After rain the sun does not always come. Sometimes the sky remains overcast behind a veil of fog. Altostratus clouds is what meteorology calls it. Evidence calls it »Unlearning Vol.1«, his fourth solo album, which is released these days by Rhymesayers Entertainment. Because Michael Perretta, as Evidence’s real name is, is not a meteorologist, but a rapper, producer and above all the definition of real – whatever that means in 2021.
With his 2007 solo debut »The Weatherman,« Mr. Slow Flow broke away for the first time from the group structure of his crew Dilated Peoples, who had previously helped shape the underground rap of the U.S. West Coast in a ten-year band history with hits like »Work the Angles« and »Worst Comes To Worst«. His 15-year career, meanwhile, has brought Evidence together both in front of the music machines and behind the membranes with style-defining figures like Kanye West, DJ Premier and, of course, his high school friend The Alchemist, as well as Vince Staples, Sa-Roc, and most recently the Griselda Records bunch.
The 44-year-old is not only an international underground icon, but was one of the first rappers ever to allow himself to grow up. For what EV shows on the iconic »Weather« trilogy and also now on »Unlearning Vol.1« is not merely a clear commitment to hip-hop culture of clever wordplay, rap references and hand-picked crate-diggin beats, but the psychogram of a B-boy from Venice Beach discovering humility. »I’m a problem child/ Face a lot of karma waiting,« he raps on second single »Pardon Me,« with his trademark performance of a resting warrior. The 14 new songs tell of the passion of a beatmaker, cratedigger and rhyme fetishist, but also just the real-life essues of a businessman, life partner and family man. »Let me be/ The Rest will see/ I’m still chefin’ up the recipe,« for instance, is the title on »Where We Going From…«. Here, Evidence reveals and 10 Vinyl records that went into that recipe. In no order.
Ice Cube – AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (4th & Broadway) (1990) | Vinyl LP
Evidence: Ice Cube leaves NWA, the pressure is against him, and he makes a diamond. West Coast gangsta rapper over Public Enemy production provided the perfect contrast. I love when two worlds collide and this is the best example to date that represents that. Ice Cube at his apex. Game changer.
Blu – Below The Heavens (Sound In Color) (2007) | Vinyl 2LP+7inch
Evidence: By the time this album came out, I had already established who my influences were. It’s hard after you have grown up to be influenced by something the same way you were when you were younger, but this album proved it’s never too late to become a fan and a student. Exile’s production was the perfect soundscape for Blu’s rhythm and wordplay. I wouldn’t call this album Emo, but it def had me in my feelings. Classic Album.
Nas – Illmatic (Columbia) (1994) | Clear Vinyl LP
Evidence: »It Ain’t Hard To Tell« & »Halftime« were already out, and the first song on the album he didn’t rap. Never in my life was I so stuck off of 7 new songs. The super production team of this album set the bar so high and changed the sound of rap music for many years to come after. Nas was so lyrical on this album, but I never felt like he was over rapping, perfect balance of bars mixed with songwriting.
Jeru The Damaja – The Sun Rises In The East (Payday) (1994) | Vinyl 2LP
Evidence: DJ Premier is equal to Jeru on this, I feel. Both brought their A Game. The sonics of this record resonated with me in a major way. It had the cleanliness of a big studio mix, but a layer of dust on it that still can’t be duplicated to the present day in my opinion. The sample choices and almost out-of-key sounding production made me question everything I had heard previous.
Gang Starr – Moment Of Truth (Noo Trybe Records) (1998) | Vinyl 3LP
Evidence: Following Hard To Earn seemed like it was going to be impossible and they proved us wrong. After a fairly long break between albums, they came back so perfectly. I would say this album influenced my production style the most out of any rap album.
Dr Dre – 2001 (Interscope) (1999) | Vinyl 2LP
Evidence: This album is a movie to me. The most visual music. It’s hard to be perfect and this is about as close as it can get.
A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders (Jive) (1993) | Vinyl LP
Evidence: This showed me you could have the hardest album out without having to be gangsta. Q-Tip has one of the greatest voices in rap history and Phife was hitting his peak here. This is the defining moment of Boom Bap to me. This could be at the top of my list if I had to number my top ten.
Mobb Deep – The Infamous (Loud Records) (1995) | Vinyl 2LP
Evidence: This picked up where Illmatic left off for me. QueensBridge had another one. The more street version. Because Havoc produced it all, with one track by Q -Tip it had such a cohesive sound that matched perfect with the delivery of their rhymes. This album aged better than a lot of others in the classic conversation. I still can play this and not get a throwback feel. Way ahead of its time. Rest In Peace to Prodigy.
Notorious B.I.G – Ready To Die (Bad Boy Entertainment) (1994) | Vinyl 9×7inch
Evidence: Best storyteller who also was a rapper’s rapper. A full 360 Emcee. Amazing production and marriage to the lyrics. Just couldn’t get much better than this.
Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele (Label) (YYYY) | Vinyl 2LP
Evidence: Ghost went crazy on this album. Rapping like every bar was gonna be his last. Ghost hadn’t been my favorite Wu-Tang member, but this album changed that. I think I played this album front to back more than any I have mentioned previously. It wasn’t about any one song to me, it was the whole album.