Hip Hop’s Mr. West and the Mr. West of Hip Hop

Twelve years ago marks the mainstream emergence of Kanye West, a then blossoming producer renowned for his work on Jay-Z’s The Dynasty: Roc La Familia and The Blueprint. He debuted as a rap artist in 2004 with the groundbreaking album College Dropout.

Kanye creatively underscored a perspective to which common consumers could relate. His style and content reflected a hip-hop eccentric and painted typical challenges and experiences — withdrawal from college, monotonous retail employment, early financial woes, a horseshoe toss to fatality, and a work ethic that progressively packaged it all into triumph.

Kanye West ft. GLC and Consequence | “Spaceship” (prod. by Kanye West) | College Dropout | 2003

While West may be recognized as a trailblazing pioneer of music, and few in entertainment match his commercial success, he is not the only hip-hop act with such a footpath. On the surface and to the layperson, Venice Beach emcee and producer Evidence may seem like Kanye’s musical antipode.

Kanye West, an African-American Chicago native, has reached star status perhaps appearing larger than life. Evidence, or Michael Perretta, is of Russian decent and hails from Southern California with his artistic origin and presence remaining mostly subterranean.

If it is Kanye’s sheer artistry that has garnered him world renown, Evidence certainly has those roots covered. By the same token, if Kanye has reeled in his audience by baiting us with the commoner’s testimonial then Evidence has cast the same line yielding a different catch.

I pay the mortgage and the storage and it keep pouring. Can’t afford it so I gotta keep on touring. Trying to make a record in between was never foreign. But I’m familiar when there’s no way to avoid it. No way I was loyal in believing in “C.R.E.A.M.” but when the well runs dry we go beyond our means.

Evidence ft. Krondon | “When The Well Runs Dry” (prod. by Sid Roams) | Cats & Dogs | 2011

Evidence has a background story comparable to Kanye interwoven with academia and art. Kanye West bears the college dropout title after withdrawing from the American Academy of Art. Evidence is also a dropout, leaving Santa Monica College after less than two years.

He has a rather blue-collar background in visual arts for which he is alternately known as “Bucket” the graffiti artist. Interestingly, his art medium at the time may have served as a symbolic presage of his impending music career.

The general perception of graffiti tagging tends to straddle a hazy boundary between the aesthetics and vandalism.  Graffiti is not particularly embraced by the masses, but those well versed in the culture know better. This to the same effect describes Evidence’s appeal, or lack thereof, to music’s mainstream community. Unsurprisingly, an underground visual artist would also carve a career as an underground recording artist.

Evidence | “It Wasn’t Me” (prod. by Evidence) | Cats & Dogs | 2011

My first album only had underground appearances. So what’s the outcome? I’m still an underground lyricist. And fame don’t even capture what my interest is, I’m halfway to famous, halfway away from infamous

Ironically the first line, “my first album…,” is a spinoff of “Got Yourself a Gun,” originally made by Nas, Kanye’s big brother, Jay-Z’s, one-time adversary.

Keep a plant in my car like Good Friday, keep my world godly. I stay grounded like my lobby, tagging ‘Bucket’ on the wall but never tatted on my body

At the same age of 35 years, Evidence holds four years of recording seniority over Kanye. Accompanied by emcee Rakaa Iriscience and DJ/producer DJ Babu, Evidence flourished from the cracks of the Los Angeles underground music scene as the three comprised the group Dilated Peoples.

Their second album The Platform spearheaded their major label debut with Capitol Records in 2000, the same year Kanye landed production credit on The Dynasty: La Roc Familia. Though they emit different sounds, Evidence, like Kanye, has crafted his production with clever sampling.

Evidence flips Soul Children’s “Kindness for Weakness” into what would become Dilated Peoples’ “Kindness for Weakness,” featuring Talib Kweli, off the album 20/20, their last for Capitol Records.

Kanye West and Evidence eventually collaborated in the studio and touring circuit in 2004. Evidence silently procured a Grammy award for assisting in producing “Last Call” of College Dropout. Kanye handled production duties and was featured on the single “This Way” by Dilated Peoples, released on the album Neighborhood Watch. Later that year, Dilated Peoples joined as opening act on the College Dropout Tour. Circumstances would separate Evidence from the tour, but also box him and Kanye into the same corner.

