West coast emcee/producer Evidence returns with his second LP, Cats & Dogs. This has been one of the most anticipated underground albums since his critically acclaimed debut, The Weatherman LP. Recording for the album started in 2008. Since then, he has released two instrumental tapes, two extended plays, and one mixtape – all were highly praised for several reasons (Production, lyricism, concepts, & creativity). I can only imagine he keeps the same recipe for a record that is over three years in the making. Plus, being released on underground powerhouse Rhymesayers Entertainment only strengthens the idea of how good this can be. Now, let’s get into the review.
1. The Liner Notes
Featuring Aloe Blacc; Produced by The Alchemist
Evidence begins the album with his own liner notes about why the album is titled Cats & Dogs. It gets the meaning from the term “it’s pouring cats & dogs”. Evidence relates the downpour to his darkened past and constant flow of lyrics. The Alchemist provides the intro sounding beat with a classic sample from Main Ingredient’s “Let Me Prove My Love To You”. This is a nice start to the album, but I felt it should’ve featured one or two more verses. Plus, Aloe Blacc stood out on the hook. It wouldn’t hurt to hear him a few more times.
Produced by Twiz the Beat Pro
Twiz the Beat Pro gives “Strangers” more of a Dilated Peoples sound. Even more impressive is DJ Revolution on the cuts for the bridge. Mr. Slow Flow makes his nickname apparent with his steady lyrics about trusting (Or not trusting) people. I think it’s funny how you can trust certain people with your lady, but can’t trust those same people with your weed. Some people may not like the style of his flow, but you can’t deny his lyrics here:
If it’s one thing I’ve learned that I’ve written down on paper
It’s never leave some weed on the table with a stranger
Shit, I can barely even trust my friends
Maybe with my lady, not trees of the mends
I mean really why even should I try and test it socially
Catch them in the act and end up having to approach them
Entertain the story while it’s testing on my patience
Why the fuck you think I spent this money on surveillance
While I’m on the other side of Earth without assistance
Pitchin’ in the night singin’ “Evy goes the distance”
At home the same shit is goin’ on, I don’t miss it
It’s a nice place to live, but I wouldn’t wanna visit
Never steppin’ out the car or on the stage without a purpose
Ghost-ride the whip like I’m ghost writing verses
Afraid to come and go so I take fame in little doses
Director of these photos so the aim remains focused
3. The Red Carpet
Featuring Raekwon & Ras Kass; Produced by The Alchemist
The Alchemist hooked up Evidence with a banging beat on “The Red Carpet”. I’ve always been a fan of the Alchemist, but I feel that he’s been killing it on the soulful tip lately. He samples Congress Alley’s “God Save America” as it fits perfectly on the loop. This is probably one of my favorite samples of the year. Evidence is the first on the mic, and spits a verse about finding his inner soul. Raekwon does his thing as usual (But it cost Evidence a chicken parmesan sandwich…with cheese). I feel like Razzy took this one:
Draw heat, but what happened to peace?
He got a Dirty Sanchez, like what happened to Screech
Jesus, diarrheas – I mean holy shit
Christ on a cracker, that’s just how we spit
Communion: had the wine, made the sign of the cross
And I will live in the past, chalk it up as a loss
4. It Wasn’t Me
Produced by Rahki & Danny Keyz
This is the latest single off the album. It’s produced by Rahki & Danny Keyz. As Evidence recalls his rap crimes, the sample implies that there isn’t enough evidence to convict him. Evidence is back to his conceptual side for this track. I feel Ev on the first verse:
This is crime scene cinema, all the weed shops closed
Is it back to charging motherfuckers four for an O?
I don’t know, I keep a rotary phone so I remember all the numbers of the homies who gone
Proof is in the pudding, I’m pressed up and labeled evidence
Chasing fame, dragons, chicks and dead presidents
Dreams but never snatch chain of any measurements
Because of my name, for every fuckin’ crime they find relevance
Choices in my life I want to correct, I got voices in my life that I want to forget
Check out the music video for “It Wasn’t Me” here.
5. I Don’t Need Love
Produced by Evidence
This is the one and only song produced entirely by Evidence. He proves that he hasn’t lost his touch behind the boards with an old school sample blaring “I Don’t Need Love” with horns and scratches throughout. The song is titled after his highly recommended Beatle-sampled EP of the same name. The cold hearted lyrics relate to his mother’s passing, and how difficult it was for Ev during this time. “I Don’t Need Love” is as real as it gets.
Produced by DJ Premier
Now if you don’t like this track, then there is something wrong with you, simple and plain. DJ Premier takes us back to his Gang Starr days with one of the best beats of 2011. Evidence gives us his version of “Lose Yourself” as he rhymes about the ups and downs of his rap career. Everything about this record takes me back to the golden age of Hip-Hop. “You” is probably one of my favorite tracks of the year.
Check out the music video for “You” here.
7. God Bless That Man (Interlude)
This sounds like some retro super hero shit. Kind of unnecessary though.
