person it’s disgusting. My best thing is to just kind of stay away from it as much as possible. I just don’t really want to get upset. When The Platform dropped and it got 3 ½ mics, I wanted to kill myself, but now people say it’s our best album. You can’t really get upset about what somebody writes down. They say when somebody writes something down, it becomes ten times more important than when it’s said.
If I have any doubts in the back of my mind about a project and somebody writes something to reaffirm that doubt, then I’m like, “Fuck.” But if I believe in something and somebody writes something negative, then I’m just like, “You know what? They didn’t get it.” For my new project, you can write all the negative shit you want, but it’s not going to stop my grind because I think I made a project that I think the world is going to feel and I’m proud of it.
What are your goals for The Weatherman?
My main goal, if I have one, is to let people know that I’m Evidence, not Evidence of Dilated Peoples. That’s no disrespect to my group. I’m always going to be Dilated, but I really want to establish who I am. The same way you don’t say “Ghostface of Wu-Tang,” that’s who I want to be. It’s really hard to do that and build that brand up. Right now I’m still Evidence of Dilated Peoples.
Do you make different beats for yourself than you would for others?
I just make beats and then I play them for people. Very few times have I made beats for specific artists. People who do that are incredible to me. I just make a lot of tracks. I don’t spend a lot of time laying out all the instruments and all that. I just make sketches and then once people start feeling it, I start adding onto it. As far as making beats for a person, I don’t really do it. I do know when I make something good, I’ll keep it for myself or give it to Planet Asia because he’s the illest rapper to me. My work with the Swollen Members always comes out good because Madchild lets me do what I want. He always lets me give it my full energy and he’s really about the final product. Some people say they want it done real fast or I can’t be there when they record it, and that plays a factor in how it sounds.
How was it producing The Medicine for Planet Asia?
That was a great experience for me. Babu and Alchemist were doing their whole albums and I wanted to do that too. Being that Planet Asia is one of my favorite rappers, I wanted to work with him. Few experiences are fun for me right now and I like being brought out of my element. The album was under-promoted, but that’s the business side. I think we made a great record that bangs. It’s not just great raps and dope beats. Sonically, it’s dope.
You’re also doing some work with the Hall of Justus. What are you working on with them?
I got real tight with Little Brother and HOJ when we did the Dilated Peoples/Little Brother Tour in 2006 with Defari. Those dudes are good dudes. I really love their music and their work ethic. I became a bigger fan of them once I saw them go on the road and saw how they performed and interacted with the crowd. On days off I would go to their studio in North Carolina and work and vice versa. We built a relationship. Joe Scudda and Jozeemo did a song called “Raleigh.” We’re all working together. We charge each other for our work. I’m trying to be as involved with them as possible. I just did some work with Sean Boog of the Away Team. I’m just doing work with them because I feel them.
Are you happy with how the last Dilated Peoples album, 20/20, did?
As far as sales, no. It’s my favorite Dilated album to date. Capitol wasn’t going to promote the record because we weren’t going to be there after the album. It wouldn’t make sense for them to. If you only press up a certain amount of records, that’s all it can sell. I’m pretty sure we sold all the records we could. At the same time, the record was heavily downloaded. Even to sell between 60 and 70,000 records, it’s still an accomplishment in today’s day and age. Worldwide, all four Dilated albums have sold over a million records. That’s definitely a major accomplishment in my book.
What’s the next move for Dilated?
The DVD is the first thing you’re going to see this summer. It’s called The Release Party. It’s an amazing, amazing DVD. It’s our entire history. There is so much footage on it and it’s so long. It’s almost more like a movie than a documentary. We’ll have some new music with that. And a lot of labels have been calling for our record, which will come out in 2008. We haven’t been returning the calls. We’ll see where we land.
You’ve seen the major label and independent scene. What do you like better?
I’m networking more with people now and I’m not this artist that can’t be touched anymore. I’m just regular like everyone out and I’ll get out what I put in. I’ve been hustling and I’ve been enjoying it. Financially, I’ve done very well with Capitol, but now I’m taking that and doing it on my own terms. Every day I’m optimistic right now and I’m definitely, definitely enjoying it.
What’s your focus going to be for the next couple of months?
The Weatherman LP. From March 20, 2007 to March 20, 2008, it’s about The Weatherman. I’ll be building my beats up at home still, but I won’t really be in the studio that much. I’m going to see this record through. It’s not front-loaded. I don’t have the luxury of having billboards. What I put in is what I’m going to get out. Financially, I have a split now. I really want to see this record through. It’s going to take a minute to build up my brand. I didn’t even put my name or the Dilated logo on this. I’m really trying to build something up that’s new. If it takes twice as long to do it, so be it, I’m going to do it.
That’s a much different approach than a lot of artists take today. How important is it to believe in a project and see it all the way through?
It took me six to eight months to make this record. I hear a lot of people complaining about how music is wack and how they go to iTunes to buy two or three songs. The dudes on mixtapes have to get their album game up.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming artists?
Don’t think that you’re the shit. Understand that you’ll always be getting better. Don’t think because you have your Pro Tools now and because you made a record that you’re now incredible. Five years from now, you’ll look back and realize you weren’t. I’m always humbling myself and I can always get better. Just because DJ Premier said he likes what I do, I’m not through. You have to always improve and get better because eventually you’ll fall off. Don’t ever be comfortable.
What do you want to say to everybody?
I appreciate anybody who’s helped me. Word of mouth is extremely powerful. I really have a product I believe in and I think the fans can believe in. I think the music came out great. It’s heartfelt. If you have any doubts, come see me live. A lot of people are rappers and not MC’s. They don’t know how to connect to the crowd and they perform to the crowd instead of rocking with them. Definitely come check me out live.
Evidence’s The Weatherman is in stores March 20.