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Whenever Evidence headlines a show in Los Angeles, you know it’s going to be a breath of nostalgic, fresh air. As a pioneer in the game, Evidence brings back the flavors of the early 2000s with clean beat selections, an emphasis on lyricism, and crystal-clear enunciation in his raps. When I saw that the Venice-native was doing a one-off show at The El Rey in Los Angeles, I knew this was going to be a dope one. There were three openers slated for the night: Stevie Crooks, Vel The Wonder, and Chuck Strangers. The three opening acts were all up the same lane: thoughtful with their content, hyper-technical in the lyrical structure, and aggressive in their delivery.

Stevie Crooks was the leadoff hitter of the night. The Moreno Valley rapper didn’t waste his opportunity to open the show. He rocked the stage with high energy and even jumped into the crowd at one point to perform amongst the fans. I’ve never heard of Stevie Crooks before, but I’ll be on the lookout for him on future bills. He put on a great show. Next up was Vel The Wonder. Vel’s been making noise in the underground hip hop circles since she broke out onto the scene in 2014. My favorite moment from her scene was when she brought out Zoodeville for their collaboration on “Michelle”. Chuck Strangers hit the stage and his role was to get the crowd ready for Evidence. The Pro Era rapper/producer represented New York well as he did exactly that. The crowd really started to pack in during his set.  

When the curtains opened for Evidence, he was joined by his 6-year-old son Enzo, who was wearing what looked like a men’s XL sized reflective windbreaker. Seeing a tiny kid in such a large jacket was one of the most adorable sights I’ve seen at a hip-hop show. Evidence handed his son the microphone and Enzo greeted the crowd. The entire venue erupted as everyone cheered for the father and son duo. At this point, it dawned on me that it was the day before Mother’s Day. For context, Evidence’s wife (Enzo’s mom) fought and lost a battle with cancer back in April 2018. After her passing, Evidence dedicated his life to her memory and pledged to protect Enzo at all costs. Knowing that she’s watching down on them, I thought it was special for Enzo to share that moment with his dad in front of Los Angeles on Mother’s Day weekend. Evidence rocked a great set from front to back. He covered the full range of his work, from the Dilated People’s era to his newer solo material. He also shared the mic with a couple of special guests along the way before hanging it up for the night.

Many rappers can’t stay at the top of their game for 20+ years, let alone even stay relevant. Staying true to boom bap beats and creative lyricism, Evidence has aged like fine wine, amassing a cult following to his music. He continues to approach hip hop fundamentally yet is always innovating his sound. If you’re looking for some traditionalist hip hop that still breaks down barriers from time to time, Evidence is it. Check him the next time he’s in a city near you - you will not be dissapointed!

Kris Kuganathan

Photojournalist - Orange County

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