Greatness may be defined as, “superior in quality or character, influential and remarkable or outstanding in magnitude, degree, or extent.”
All of this is true, but to be considered “Great” in Hip Hop you must also possess what can be defined as “The capacity to act or think independently, the ability to create or innovate.”
You must be original. No collective in Hip Hop has ever exemplified these qualities quite like the Native Tongues have. During an era where glitz, glamour, shiny suits and Hype Williams videos lay juxtaposed with hardcore, violent minded artists, it was the Tongues who stood as original, great and outstanding in magnitude, degree or extent. Bent on positivity with socially conscious lyrics and ideas, the Native Tongues posse flipped the script on what “everybody else was doing ” and did their own thing. Kinda original ‘eh?
Fast forward 20 years and two Native Tongue members have joined forces to once again flip the Hip Hop world inside out, as evidenced even by their name. Dres of Black Sheep and Jarobi from A Tribe Called Quest are EvitaN. Recently I was able to speak with Dres while taking a break from shooting a video for the album “Speed of Life” dropping TODAY.
Chuck:Obviously you & Jarobi have known each other and been boys for years…but how did your coming together to form a unit musically as EvitaN come about?
Dres: Well, I had been on Jarobi for about a year to record a solo e.p. for my label (Pool Of Genius) .. he literally had me on hold for a year..lol.. he was in Atl..and had to come to NYC to further pursue his endeavors as a Chef.. good timing for us.. he agreed to do the e.p. ( i knew he had something to offer..J is a brilliant person ) .. we decided to do the first song to ease him into the water, so to speak.. That 1st song was Keep Keepin On.. dope.. everyone (including me) was blown away.. it was suggested we be a group from the rip.. i wanted to hear more.. we did another..dope…another..dope .. well… 26 songs later.. we’re bonded and grounded..ready to make history!!
Chuck: To me, personally, Hip Hop has never been the same since the “Golden Era” of the early 90’s. I feel like originality, skills, hunger and meticulous attention to detail, attributes central to the art form have largely been replaced by much weaker imitations of the original articles. Not in all cases, but many. I’m curious how you see and what you feel about the state of Hip Hop music today?
Dres: I couldn’t agree more… it’s unfortunate how low the bar has been lowered.. it’s also sad that the gatekeepers (program directors) won’t raise it…but seemingly gladly keep our community drunk on the shallowness .. Evitan speaks in volume to the effort you speak to.. every song was done together.. no emailed verses.. every song coincides with the actual hook which goes with the music.. (cohesive) … there is plenty of food for thought sprinkled thru out the project… you will have to hit a dictionary at some point.. you will think.. you will smile… you will grow = hip hop
Chuck: Black Sheep and ATCQ, and more specifically, you and Jarobi are Hip Hop royalty with much well deserved respect in the game. Given that, what do you foresee EvitaN bringing to the landscape of Hip Hop in 2012 and beyond?
Dres: The raising of the bar for starters.. but also the notion that “you can” .. you don’t have to align yourself in things you don’t believe to be successful .. and yes.. you are good enough… i think we also bring a level of honesty with our music.. no posturing for the sake of nothingness .. like i said.. i am very proud of this effort… it’s just different..lol
Chuck: I love that. I love the emphasis on being yourself, rather than seeking success by any means necessary. Ultimate success comes from being true to yourself! OK- let’s get to the album. Speed of Life drops Friday September 21st. What can we expect to hear, both musically and lyrically on the album?
Dres: The beat selection is impeccable .. representing producers from all over the world.. you will also be treated to features by – Rah Digga, Bootsy Collins, Craig G, Homeboy Sandman, Sadat X, Res, Yummy Bingham, Punchline, Boogieman Dela, Range Da Messenger, Havoc (Mobb) … and on top of all of that.. my dude Jarobi is gonna make you smile… he’s dope yo.
Chuck: Wow, that’s a lineup! For the most part, all the public ever knew about Jarobi was that he was of course, a member of A Tribe Called Quest, he was the mystic man himself and that he spent a lot of time on the telephone. Some of that changed when we got to see him on screen in the Tribe documentary, but do you think people are going to be surprised when they get to hear him rhyme?
