Speed of Life, the debut collaborative album by Evitan (Native backwards) sees its release on September 21, 2012. While on downtime during a music video shoot, Dres (Black Sheep) took a moment to share with me his thoughts on his new creative partnership with Jarobi (A Tribe Called Quest), and some of the behind the scenes work involving the album’s creation.
Boothe: Evitan is a new entity, but also happens to pair members from two beloved hip hop groups. Fans often get caught up in memories of their favorite acts and become a little resistant to new material. How do you meet the challenges presented by nostalgia?
Dres: I think we've done a great job introducing what it’s gonna be to the people…we dropped 6 songs with videos prior to the release…easing them into the water so to speak...the only real nostalgia would be on my behalf...as Jarobi isn't really known for his rhymes on any Tribe albums. I think the music will speak for itself tho...we definitely not dismissing the past...but we def aren't carrying an old school flag…it's new music that will give anything in the marketplace a run for its money...golden.
Boothe: Speak a little on the genesis of your partnership with Jarobi.
Dres: Well, I had asked Jarobi to record an EP on my label (Pool of Genius) about a year ago...he didn't say no...but he didn't say yes...was kind of in the wind so to speak...he was in Atl...wound up he had to come to NYC to further pursue his career as a chef...perfect...he agreed to come to the studio and do a joint...I fig'd the best thing to do would be to do his first song together...take the stress off...that song is Keep Keepin On...came out WAY above my expectations...just a solid joint (not that I was sleeping...really didn't know what to expect)…everyone kind of chimed in about it...ya'll should be a group...this that the third...we decided to do another song...dope! We just kept going...so after 26 songs...we have a groundbreaking project we're releasing on Sept 21st...I'm very proud of it...and Jarobi....it's official.
Boothe: We know that Jarobi is a seasoned stage performer, but naturally there is a lot of curiosity about his abilities on the mic. Take us through the recording process, and what you witnessed with his return to the vocal booth, his lyrical and creative contributions, and your ability to work with him collaboratively.
Dres: The process was very reminiscent of how we made the records that we're known for...we were together for each song...no email verses...a lot of writing independently together. Jarobi seemed to get better with each session... def keeping me on my toes... it also seemed each guest artist put their best foot forward... further making sure that we were doing the same. Robi is just a student of the game at the end of it all... it’s very evident on the album...and live...forget about it...we're next level.
Boothe: There are some interesting outside collaborations on this album, including those who entered the business the same time as you (early 90s). Your place in history can create a common bond, but how easy (or difficult) did you find the process of sharing your vision with peers, and getting them on board with your project?
Dres: It was a sheer pleasure...everyone seemed happy to be a part of it...we didn't have to sell too hard... especially once cats came by the studio and heard what we had going on...it was very organic...everyone identified with the sound and helped us take it up a notch...I was proud of Jarobi as well...he kept his cool and wouldn't allow himself to get left behind or lost...real emcee shit
Boothe: I witnessed a lot of hustle being done by you during the recording/production phase of this album. In the past you’ve released music independently and with smaller labels. How has this experience helped you to guide the creative and business aspects of this album?
Dres: Well...this...and my prior indie ventures were all on my own label...I've been learning as i go...but I'm at the point where I've been going for a little while now...I've cut a lot of fat from my process...I've learned how to maximize my efforts and relationships...and yes...a lot of hustle has gone into it all...I like your question...because it speaks to my own thing growing...and that's whassup.
Boothe: You’re very active on Twitter. Being this connected with your fans was not possible during the early stages of your career. How do you feel about this level of accessibility, and how important is it for you to stay connected to your fans?
Dres: Well...I've been unattainable for years...so I kind of welcome it. I had to be talked into even starting the account...but I'm glad I did...it's given people the opportunity to know me...as opposed to a perception based on the words of others...old songs...old stories...I'm very comfortable with my walk...I think it resonates with people and puts them at ease to know that we are all so similar...we all have ups and downs...great days and horrible ones...we all push forward or fall...I don't mind people seeing this aspect in me for the moment...I'm far from someone in everyone’s face…not easily accessed even if we chat on Twitter...I'm good with my walk...so to speak...I also felt it was important to be ‘of the people...not to posture like so many tend to do these days...to let the people know that I value them much more than the baubles and trinkets that others are putting in front of them...to let them know...I am not them...I've never been.
Boothe: Any final words on the project?
Dres: September 21st is a great day in hip hop...we purposely didn't align with the industry and drop on Tuesday...didn't look for the support of those who didn't want to give it...we did our own thing...took baby steps even...I'm very proud of what comes...it will speak in volume to what can be done with some vision and ability...it reinforces that being a real person is the way to go...there’s an honesty to our music that the people will be able to identify with...if you don't know...slide by www.evitan.net and get familiar...give me and my dude a shout...@dresblacksheep @jarobione...we don't just say we're real...we really are...golden.
Evitan - Speed of Life: iTunes