Evidence’s Weather Or Not Is Your Best Rap Album Of 2018

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Last night (December 30), the tournament to decide 2018’s Best Rap Album came to a close. Evidence’s Weather Or Not bested Royce 5’9’s Book Of Ryan, 63% to 37%. Thus, the veteran Los Angeles, California MC/producer takes home the top honors in the second annual month-long voter-decided competition.

Notably, Ev’s third solo LP is the earliest release of 2018 that made the tourney’, which included Ambrosia For Heads‘ Top 15 albums of 2018 in addition to a Wild Card with write-in options (the winner of that was Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz’ Mona Lisa).

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While Evidence has already cemented an incredible 20-year-career across his role in Dilated Peoples, Stepbrothers, and an impressive solo catalog, W.O.N. reached a new plateau. In early 2017, the artist born Michael Perretta released the Alchemist-produced “Throw It All Away.” The somber video single saw Ev’ contemplating his life, discussing his relationship with money, and evaluating his career. That reflective mood would ultimately set the table for what built over the next nine months.

In the closing days of ’17, Ev’ dropped the Nottz-produced “Jim Dean” video single. A month later, the Rhymesayers Entertainment full-length release followed. The album addresses the cancer battle that Evidence’s partner Wendy was facing, who is also the mother to his son, Enzo. The highly-personal “By My Side Too” saw Ev’ pledging to be a great father, honoring his companion, and revealing why he may have seemed preoccupied to those not in the know. Sadly, Ev confirmed the passing of his partner several months after the album. Fans familiar with 2007’s The Weatherman can recall an all-too-similar heartfelt dedication to his late mother, “I Still Love You.”

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However, at a full listen, Weather Or Not shows that Evidence refuses to be defined by loss or challenge. Instead, he celebrates the triumphs as an artist capable of claiming to be a fixture in the ’90s Underground Hip-Hop movement who still advances the culture without compromise. Moreover, Ev—who has worked with Kanye West, Everlast, B-Real, and plenty of others, asserts that he has been able to make a good living in Hip-Hop. Although the Rhymesayer may not get proper recognition for his arts, he embraces his place in the game, and raps, produces, and creates on the highest level of competition.

Twenty years after Dilated’s first 12″ singles, Evidence challenges his peers to do better. “Same vinyl crates, but I’m comin’ up with new flips / On my classics, like Karate Kid and Blue Chips / I don’t want to see my friends be broke or be bitter / I don’t want to see my heroes slangin’ verses on they Twitter / Everyone’s an imitation / Spitters copy G Rap, the rest are on some Drake sh*t,” he declares on the DJ Premier-produced “10,000 Hours.” The Rap survivor is unafraid to say what so many folks may be thinking. He shows his mind-state in Rap on “Love Is A Funny Thing.” “They say love is a funny thing / But what’s funny is the company that money brings / Every year my circle’s getting smaller / Not Ben Baller but never had a thin wallet / I got dollars in different forms of currency / I got problems, but ain’t nothing that worry me / And I ain’t saying that I’m worry-free, I’m just saying nothing’s fucking with me currently / Sh*t, I’m my own worst enemy / I make bread just to spend it like it’s 10 of me / It’s Evidence and people call me by my government / Call me for weed, but don’t call me for that other sh*t.

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Evidence involves a cast of guests, without losing the cohesive feel of a personal solo album. Longtime affiliates like Defari and Dilated band-mates DJ Babu and Rakaa are present. While 20 years ago, a Styles P and Evidence collaboration may have seemed like a far-reaching idea, the two lyricists sound great together, especially with Rapsody also in the mix. Ev’ also trades deft bars with Jonwayne, and lights the biggest stage to date for low-profile hardcore Hip-Hop sensation Mach-Hommy. Musically, the LP contains some of the most evocative Alchemist production in a truly incredible year for the other Stepbrother. Preemo and Nottz make their moments count, as Hip-Hop Heads can forever trust. Al’s homie Budgie as well as Twiz The Beatpro shine as well. Fresh off of producing a whole project for Defari in ’17, Evidence shows his versatility with three tracks of his own. Much of the album has come to video, including some incredible treatments by Jason Goldwatch and Ev’s own direction.

A show-piece within Weather Or Not is the Slug collaboration, “Powder Cocaine.” The song may be the intersection of the introspective and the more kick-back moments. “I be fine like powder cocaine / And that’s a hell of a drug, and that’s a hell of a saying / They need elephant trunks to get it off of the plate / I wanna better myself, they wanna dwell in the pain / I wanna better my health, no umbrella for rain / And that’s a hell of a bug, I wanna live in my dreams / Got an ocean in mind, they wanna settle for streams / I wanna settle for more / I wanna get knocked down so I could settle the score / Better than before as if that was possible / To shake the demons of my mother in the hospital,” raps Ev over one of Alchemist’s greatest beats of all time. The excerpt tackles the state of the art, self-improvement, and some of the most personal things the artist can reveal. Slug matches the energy with lines like: “I want knowledge of self and also everything else / But the gravity helps, yeah, reality’s real / When I finally fell, I told my family ‘Well, when a battery dies it goes to battery hell’ / Bent, intent, inflict a dent in the cement / Magnificent, brag like Sisyphus / Boast like the host with the most up-votes / I bought a spot in coach but got the bump-up hopes.” The song is catharsis from two peers who have helped shoulder a Hip-Hop movement, and still fight to pressing this incredible music to vinyl and CD.

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Weather Or Not forecast a cloudy year in music, politics, society, and the personal lives of so many. However, the director of photography artfully put things in focus. This album played all year long with honesty, vulnerability, and the unwavering foundation of dope beats and rhymes.