Transcribed from the December/January 2008 issue of Wax Poetics, Evidence (of Dilated Peoples) runs down the rap records that heavily influenced his life and his rap career. Enjoy and be educated.
Nas Illmatic (Columbia, 1994)
Evidence: Not one single bar is wasted here. And it’s such a short album! Not counting the intro, it’s really just nine song. And if you want to go even further, “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” and “Halftime” were released before. Never in my life was I so happy to get seven new songs! [laughs] Pete Rock, Premier, and Large Professor were obviously having friendly competition against one another. It was not only a rapper’s dream, but, from a production standpoint, it stands as well. The fact that the production wasn’t carrying Nas, but that all the elements carried each other, is unmatched. It’s magic.
Gang Starr Moment of Truth (Noo Trybe, 1998)
Evidence: I know people will debate me on this and will say Hard to Earn or Step in the Arena. But, for me, everything just came together on Moment of Truth. The guests were chosen perfectly and Premier’s production was smooth as ever. I love how everyone goes and gets Premier’s beat, but not everyone gets Premier’s Gang Starr beats. [laughs] The kind of beats he lays Guru are a cut above his other work, it seems. “Robbin Hood Theory” and “Above the Clouds” are perfect modern-day rap songs. That’s a newer album, and most of my favorites are from the late ’80′s, but, for me, it’s a very influential recent record.
Pharcyde Bizarre Ride II: The Pharcyde (Delicious Vinyl, 1992)
Evidence: This was the first time I heard rappers letting their guard down. They were talking about jacking off and how wack they were. [laughs] It opened my eyes to comedy in rap music. For me, hip-hop is a very serious thing, and I never dug it when cats were goofy. But Pharcyde was genuine. J-Swift was a very different producer at the time, and Fatlip is one of the most endearing rappers ever. They proved that you didn’t have to act hard to get signed. They sort of carried De La’s motto of “We don’t give a fuck [how] you view us!” I love the honesty and fun of it all.
Ice Cube AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (Priority, 1990)
Evidence: We all knew Cube was going solo, but to have Bomb Squad produce it was insanity. The first time I heard it, I was, like, thirteen years old. My mom didn’t like me riding in cars with my friends at the time, so I had to sneak out my house to listen to this tape. [laughs] We heard the whole album, and, at that point, it was the craziest thing I’d ever heard. The way it was put together, I don’t think there’s been another project with that kind of history. It’d ben an ultimate production record if it were an instrumental project too. Cube was so damn aggressive but swift at the time.
Tha Alkaholiks Coast II Coast (Loud, 1995)
Evidence: I’m from L.A., so Tha Liks were my rhyming heroes. This is their second album, and I think it’s flawless. Diamond D, E-Swift and Madlib’s contributions were amazing. I know most people don’t consider this to be classic material, but, as far as influencing me and showing me how to put a record together, it is. I modeled Dilated after Tha Liks in many ways – having the cohesiveness of sound, and being smart but hard at times too. They were from the West but were also respected in the East. They transcended location, and that opened my eyes a lot. This album changed my outlook on group dynamics.
A Tribe Called Quest Midnight Marauders (Jive, 1993)
Evidence: This hit me at a certain time and stuck. The interludes was crazy as shit. I think you could tell that it was a classic as soon as the first snare hit. From the very first horns, I was hooked. Ali Shaheed was killing it. And tip is such a timeless rapper. He just had an ill swagger on this one. I think it has one of the best opening records of any record ever made.
Jeru Da Damaja The Sun Rises in the East (Payday, 1994)
Evidence: The production changed the way a lot of records were made after it. WHen I first heard “Come Clean,” I thought it was the best song I had ever heard. [laughs] “Bitches,” “Mindspray,” the whole album was incredible. Jeru sounded great on every song. That epitomizes raw hip-hop right there. He knew how to ride the beats perfectly. Its rawness changed how I viewed a lot of my own records.
Notorious B.I.G. Ready to Die (Bad Boy, 1994)
Evidence: So much personality! It was so brand-new, so many images and pictures, with such a commanding voice and interesting flow. He always reminded me of King Tee. He just had a commanding presence, and, once again, you have Premier, Lord Finesse, and just so many different dynamics working together. Very few artists understand how to cover the whole spectrum, and everyone, from gangstas to backpackers, couldn’t deny it. How could you?
Eric B. and Rakim Paid in Full (4th & Broadway, 1987)
Evidence: This is the oldest one on the list, because it’s probably the first record I learned something from. I was at my boy DEN’s house when I first heard it. DEN was a graffiti artist who was really into punk music. I wasn’t expecting to hear hip-hop at his house, but he played this one day, and the first song was “Eric B. Is President.” He was playing that shit real loud too! I never heard a voice like Rakim’s before. That was the only time I was taken so hard by music [that] I didn’t know what to do. And the thing with Rakim, for me, is that he’s so simplistic. His messages are complex, but his approach and cadence is easy to follow. For example, abstract art is incredible, but very few people can walk up to an empty canvas and draw a perfect circle. That’s how Rakim is for me, he’s one of the few who can draw a perfect circle.