Los Angeles-based emcee, producer and JOVM mainstay Evidence — born Micheal Taylor Perretta — has established himself as one of hip-hop’s most accomplished emcees and producers: as a solo artist and as a producer, Perretta has worked with Beastie Boys, Linkin Park, Defari, Planet Asia, DJ Premier, WestsideGunn, Prodigy, Rapsody, Aloe Blacc, Action Bronson, Atmosphere’s Slug, Cypress Hill and a lengthy list of others. He won a Grammy for his co-production on Kanye West’s critically applauded, breakthrough debut album The College Dropout. He also has won two Juno Awards for his production work for Canadian hip-hop act Swollen Members. But he’s arguably best known for being a member of beloved hip-hop act Dilated Peoples with Rakaa Iriscience and DJ Babu.
Evidence has recorded and released five albums with his Dilated Peoples bandmates. And as a solo artist, the Los Angeles-based emcee and producer has released three full-length albums, including 2018’s critically and commercially successful effort Weather Or Not and an EP. He has also released an album with The Alchemist as Step Brothers. Managing to remain extraordinarily busy, Evidence released this fourth solo album Unlearning Vol. 1 the other day through his longtime label home Rhymesayers Entertainment.
The 14 track album pairs Evidence’s own production work with the likes of The Alchemist, Nottz, Sebb Bash, Animoss, Mr. Green, V Don, Daringer, Khrysis, and QThree [EARDRUM] showcasing the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstay’s ability to collaborate with a wide and eclectic array of producers while still crafting a cohesive album. Additionally, the album features a small cast of guests that includes Boldy James, Conway The Machine, Fly Anakin, Navy Blue, and Murkage Dave. Recently Evidence offered insight into the transition from Weather Or Not into the writing and recording of the material that would become Unlearning Vol 1: “I don’t feel like I’m Evidence, the character. I feel like I’m me,” he told DJ Booth, adding “I don’t mind evolving publicly.”
During the build up to the album’s release, I wrote about three of the album’s single:
“Pardon Me” an example of grown shit hip-hop, centered around a soulful Pete Rock-like production that serves as a warm and comfortable bed for Perretta’s contemplative verses reflecting on mortality, hard-won lessons, adulthood and being a parent and artist — and how those particular roles can be contradictory and difficult to manage.
“All Of That Said” found Evidence collaborating with Boldy James. Prominently featuring a soulful and cinematic sample featuring soaring strings, buzzing guitars and chopped up vocals, the song sees the JOVM mainstay and Boldy James reminiscing on the long and hard journey to achieve what they’ve achieved both personally and professionally. And while seemingly a bit world-weary, there’s a profound wisdom within both emcees bars — the wisdom that comes from struggle, setbacks and victories small and large. Like I said before, this is adult shit coming from adult places.
“Where We Going From Here,” which was centered around a dusty and woozy production featuring boom-bap beats and lurching synths. Over that uneasy production, the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstay effortlessly rhymes about where he’s been while wondering what exactly is next for him.
Unlearning Vol. 1’s latest single “Taylor Made Suit” is a brooding song centered around a sparse and haunting production featuring a repeated guitar figure, skittering beats and reverb-drenched vocal samples throughout. Over that spectral production Evidence spits rhymes with an unusually deep emotional heft, with a verse directly addressing the death of his son’s mother, detailing two painful scenes — that his wedding suit was the same suit that he wore to his son’s mother’s funeral and later, a scene in which he has to hold back tears before telling his boy with somewhat false assurance “Your momma is in heaven.” There’s heartbreak, despair and love and devotion in very adult, and very real terms.
Continuing an ongoing collaboration with director and photographer Stephen Vanasco, we see the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstay in a suit and trench coat arriving at a bungalow — as though coming from something. He rhymes to his own reflection in the window, as though gearing himself up to tell someone something hurtful yet important. We also follow him through the desert and under palm trees. The video ends with a devastating close up that focuses on Evidence wearing the titular suit.