First and foremost, who is Aaron Evans?
Wow, that's a great opening question. First off let me say thank you for the interview. It's always good to start by giving thanks with anything in life. Simple put, I just a man. I'm an emcee, producer, poet, author, label head, designer, lover, freedom fighter, forward thinking madman, but at the end of the day, just a man. That said, I'm a man who believes that with focus and hard work anyone can achieve anything, even things others say are impossible. I'm a dreamer, always have been. Ever since I was a child I felt like there was a defined reason for me to be alive and now that I'm grown up I feel I'm starting to see what that purpose is. The world needs voices to share ideas, to keep alive the oral and written tradition of sharing stories and tales that within hold reminders of our morals, hopes and truths. These ideas aren't mine, I don't own them, I didn't conceive them myself. No one does. I'm only out share principals I hold close to my heart and shine a little light into the world.
Thus far I've been very blessed to lead the life I had. I often refer to my life as a "Beautiful Disaster" and I think most artists or for that matter people can relate. Art's my escape, really it's the pillar of my mental sanity. I don't make art because I want to make art, I make art because I have to make art. I've seen a lot of peaks and valleys over the years and I pray its made me wiser. Things have really been talking off in my career again and I'm just trying to stay humble and driven until I accomplish all of my goals. This time has come for a shift in our collective consciousness, I'm just trying to play my part in that push.
You state that you are an emcee, poet and a author. How hard is it to wear multiple hats in this industry? How does writing an article for a magazine differ from writing a rap verse?
Honestly, for me it's not that hard at all. Not that I don't have moments of frustration but as an artist I see them all play into each other and help each other grow and build. It keeps me out of a box. Writing articles is a new adventure and that might be the most challenging at the moment because I'm still learning how to play by the rules and format. But, in a way it's not all that different than writing a rhyme. Hip Hop has a basic structure of 4/4 timing, style comes from how you bend those rules, manipulate the sounds in words and create new patterns to fit within the framework. Articles seem to be the same thing and I'm just learning how to freak the format but still keep it accessible to the general public and not drive my very kind editors crazy. The next biggest challenge would be making sure to keep my vocabulary fresh. I have a few tricks at this point like constantly playing scrabble on my phone and having the dictionary as my screen saver. Really, I just write all the time now and the more I write the easier it flows. I would say without doubt this is one of my biggest blessings, people have told me my whole life that I just never shut up or run out of things to say. It took 31 years to figure it out but I finally have enough outlets to get the insanity out and I'm just trying to ride the wave as long as I can.
Describe the hip-hop scene in Columbus, Ohio...
Columbus's scene is DOPE. I feel honored to have come up around and build with some many amazing artist and it's fresh to get respect all over the world for being part of that movement. I'll share a little story that's been told time and time again but it just sums it up so well. It must have been like 98, The scene: Illogic's release show for his debut solo cd Unforeseen Shadows. Man, that night, in the back room of that local record shop (Roots/Thieves World), was one of the illest nights in Hip Hop history and I'd say 75% of the people in the room went on to being national players in the underground hip hop explosion of the late 90' and early 2000's. Camu (R.I.P.), Przm (R.I.P.), Copy, RJD2, Vast Air, All of Cannibal Ox, Blueprint, Aesop Rock and Illogic all on one stage on one night for like $5. That was the first time I chilled with Envelope (Weightless), Metro from S.A. Smash (Def Jux), Bru Lie, Eclipse, where all in the house, I think Dj's Drastic and Manwell were there and more than likely jumped on stage at some point. Everyone who you've ever heard of was there. (This was 13 years ago so some of the specifics where the brain cells I lost during my party/rockstar years. please forgive small inaccuracies.) All in all it was a incredible evening and a microcosm for what has blossomed in Columbus. Now a days it is more of the same. Groups like L.E.S. Crew, Bottom Brick and AP are on the quick rise, Ill Poetics now in Columbus. L.E. for the uncool is making steady noise. J. Rawls is a staple in the world wide Hip Hop culture who just never stop dropping slick material. The 3rd (Me and Illogic's old high school crew...back when it was called 3rd eye) is all over the place and Rashaad from the crew just produced Stalley's new album.
I absolutely love California and I feel I've found a new home but I owe so much to my roots in Columbus. I just got really lucky to be in the right place in the right era of time.
I read that you produced some songs for Illogic. Do you still stay in contact with Illogic and other Columbus based legends such as Copywrite or Blueprint?
