Evidence offers a chance to rethink life with “Unlearning Vol.1”

PC: Stephen Vanasco

By Daniel Paiz

June 25th might just be Evidence’s favorite day of the year, as this project arrives just as summer kicks off. There are projects that feel like a natural next step for an artist, and that is exactly what’s playing out for this Los Angeles emcee. If you’ve been waiting for that summer album to drop, this Rhymesayers project has arrived. 

Evidence’s signature-calm braggadocio introduces the album’s primary concept. Unlearning and gaining better knowledge is more of a suggestion than a primary goal. So too is reflecting on life as a whole and reviewing it with these two ideas in mind. Unlearning as you live life is difficult to do, but it’s worth pondering over as each track plays on. It sneaks up on you over the course of these fourteen loosely-connected songs.

Track by track review

Better You” starts out asking are you willing to unlearn wrong information. “Never picked a better day to be a better you” is a good reminder for both Ev and the listener. “My chord progressions go directions that are not for the norm” and “When I hit send, I’m done not rerouted” had me rewinding back a few lines to hear them once again. Strong start for a highly-anticipated project. 

Start the Day with a Beat” has that feeling of being a track made for the morning, and not because of the title. The tempo and beat direction has that feel. “Everything I write prescription, I only write the script if shit fit the description” is that clever wordplay drawing in listeners time and again for Ev. 

Sharks Smell Blood” has an intro that just prepares me for the verses. A verse such as “It’s after dark I got the flashlight, my dog’s barking at the past life” oddly embodies for this listener the meeting of mundane and existentialism. Those moments where you might be doing something routine, and thoughts swirl when it comes to questioning life. Plus, it feeds the idea that routine-based folks might be making themselves chum.

Pardon Me” starts with a laid-back West Coast feel that gets things rolling. Braggadocio runs supreme in these verses. Yet due to the calmly monotone delivery, it doesn’t feel like that. The outro has a speaker discussing three levels of making art: creation, emulation, and innovation. 

All of That Said” again has a tone-setting instrumental, a rock-laced beat that draws the listener in; it makes me ponder what’s about to be witnessed. Very reminiscent about his years writing and creating projects. Guest verse adds a different narrative, doesn’t feel like the same kind of reflection; seems more present day than reflective of his past. The song overall has a cinematic feel to it. 

Won’t Give Up The Danger” aggressively jumps into your ears from the jump. Thoughts feel like they’re racing as Ev delivers line after line. The line “Same as before I wore my heart on my sleeve, the hardest part is to stay, the hardest part is to leave” hits different, whether it’s your first or 100th time hearing it. “I can see it written on every wall in your house, I can hear it when you talk out your mouth, I know your heart is broken and gone south” again feels heavy. Unlearning and changing oneself could be so beneficial; it’s also so hard to do, accepting a worse fate happens sometimes. 

Moving On Up” is a reflection of how Ev is continuously in pursuit of his goals. “It’s like they don’t react to actions, they relate to words” demanded a rewind moment. Growth and movement permeate this track heavily. Conway explores his current place in life. “God bless me with opportunity, they hope I waste it, I don’t know why so many focus on hopeless hating” is likely Conway’s best line on this track. It adds to the idea of showing one’s evolution, albeit Conway did it differently than Ev has. 

PC: Stephen Vanasco

Talking to the Audience” feels a bit like a bridge between the tracks before and after it. Some clever lines pop up here and there, but the song ends rather quickly. 

All Money 1983” lists movies that Ev appreciates, throwing out several that might’ve impacted his skill set. “Fuck complacent because anger is the king of inspiration, embarrassment, things we’ve all been facing” stands out head and shoulders above the rest of the lines on this tape. For some reason, this track feels like a waiting room lobby between songs. Perhaps via reflection, lessons are accepted.

Pray with an A” has a bluesy sample and beat throughout. Feels like a grind it out, put in the work montage kind of track. Good connection to unlearning and growing, as both demand work to evolve. Guest verse nicely adds to this aesthetic as well. 

Lost in Time (Park Jams)” immediately pulls you in with that Boom Bap beat. “They mimic me, it’s why I disregard the arrogance, it’s cause of my ability and will is my inheritance” highlights a variety of dope lines that make you sit and think about it for a minute. This leads to missing sequential lines, thus leading to constant rewinds.      

Delay The Issue” feels kind of up in the air to be honest. Not sure what to take away from it, perhaps it’s meant to make a listener reflective. 

PC: Stephen Vanasco

Taylor Made Suit” has ties to being ready for any situation or event across life. Reflecting on life and how one got there seems swirled together with emotional reactions to moments less mundane, more memorable. A lot has happened in this life. Subtle yet heavy. 

Where We Going From Here” is the penultimate track, heavily permeating reflection and something less than joy. More like, appreciation. “The first day in a while that I woke up out the right side of bed, it’s not my choice, I decided instead” feels emblematic of the verses and the album. 

This entire album feels like a pocket of time that encapsulates all of Evidence’s life. That’s contradictory, just like life. The lessons scattered across these tracks are more Kodak exposures than class lectures. Unlearning is a very difficult thing to do. The older you get, the less you want to change or accept new ways of life. So, tackling life in this manner is going to be difficult, but it’s worth it in the long run; especially when decisions prior to this weren’t so bad. Potentially, gaining a new understanding in life might both help and hurt: that’s life. 

Final Verdict

Life has plenty of lessons for you. What you decide to embrace and then re-evaluate as days turn into years is the big dive worth taking. The dive isn’t overly deep, just enough to reflect on. Living is the most important part of life, and this project calmly offers moments to assess how one lives via learning and unlearning. Even if you decide to not challenge yourself and unlearn certain parts of your life, this is one smoothed out project. It will likely be in your rotation for the remainder of 2021.    

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