Oct 20

dilated_court_blockphoto courtesy Block


Catching up with the other Dilated Peoples’ emcee / producer extraordinaire, Evidence, was not an easy task. He’s in the studio. I leave him a message, he calls me back from his cell phone, I miss him again, they go to Europe, he comes back but has laryngitis, then they go on tour. Now that there are several layers of “handlers” (publicity & marketing people, managers and tour managers), I’m quite surprised that I ended up just knocking on the tour bus and having Ev open the door. I’m ushered past a huge cloud of smoke engulfing the Triple Threat DJs (Apollo, Shortkut, and VinRoc) who are doing a spot date with Dilated as Reflection Eternal suddenly had to bow out of the tour.

P: What is your usual approach to production? Do you start with samples or do you have things in your head that you try to emulate?

E: Different things trigger production. I would just say more than any one thing or one idea I have, certain moods or times dictate my production. My favorite thing to do is to wake up at like 6 or 7 in the morning before everybody, take a shower, get dressed, and make beats-early before everyone’s up. Somehow I feel I have an edge on everybody while everyone’s asleep-you know what I mean? Or everyone’s going to work and I’m already ahead. Those beats are usually my energetic beats because I’m up in the morning. I usually get a cup of coffee or something so I’m up. For the other type of beats that I make on the road or at night time, it’s usually emotional type-stuff. I can channel feelings-like if I’m lonely or something like that, I’ll make some moody shit. If I’m having relationship drama, I can make some shit like that. Honestly, I can channel it. The only thing that’s different about what I do than a musician is that I don’t play my music, I sample. The only catch is that I took piano lessons when I was a kid, so I can hear melodies and I can hear what’s in key and what’s not. For my production techniques, I usually start with the drum; like a high-hat and a snare just to set my tempo and I find my music. If I’m doing a remix, I already have someone’s vocal. I’m singing their vocal. My job as production is to do the best job of enhancing vocals. I’m not looking to make the superstar beat and outshine the rapper, that doesn’t do any good. I want to enhance the rapper and make the song better. So if you hear my instrumentals sometimes, they might not be the hottest instrumentals, but once put the rhyme to it, they make the hottest song. A lot of people don’t understand that. It’s more than just the beat. Those are loose techniques of beats. As far as technically, like I said, high-hat and snare is usually my start and then I’ll start searching through records. I think it’s all good if you find a big piece of music and you loop it. I’m not really mad at that. As long as you possess the skills to chop up the music as well and you know how to innovate. Sometimes, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”. Don’t do too much sometimes. But if that’s the only thing you know how to do is steal someone else’s music, then I don’t look at you as creative-you know what I mean? In a lot of my music, I’m taking random hits, bass tones, noises, sounds, piano stabs, licks and combining, making my own tapestry, my own collage. Really innovative, like if you’d see a serial killer would type out each letter from a different magazine and make out this crazy sentence, that’s exactly what I’m doing. Some people could just take a whole word and create, but I take each letter from a different place. I do some serial killer shit.

P: Do you have certain rules like “you can’t sample the same person twice” or are some things more legitimate than others as far as how and when you can sample someone?

E: No, cause the greatest thing in the world is, “Yo, I know that record, but DAMN, listen to how he flipped it!” That’s the dopest shit. Taking something that’s right in front of someone’s face and doing it totally different. It shows that you have a keen ear or you have an edge up as far as the way you listen to music. I sample from obscure things a lot because in today’s game there’s so much stuff that’s been you know, take a James Brown for instance-anybody is played out unless you’re doing it just the way I said, like “Damn! This sample has been right in front of my face for ten years and I know the song, but I’ve never thought to do it like that.” If you’re going to take some known shit, do it like that.

P: It always seems like everyone finds the same thing at the same time and then everyone’s got the same beat. How does that happen?

E: Because producers are all doing the same thing. We’re all going to record stores. People in record stores see kids buying the same record and then the next time they recognize a kid got a sideways baseball cap, the record store owner is like, “This record is hot. I seen Pete Rock over here buying it the other day.”

P: Now it’s $25.

E: Now it’s $40. Last week it was $.50. Now that Pete Rock bought it, there must be something on it, so you’re going to want it too…so here it is. So some other kid will flip it at the same time and then it’s a race to see whoever gets out first. It happens all the time. It’s happened to me plenty of times. It happened to me recently-Pharoahe Monch just used the same loop I used for “Triple Optics”. “Triple Optics” has been an underground record for a long time. It’s just luck of the draw. Did he hear my shit? Maybe, maybe not. Did I hear his? No. We both came out with it, so there it is.

P: How about Babu? Does he ever come with a particular thing like, “I want to scratch this in” or whatever?