I started my label Dove Ink with Illogic in 2001, but as I said about we've been friends/F.A.M. since high school. He's no longer involved with the label and we went through some rocky waters during that transition but that's all smoothed out now. Bottom line that's my brother and that will never change. We put out some left field abstract stuff out on Write to Death 1 which has 10 of the first 20 beats I ever made on it. I have a few tracks on Write To Death 2 and we have a couple of 45's out, but in my opinion the best work we ever did is still sitting on my hard drive. I guess we have about 40 unreleased tracks including an EP him and Ill Poetic did vocals for called The Seeds. I know he's planing on releasing some of it over the next year or so leading up to his next album Capture The Sun that he's working on with Blockhead. It will all come out at some point. It's in my will that all my music be released ASAP if anything where to ever happen to me ("chuckles"). As far as other cats from Columbus, sadly I haven't really stayed in touch as much as I would have liked to. I talk to a lot of people online but I just seem to busy to catch up with anyone on the phone and I've only been home once since I relocated. I was never close to Print or Copy so that is not applicable but I will say I'm proud of those dudes for all the moves they've been making as of late. That's another great thing about being from Columbus, someone else you've know from the scene since you where like 15 is always re-setting the bar so it keeps you on your toes. Dove Ink kinda always just did our thing, rode our own lane. I wouldn't go as far as to say I've become a lone wolf but it's close. I like being streamline now and only having to worry about my career, having others dreams in you hands is a huge responsibility that I don't really miss on that level at all. I love helping people, but I'm a bit over that specific role.
You recently released a single with Dj Deprave called "Jazz Is Freedom." What is the concept of the song and who directed the video?
I don't know if I would really say it has a concept outside of discussing what jazz has been to me and giving the public something different to ride to this summer. I started as a Dj 15 years ago and the great thing about Djing and digging for samples is that it turns you into a really eclectic type of person. I love all kinds of music but something about jazz just always set me free. Hence the name of the song. I think we started working on it the day we meet and all I remember is I was entranced by the horn. Being that I make beats myself I'm pretty picky about working with other producers and if I'm not hypnotized instantaneously, I'm not going to use a track. Beyond that I truly aim to make good songs, a beat could be hot as shit, but if I don't hear the concept to a good song then its a pass. This beat fit the bill on both fronts so off we went.
Deprave made the video and I'm so proud of that man for knocking it out. He's only been behind the lens for about 6 months but he's picked it up like it was always ingrained in his soul. I mean this is the first music video he's ever made, that's one hell of a start. He's founded a company called Live Free Production and it seems like the sky is the limits for him in this arena. He's already working with Dj Artistic producing his weekly web show and our videos have received high praise so I'd say he's on a major upswing that should last for a long time if he keeps working to refine his craft.
Will you continue to work with Dj Deprave in the future?
As far as music, I wouldn't rule it out at all, or have anything against it, but nothing is in the works at this time. I have about 100 solo tracks sitting next to those Illogic tracks on my hard drive and I'm pretty focused on getting all that out before making new stuff. When the time does come for making new material I would say that I'll be looking to move out of the Hip Hop box more and more and definitely want to move away from samples. Don't get me wrong I love samples, I believe they are an integral part of our culture but the time for me to grow past samples is more or less here and I hope to start putting a band together in the next 18 months or so. Deprave is a busy man himself. He's in a group called Universal Greetings that he spits, produces and does cuts for, plus his crew Parallel has some things coming up soon I'm pretty sure.
Now as far as videos, I know for sure we will be making at least one more leading up to F.A.M. (Family Always Matters) my solo album set for release this fall. If we can work out the logistics I'd love to have him do 2 or 3 but we're still ironing out those details.
You solo album F.A.M. (Family Always Matters) is set to be released in the fall. Have you finished recording the project? Do you have any features on the project?
For the most part the album was done before I moved out west. I'd say 75% of the final product or so. I've added a few songs since moving but all in all I'd say it's done at this point. I'll admit as an artist I always question and re-question the music until the day it's sent to press but I don't think I'm going to make anymore changes. Most of the songs have been tested out live and have gone over well so that gives my confidence. Not to mention the 3 singles I plan to release are 3 of my favorite songs I've ever made. F.A.M. is a very personal album. I talk about my brother's addiction problems, my mother's cancer, the story of me founding Dove Ink only days before entering the mental hospital. I have a song about my grandma B called "The Rock," a song for a 7 year old girl I helped raise for a few years and and song called "Brothers" about my two best friends (Jawhar and Jordan). Every song in some shape or form relates back to my family. Some of the songs are simply small letters of hope, others are the pure manifestation of anger and pain. It sounds like a lot but I will fit it all in, The album has 3 movements with each one taking it own sonic tone yet staying cognitive with the overall project.