Featuring Roc Marciano & Prodigy; Produced by Charli Brown
Evidence gets support from Roc Marciano and Prodigy about their rise to fame. Evidence spits the first 16 on staying true to himself and never selling out for fame. Next, Roc Marciano gives us a verse about how he rose to fame by cooking up coke. Lastly, Prodigy speaks on his actions as a hoodlum addicted to trouble in his reach for fame. I’m feeling the concept because all verses show what each man had to overcome to get where they are today.
9. James Hendrix
Evidence & The Alchemist as StepBrothers; Produced by The Alchemist
Evidence and the Alchemist form to make the group StepBrothers. The Alchemist provides a futuristic spacey beat, but also throws down a verse. I’m not the biggest fan of his rhyming, but he holds his own here. The two compare themselves to Jimi Hendrix’s ego and past experiences. Supposedly, the two are putting out an album together sometime soon.
10. Late For The Sky
Featuring Slug & Aesop Rock; Produced by Sid Roams, Ethan Browne, & Evidence
Sid Roams gets help from Ethan Browne & Evidence to produce a track that sounds like it should be on an Atmosphere record. The powerful sample comes from folk singer Jackson Browne. It seems fitting that the track features Rhymersayers co-founder Slug, and newly signees Evidence & Aesop Rock. The song’s concept is about trying to break loose from uncertainty and self-doubt. This is probably my favorite posse cut on the album because their verses complement each other so well.
Produced by The Alchemist
The Alchemist puts together a high-paced beat that allows Evidence to rhyme about “famed” crashes. The perception to this track is how people (Heath Ledger, River Phoenix, DJ AM) can be on top of the world then unexpectedly die (crash) due to making wrong decisions (overdosing)… or basically getting caught up in their fame. This is a great concept that’ll most likely get overlooked.
12. Where You Come From?
Featuring Rakaa, Lil’ Fame, & Termanology; Produced by The Alchemist
The Alchemist is becoming a frequent producer with yet another beat on the album. Here, he throws in three samples: “Vessels” by Phillip Glass, “Song Cry” by Jay-Z, and “Exhibit C” by Jay Electronica. Rakaa and Termanology join Evidence on the microphone to rhyme about building and destroying where you from. This song is basically saying you have to tear yourself down to build yourself up. Lil’ Fame is only featured on the hook, but he does such a great job with it that I can’t complain.
13. … (Interlude)
I guess he left this blank because the number 13 is supposedly an unlucky number.
14. To Be Continued…
Produced by Sid Roams
This was the first single released for the album over a year ago. It was not supposed to be featured on the record, but after a positive response upon its leak by DJ Premier, Evidence decided to include it. This song is a tribute to all the emcees and producers who was an influence to Evidence. The idea of keeping track #13 blank now starts to make sense four bars in,
Ten Commandments, twenty-four hours
The thirteenth floor was missing in the towers
Hmm, I thought I shouldn’t be here
I stayed an extra day because they said it’s Leap Year
Check out the music video for “To Be Continued…” here.
15. Falling Down
Produced by Rahki
The downpour of the album is in full effect as Rahki finds another moody sample. Rahki isn’t the most known producer but he’s making his presence known with his two beats on the album, and the notable “#JetsGo” from Curren$y’s Weekend at Burnie’s. Evidence continues his thoughts about how the weather is falling down on him.
16. Well Runs Dry
Featuring Krondon; Produced by Sid Roams
“Well Runs Dry” is perhaps the deepest track on the album. The track starts with a sample by reggae singer Peter Tosh about what you going to do when your well runs dry. Sid Roams throws on the beat then adds numerous samples about our recent recession. Evidence rhymes about how the recession has affected everyone, including himself. I love the fact that he’s not trying to front about have money issues although he’s supposed to be this famed rapper with no problems:
I pay the mortgage and the storage, and it keeps pourin’
Can’t afford it so I got to keep on tourin’
Trying to make a record in between is never foreign
But I’m familiar when there’s no any way to avoid it
17. The Epilogue
Produced by DJ Premier
The album started with the liner notes and ends with the epilogue. I love an album that has a stable concept for the entire album. The first thing I noticed about this track is how close the beat reminds me of U-God’s “Train Trussle”. That’s probably because they both use the same sample from The Spinners’ “Living a Little, Laughing a Little”. “The Epilogue” shows you have to keep on going through all the bullshit that comes your way. Perfect ending to the record.
These are my feelings and they really exist
The gift and the curse, maybe really it’s the fucking curse and the gift
We the same thing from different angles
Eating from the same meal from different sides of the same table
And I ain’t claim to be a game changer
I claim the west, Venice Beach, RSC and Dilated (all day)
My grandmomma said the day is what you make it
Clinging to this patience, my words are overstated
And who said cats from the West can’t rhyme?
Evidence displays that his skills behind the microphone are improving with each album. Lyrically alone, this is a top five record of the year. Evidence brings so much pain behind his lyrics that’s its hard deny his ability as an emcee. I must also note that the production is banging. I would’ve never imagined the album sounding this good with only two Evidence beats. However, it’s hard to believe anything less than top level when you got the Alchemist to produce a good portion, along with two Premo beats, and even more help from Sid Roams. Plus, I love the cuts by DJ Revolution. His mixes helped shape the album into what it was. Well done Evidence. Let it rain. Rhymesayers stand up!