E: Babu brings a lot of elements to the table. Having a DJ in the group is probably one of the best things that’s happened to us. He vibes with me while I’m making the track and he gives me ideas on enhancement. I could make a piece or a sketch or something, but he comes with the highlight; the final background touch that just makes it all pop into 3D. For “Eardrums Pop”, a cut on our album, I just had that beat and we were trying to think of a chorus. I had a line “Watch your ear drums pop” in the verse and he was like, “No, no, no…I know such and such said that on this one record-he said that same line. I want to get that acapella and cut that shit up.” And it just became classic like that. Babu…he brings a lot to the table. And making beats. He makes beats for the crew too. He made “Service” (#7 on the album) and he made the beat for “Soundbombing”- a lot of people don’t know that.

P: I have to check the credits more carefully.

E: No, they didn’t write the credits on that song, so a lot of people don’t know.

P: I went through and did a discography-which goes on forever, and I’m sure I’m missing hella shit. Do you remember when you did everything?

E: No, I don’t remember all of my stuff, but if I wanted to know, it would come back.

P: How do you decide who you’re going to work with? I’m sure there are a lot of people saying, “I want Evidence on my track, and for awhile you were on everyone’s track”. What is your process?

E: A lot of people would just call me. They’d get my number somehow, and be like, “Yo, I wanna do shit”. I really just work on vibes sometimes. Sometimes I’m real stoned and reclusive, and I’m like, “Nah, I’m cool right now”. Sometimes I’m really feeling hungry, and I’ll be like, “Yeah, let’s do it right now”. Sometimes it’s been about the money, sometimes it hasn’t. Some experiences I’ve been very excited to work on, some I’ve had to drag a little harder to get there. At this point when you’re looking at all these shits (the discography), I was in my room hungry as fuck-trying just to get known…no matter what. Working with anybody I could. I was just hustling real hard. It just so happens that turned into popularity somehow. I’m just trying to ride this shit out.

P: How do you balance being both a producer and an emcee? Not a lot of people even attempt it, let alone do it well.

E: It’s hard because my motto is like, “Don’t be the jack of all trades, be the master of one”. Find one thing and do it well. Alchemist, Joey Chavez-all my people…that’s what they do, they find one thing and they run all the way with it. Which is what I wanted to do with emceeing, but it just so happened that being around all those people, I got so influenced, I had to do it. I had to make beats myself. As an emcee, no one can tell you what you want to rhyme on more than yourself. So honestly, it’s like being two people because it takes up twice the time, and there’s like twice the sacrifice. There’s digging and all of the production elements and really studying people’s shit. It comes with that aspect of it-production values: cueing, learning the equipment; just turning your mind into a computer. And there’s the other side of it that just wants to hear a beat and rock free. It’s hard, it really is. It’s the hardest task I’ve come upon is doing that. And then to be honest, being on the road and being a performer as well is like…there’s a studio emcee, but then there’s a true emcee who goes out and holds down the party, you know? Rocks it. That’s a whole other thing thing in itself. Doing all three, I have to say that, I’m tied up-straight up. Booked all day long.

P: And still you have time to do remixes…

E: But more importantly, I want to have time to have time for my girlfriend or have time to go to the beach, or go get a a cup of coffee and chill out. Or whatever I want to do. It’s hard to do this and have a life at the same time. One this is going to have to sacrifice a little.

P: (laughing) Your life is already planned for the next eight months.

E: Straight up, straight up. It’s not even funny, it is… You’ve got to commend Babu too…with a wife and a kid. It’s hard.

P: You’re workin’

E: We’re workin’. People don’t know. [They think] you’re on a tour bus and you get to smoke weed every day. You drive around the country. Nonononono.

P: I know just from trying to get a hold of you guys.

E: It’s fucking psycho. It’s what I love, but it’s work. And if I didn’t love it, I would have quit this shit a long time ago.

P: What do you look for in an emcee?

E: The biggest thing I look for in an emcee, more than anything is their cadence; the way they hit the beat. A lot of people write really amazing shit, but they give no respect to the beat, they don’t consider it at all. They just want a 4/4 drum count and they want to rhyme over it when they want to rhyme over it. It’s all about not where you put your words, but where you don’t. It’s all about knowing where your breaths are and where your pause is. And really taking the beat…there’s a kick, a snare and a hat. Rhyme on that shit! A lot of people don’t…they want to just go on top of it. They just don’t pay attention. I respect people who hit the beat right. Who just hit it right; who make it funky. A lot of people aren’t funky. I want to be moved. It’s audio stimulation-that’s what you’re doing here. If I’m not stimulated by the audio that’s presented to me, you haven’t done your job. I don’t care how dope your thought is or innovative or how dope your voice is even…it’s like I really like people who know how to keep it funky.