When Kanye was chasing spaceships all over the nation, I was at the gravesite face on the pavement. Left “College Dropout,” first flight racing from Scranton, Pennsylvania on a crop plane praying. Heart ’bout to pop out my chest in Pittsburgh. Paranoid in first class, heard a voice whisper. Just touched back in LAX and my phone starts buzzin to a thousand texts. Out the gate and runnin like I’m motorless. (I Still Love You) explained if you don’t know the rest.

Evidence | “I Don’t Need Love” (prod. by Evidence) | Cats & Dogs | 2011

The “rest” alludes to the passing of Evidence’s mother Jana Taylor two weeks after he left the tour. Three years later, in 2007, Kanye would face the same misfortune, when his mother Donda West passed after complications with a cosmetic surgery. Both artists seem to have negotiated their mothers’ passing similarly (see below).

Evidence continues to be a visual arts practitioner with lauded and creative use of the mobile application Instagram. He credits his mother Jana, an accomplished photographer, for his snapshot art.

Evidence explains his mother’s influence on his use of Instagram with 2DopeBoyz (0:00 – 1:45)

Take a look at some of Evidence’s Instagram photography

A post shared by @evidence on

catching planes w @andres55 this morn!

A post shared by @ evidence on

Source: Instagram (@Evidence)

Kanye West has advanced his appreciation for visual arts with some abstract album art and his Donda imprint, a design firm named after his mother Donda West.

We’ve praised Kanye West for some time, be it due to his background and/or artistic vision. Hip-hop has carried him to prominence, and has easily done so likely because of his transparency. But what about the other Mr. West? The Mr. West who shines brilliantly to a privy audience daring enough to exhume hip-hop’s hidden gem and has been molded by comparable pressures as “the Mr. West of hip hop.” Evidence, hip hop’s Mr. West, and Kanye West, the Mr. West of hip-hop, meet below.

Kanye West | “Last Call” (prod. by Kanye West and Evidence) | College Dropout | 2004

Evidence (with Dilated Peoples) takes the stage with Kanye West in 2008, performing “This Way.”

Dilated Peoples ft. Kanye West and John Legend- “This Way” official video.

Via Evidence’s Instagram (@Evidence)
Purchase Evidence’s Cats & Dogs here on iTunes.
Kanye West and G.O.O.D. Music are set to release the album Cruel Summer on August 7.



You, Me, Him, and Her

Hip-hop has traditionally endured plenty of criticism with claims of misogyny and lewdness and rightfully so. If you listen to a variety of rap music long enough you’ll likely hear “b—h,” which is largely perceived as misogynistic and indecent. Certainly hip-hop is not the only entertainment pocket that flares the expletive.

Reality television has boasted the lives of prosperous and privileged women in dramatic fashion, with shows like Real Housewives of Atlanta and Love and Hip-Hop, that depict progressive yet sometimes tactless women. Sit and watch and you’ll hear “b***h” like it’s a character on the show. A recent column targets “Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta,” and details the so-called “Mass Media University,” and its ill effect on womanhood particularly that of young, black American women.

One week before the column was published, west coast rapper, Crooked I, released “Ratchet Heauxs” (pronounced “hoes”). The day before the posting Lupe Fiasco gifted us with his single, “B***h Bad.” “Ratchet Heauxs” is a filibuster tirade about a deceptive, less than favorable woman. “B***h Bad” is a conscious spin on the ever so popular expression “bad b***h,” which can be interpreted as some testament of feminine pride or just a man’s immature appraisal of a woman. The two songs are dissimilar in style and approach, but nevertheless “b***h” undergirds both.