So I know in 2011 your supposed to have 500 guests on your album if you want it to move units but I'm not one to really subscribe to that mentality. Most Hip Hop collaborations are just garbage to me, sure it can be fun to jump on a more battle-esque track with you crew but to me, that is just beating a dead horse for the most part. Hip Hop is growing up on many fronts, and so am I. I want to make songs with words and messages that truly connect with people. If me and another emcee can collaborate on a dope concept I'm always down, but at this point in my life I'd rater link up with a fresh female vocalist like my downstairs housemate Zoe from Tragic Tantrum or Dani Angelica Lee from L.E.S. Crew. I rather build up with a band and see what sonic boundary we can push. I starting to fully understand what I can pull off with my voice and long term I don't want to be know as a Hip Hop artist, or a funk artist or whatever, I just want to do me and make what feels good to my soul.
What are you interested in outside of hip-hop?
Everything... Life. I have 10 or so mediums of art I practice and I'm constantly pulling for all sorts of crazy angles. Our world is fascinating if you slow down long enough to take it in. Every moment your alive something spectacular is happening right around you, you just have to look. I also like to be physically active so riding my bike, playing at the beach and that type stuff is what I do when I catch so downtime. I also do a lot in the activism world working to end prohibition on marijuana and hemp. I just has my first foster dog which was a great experience and I planted a garden for the first time in my life this spring. I love to learn and life never ceases to give that opportunity.
Self expression is definitely big in the field of social commentary. What are you doing to continue to find your purpose in this world?
I feel like I've found my propose for the most part. That's not to say roles in life don't grow and change over time but in the now I'm right where I should be. I'm getting to use my voice in several different ways and it feels almost surreal. I'm a workaholic so I don't ever stop pursuing my purpose, I guess I would just say that sometime I'm crawling towards it, at other times I'm sprinting... At the moment I've found my stride and pace. Now I just have to remember to keep breathing and keep my eyes on the finish line.
Describe your writing process for the masses...
I don't really have one. When its time to write, I write... I smoke a lot of weed and drink a lot of coffee, but out side of those two things I wouldn't say much else is a constant. I will say that 99% of the time once I start something I finish it before diving into anything else... I find it hard to go back and recapture a moment. I used to be able to write in my head and I'm working on redeveloping that skill, that is one thing I lost when I went crazy that I've never been able to get back. Bottom line, I just never stop writing, words have become my greatest comfort in the world.
What are you currently working on and who would you like to work with in the future?
I got a few things in the works. Mr. Ridley a super dope beat maker from my S.D. crew 2012 Dynasty gave me a gang of beats last fall and I have about 10 songs with him on the production done. I have a new Green Brothers album Free Green in the works, The stuff with Illogic and plenty more up my sleeve. As far as who I want to work with... Man I don't know, I could name about 1000 people here if I thought about it but thats just eye candy for me and other people to dream about. But I'll give a few... I'd love to rock an RJD2 beat, Nneka is a new artist that I think is mind blowing, I think me and Brother Ali could make something very powerful. Portishead, Digable Planets, Bjork, Rick Ruben all sorts of people, I could go on for days.
Any Final Thoughts?
I'd like to thank all the family, friends and fans that have been overwhelmingly supportive over the last 10 years. All the blogs, websites and magazines for helping promo and push forward my dreams. Huge shout out to the Dove Ink crew, 2012 Dynasty, Train of Thought, NUG Magazine, A.S.A., Norml, MMP, Access Hip Hop and all the other organizations to numerous to name that have played a role one way or another over the course of this journey... In closing I would like to leave your readers with this...
Listen to whatever is within your heart, hiding in some dark corner, screaming to be set free. Only you hold the key to your own cage and only you can make the choice to walk a different path. Many of us want to stray from the pack but are unaware how to take the first step. It is not as hard as you might think, it just takes a small leap of faith, a little self confidence, and trust that you are the master of your own domain. The world needs YOU more than you may ever know. As we sit on the axis of emancipation or annihilation your participation in change just may end up being the tipping point that saves us all. One person can make a difference and that one person can be you if you choose so.
Thanks again for all the love, make sure to check out my website and keep sharing the singles and videos everywhere you can leading up to F.A.M. this fall. Your support means more to me than I could ever express in words.
Be Ez & SHINE!!!