P: What if they’re abstract…

E: Then I’m not the person to work with. I’ll give you an example…Aceyalone. He can do anything. He’s one of the most incredible gifted people. And he heard the type of beats I’m willing to come with and he was like, “All right, I’m gonna come straight up on your shit and I was like, “What do you mean?” and he was like, “I’m gonna hit it, straight up. Your shit ain’t meant for me to flip it on.” You listen to it and he’s like [Ev starts to rhyme], “This microphone is mine, whenever I hold it, I transcend time.” He’s funky with it! He was like, I’m providing the funk. And he was like instead of me going against the grain, I’m just gonna be…Some people are like, I’m gonna be a trumpeter and try and stand out . He’s like I’m just gonna be a bass guitar and enhance it. Big up to people like [Acey]. I like working with Defari a lot, obviously Iriscience. Cause these people are obviously not too concerned with getting flashy and they say complex shit in simplicity, and that’s the hardest thing to do, I think.

P: That’s why I think Dilated as lyricists, you guys are underrated as far as what you’re saying.

E: Even if it’s just a battle rhyme, we’re conscious about it and every word is thought out. I don’t rhyme “dope” and “cope”, and if I do, I’m gonna have some shit in between there where you’re going to be like, “wow”. A lot of people think that they’re fresh or they know that they’re fresh and because they’re fresh whatever they write down is gonna be fresh, and that’s not the truth. In Dilated, we crumple up our rhymes twenty times before it comes out right. At least I can speak for myself, I do that. I want it to be right. Even if it’s just some shallow-ass shit. Straight up.

P: But it’s gonna sound right

E: And there’s gonna be content. Like battle rhymes, all I’m saying is “I’m better than you”, but I’m gonna say it in a really fresh way. Simulated you somehow, make you want to hear it again.

K: What are your favorite remixes and if you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?

P: “Shut Em Down” remix by Pete Rock. That’s the first time I understood that you could keep the same lyrics and make a whole new song. Also, “Jump Around” by House of Pain, the Pete Rock remix. He could just take a whole mood and flip it completely. Premier did a remix for Fat Joe…[he says all the lyrics before we chime out “Success”! ] That remix right there was just incredible to me. That’s one thing I do. When people have acapellas, I spin my own beats under it sometimes and I just wish I could call the artist and be like, “I took your shit to the next level, man”. Let me go do it for real. I just did a Beastie Boys remix with Babu, and that was a really dope experience for me. I feel like that’s exactly what I did…I put an Evidence stamp on it and made it mine.

P: How did that come about?

E: Tick, my man at Grand Royal.

P: Tick!

E: My man. They let people remix their shit. People from Buckwild to Kut Masta Kurt to Erick Sermon…all kind of people remix Beastie Boys. Muggs was one of the first people to do a dope remix. He (Tick) was just calling me one day and was like “It’s your turn” and I was like “What do you mean?” I spent three days on it, me and Babu. I did the remix and Babu came in and put the finishing touches on it. It just came out ill.

P: Who else would you like to work with?

E: I’d like to work with Jeru the Damaja. I’d like to work with him a lot, I really respect the way he rhymes. I want to work with Bahamadia, I’ve already talked to her, hopefully it’s gonna happen. I would like to work with Saafir, I’d like to make that happen. Xzbit, Tash…the whole Alkaholiks click, but Tash especially. I want to work with J-Ro too, but I’ve been talking to Tash for a long time.

P: What is the Dilated/Liks relationship?

E: We’re just down. We’re down with Project Blowed, we’re down with Soul Assassins, we’re down with Tha Alkaholiks. We’re kind of just the bridge. Like at the release party, Aceyalone was rocking on one song and Tha Alkaholiks were rockin’ on the next, and Defari was on the next. We’re just bringing a lot of people together. B-Real was on the next song. It’s just weird. Those are just people off the top of my mind. We got to work with Erick Sermon, we were produced by him, recently. We did a remix on some next level shit. He was one of my favorite producers. The Lady of Rage, I’m into her. I’d like to work with her. She’s dope. I just want to do some hip hop shit. I’d like to work with maybe even like Snoop or Kurupt or Too Short or King Tee. I actually got to work with King Tee recently. Do something for somebody who’s really big, but just be responsible for doing the B-side that had no pressure of blowing up. Like was just strictly hip hop for some Fat Beats heads or whatever. Just to show that the beats were really important. You could take someone’s vocal and put it over my track and take it to a whole ‘nother place. Take it to the ground. And Buckshot…I’d like to work with Buckshot.

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