Dres: Do i? !!!! yes !!!! Robi did the damn thing.. i got to see him grow right in front of my eyes as an emcee.. he’s always been a sharp dude and him being on stage with one of the most celebrated groups in hip hop history is very evident in his lyrical debut… dude is a student of the genre and will more than surprise everyone… he’s gonna make you proud!! i know i am
Chuck: I know when I first heard Jarobi rhyme I was just wowed. How about production and collaborations? I know you guys teamed up with Sadat X on the dope, dope track “3 Kings”. Any other collaborations on the album or appearances by Native Tongue members?
Dres: No natives this go round… just didn’t seem to work out schedule wise it seemed.. we def got the nod tho.. big shout to Ali Shaheed who more than supports our movement.. we really wanted to get a track from him and Tip.. def next time… i think it’s not a bad thing tho… i’m anxious for people to see us stand on our own two.. tho the family love would be welcome with open arms… next time tho
Chuck:Speaking of Native Tongues…..at its very foundation the Native Tongue posse stood upon the ideas of positivity, social consciousness and even playfulness. Really positive vibes. Will EvitaN reflect that same vibe?
Dres: Without question… we def do a little playing around.. but we sprinkle dope thought all over the project… thinkers will be happy for sure
Chuck: I’ve heard a lot of the album, and honestly cannot wait to hear it in its entirety…..what I’ve heard has been so dope. It’s refreshing, original and it brings me back to feelings of the past, yet it is so new and different. What kind of reception have you guys received from both the “critics” and your peers, including those in the industry?
Dres: Overwhelming love.. i think the effort is being recognized as supreme .. and we really don’t know how to do what they do.. we only know how to be ourselves.. which is not what they do.. its resonating with the community.. this is the epitome of an organic project.. no big budget anything.. just hip hop in its purest form.. coming from no where.. out of (almost) nothing… as well, Jarobi and I are real people.. we aren’t afraid to be seen as such.. i think it even compliments the movement.. that people have walked this with us.. seen us grow right in front of them… that won’t be changing either
Chuck: Will we see a tour in EvitaN’s future? I know we have a large contingent of people who want to see you guys come to Boston.
Dres: Hell Yes… i hope we stay on the road… and Boston better get ready!! we ain’t playin man..lol Boston promoters should hit us up asap!!
Chuck: I was listening to Pass the 40 the other day and was struck by the fact that we just recently had some major, crazy events take place (some good, some sad) relating to two not just key figures on a track, or in Hip Hop, but friends to you guys in Chris Lighty and Chi Ali. Must have been a roller coaster of emotions this month, all while grinding and putting finishing touches on the album.
Dres: Man.. you said a mouthful .. I’m so happy that Chi is home.. trying to help him get structured now… really excited for his future.. at the same time.. Chris Lighty was a brother… even tho we didn’t speak everyday.. anytime we did, it was like we had just spoken yesterday.. i took a meeting with him about Evitan.. he was happy for us and blown away at what he heard.. he was in support of our movement and wanted to help.. this was a tragic loss to the hip hop community as well the world in itself… my condolences to his family.. may God Bless our friend and he rest in peace.. it really hurt us all deeply … I am seeing a bonding of our community since this tragedy that i hope continues… a reaching out of sorts.. making sure that our real brothers and sisters are ok… in the end.. he took care of so many.. and it resonated with us all that it seemed that there was no one to take care of him… sometimes we all assume a little too much.
Chuck: I really want to thank you for your time Dres, it’s been a pleasure. Can’t tell you how excited I am for the new album to drop and to see all that EvitaN does going forward.
Dres: Thanks fam.. thanks to the reader as well for taking time to rock with us… hope everyone stays in the loop.. www.evitan.net .. @dresblacksheep & @jarobione on twitter …
Chuck: Can I get a scoop?
Dres: Mos def yo! … peace