Crooked I- “Ratchet Heauxs” | Psalm 82:06 | 2012

Steady shit talking, b***h get walking. You know I’m pissed off, I don’t talk like this often. You say I’m on the chauvinist tip, when its 40 below snowing and shit, there’s still nothing cold as a b***h!…You a ratchet ass, reality show wanna star in ass, always looking past a good hard working man ass b***h! See a broke nigga, the hoe is laughing, knowing damn well your account is over drafted. Fuck a regular nigga man, she’s looking for a draft pick. Her goal is to marry him then divorce him on some half shit.  – Crooked I

So as hip-hop and media always do, those songs got me thinking. Let’s be honest. Men call women b***hes and vice versa, and we’ll even address the same sex as a b***h if we feel it is warranted. The rampant, all-inclusive use of the word suggests that “b***h” has found comfort in our consciousness. What is profane to one is justified to another. I personally see the word as unacceptable, but its use is quite understandable. Hip-hop uses b***h in various contexts, from song titles like “Life’s a B****h” to “B***h Sickness.” But why is b***h so prevalent in entertainment? Apparently we see b***hes in different forms, colors, and sexes. The truth is, when told by perception, we’re all some b***hes.

Freddie Gibbs ft. Devin The Dude- “Stray (Remix)” | The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs | 2009. Originally recorded by Devin The Dude as “Stray” from the studio LP, Landing Gear (2008).

That’s why I see the b***h in you. I call some women b***h, but most these niggas bitches too– Freddie Gibbs

Men and women who have been decried b***h share a standard set of typical behaviors. Unfortunately, b***h has become synonymous with or related to a woman or girl, and given the word’s literal definition, the sex association is clear. When we call someone a b***h we are often the witness of emotional turbulence or childish behavior. This generally takes the form of temper tantrum or “b***h fit.” If a man’s emotions chronically supersede clear and rational behavior, don’t be surprised to hear “man, stop being a b***h!” But we tend to attach this type of behavior with that of women (even though we have all done it).

Side note: Have you ever examined an anti-man attitude that maybe comes across as misconstrued pro-feminism? This attitude includes, but is not limited to, expressions like “I don’t need a man,” or “all men are dogs.” What are we relegating ourselves to with such accusations? Hip-hop has confirmed.

Outkast- “Mamacita” | Aquemini | 1998

She nigga bashin sayin you don’t need em in your world. Niggas all dogs? If niggas all dogs, then what you call broads? Felines in heat, meowin for some yawn balls?” – Andre 3000

You also may hear a selfish and/or unfaithful man man referred to as a dog. Assumedly that is because we tend to act like one. This is when intrinsic, physiological drive dominates behavior and “higher order” thinking takes a back seat. In regard to the human man, the libido acts as chauffeur with conventional wisdom at standby. The stereotype paints a sexually piloted, uncommitted, dishonest man. Interestingly, an untrustworthy woman has been aptly referred to as b***h [see “Ratchet Heauxs” above].

It is not uncommon to hear a man refer to an enticing woman as a “bad b***h.” The interesting part about this is that a woman might braggingly lay personal claim to this, perhaps as a means to inoculate against the misogyny and transform diminishment into empowerment. Men will sometimes find this type of woman as a prime sexual partner. Again, and by default, we have minimized ourselves to canine species.

Lupe Fiasco- “B***h Bad” | Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1 | 2012

Just like that, you see the fruit of the confusion. He caught in a reality, she caught in an illusion. Bad mean good to her, she really nice and smart. But bad mean bad to him, b***h don’t play your part. But b***h still bad to her if you say it the wrong way. But she think she a b***h, what a double entendre– Lupe Fiasco

As humans we sometimes succumb to both sets of behavior, particularly in our sexual relations. When those attitudes or behaviors become so consistent, unyielding, and almost trait like, we’re appropriately called dogs. The common factor seems to be the temporary abandonment of logic and pragmatism and the embrace of emotionally dominated action. Human adults are usually expected to use reason and clear judgment and children are expected to eventually learn it. Other animals, such as dogs, are thought to be unable to do so to the extent that of a human.

Logic and reason is the evolutionary crown that represents dominion over others in the animal kingdom. But what about when we kick that crown around on the floor? Well that “queen” just might not be acknowledged as one. If she is, her court may at best recognize her as Marie Antoinette.