The name Evidence is healthy in the rap game. As one third of Dilated People he helped usher in a brand of underground west coast hip hop that was post-gangster, but rooted to a street ethos. With co-signs from vets like The Liks and Aceyalone, and work with other up-n-comers like Planet Asia, Defari, Krondon, Alchemist, and Joey Chavez (now half of Sid Roams), Evidence (as part of Dilated) captivated the late 90s LA streets with a wealth of great music. A decade later Ev is solo and continues to provide that west coast dank with a voice and beat selection that could make his contemporaries envious. Four years after the well received Weatherman LP, and the strong EP The Layover in 2008, Evidence’s Cats & Dogs is his best work since lacing us with Expansion Team alongside his brethren Raka and DJ Babu back in 2001. It’s an album that has enough bap for Ev’s “old headz”, while finding his groove within the newer sonic tapestries of the rap world to capture the ears of the youngins.
Without hesitation I’ll state this album is its most dynamic when Alchemist is behind the boards. His five productions are easily the highlights of Cats & Dogs. Al’s beat on the opener “The Liner Notes” is all his moody string chop glory inside a haze of sonic accents and under-stated but melodic drums, capped off by Aloe Blacc’s pitch-perfect harmony. But Alchemist’s shinning diamond is the anthemic well spring “The Red Carpet”, featuring Raekwon in high-quality form. Evidence laces the track with righteous poetics, but Ras Kass’ stand-out verse captivates with its heart-on-his sleeve autobio that reminds us why we hold him in such high regard when it comes to rhymin’. “Fame”, produced by Charli Brown, also gives listeners some high-octane no bullshit street shit featuring verses from P and Roc Marciano. Here Prodigy is in full H.N.I.C. mode, none of his recent half-asleep lulling us into a coma rap. Prodigy goes the fuck in with all his vivid tuff talk charisma.
I know some may be saying damn that’s a lot of praise for people not named Evidence on his album, but I think it also points to the reality that Ev knows who to collaborate with and where to place them; Cats & Dogs IS Evidence’s trademark. Solo songs like the clever call and respond-ish “It Wasn’t Me”, and the futurist audio war games of “Crash”, are just as great as the songs mentioned above. While Cats & Dogs is a bit lengthy and uneven (and I won’t even try to touch the cats-n-dogs concept), Evidence plays to his and his rhyme friends’ strengths. It’s an album that adds to the west coast’s dominance of rap in 2011. While not as vehemently west coast as other releases, it’s the west with a veteran’s world view and perspective. Evidence is reflective, honest, and confident within and throughout the album making the Primo produced monster “The Epilogue”, the symbolic and perfect closer. Don’t sleep on Cats & Dogs.