Home Music Evidence: Unlearning Vol. 1

Evidence: Unlearning Vol. 1

Whoever penned the Bandcamp description for Unlearning Vol. 1 must’ve popped a few blood vessels trying to spin its idling into a positive trait. The Los Angeles rapper’s latest project is promoted as showcasing his dedication to honesty and artistic expression over trinkets like “marketability, album sales and streaming potential.” In reality this is boomer double speak, indicative of Evidence’s unshifting direction. Evidence has been in the game for 30 years, whether with his group Dilated Peoples or rubbing elbows with boom bap royalty, and Unlearning Vol. 1 cements his tenure. Unfortunately, Evidence shows his age by refusing to expand. Unlearning Vol. 1 is a quicksand trap, sucking the MC into a veneer of iteration rather than innovation, with the grimy texture of unsifted flour instead of a crumbly finish, and a passable delivery that reeks of stubbornness.

Evidence presents as the prototypical New York rapper. His skeletal production stands alongside similarly-minded DJs like The Alchemist, Nottz, and V Don and his no flash all fundamentals flow isn’t distant from guest rappers Boldy James and Navy Blue. He brandishes an old-head mentality, falsely slotting purity at odds with perceived inferiority like synthetic production or pop-informed hooks. These are not mutually exclusive concepts however. His infatuation with rough boom bap is a hammock he rests upon for the length of Unlearning, smoking a joint and having his neck tickled by the frosty northern winds, without ever having to learn anything.

There is a polish to Unlearning Vol. 1 owing to Evidence’s experience. He has honed his rapping and production enough that he can express himself with nary a disruption between thought and outcome. “Better You” is a solid encapsulation of such. The bassy beat has the aura of a late night spent reflecting on missed opportunities, and Evidence spends the midnight hour bettering himself. His delivery is bare bones, without any theatrics or acrobatics, doubling down on a motivational lyrical narrative. It’s a tame style where Evidence sneaks in tight internal rhymes like, “My chord progressions go directions not built for the norm,” though these bright moments seldom appear.

Sadly, “Start the Day with a Beat” is when Evidence’s bullheadedness goes from respectable to tedious. He rarely diversifies his cadence from the indifferent flow on “Better You.” There’s no hustle in his voice, and when combined with the spacious beats much of Unlearning Vol. 1 deflates. It’s a puff pastry, with external crumbles and a ragged texture, but a hollow interior. Hollow in this instance meaning that Evidence doesn’t reward deeper listening. Unlearning Vol. 1 shines when it expands upon what Evidence refuses to. The more textured production of “Pardon Me” and “All Money 1983” embellish the MC. His restrained delivery tightens in the decadent backdrops. On these tracks his gratitude is earned as the beats fill in the negative space between his bars.

The guest rappers each deliver while Evidence remains stationary. They capitalize on the beats, sometimes by riding it off-time and sometimes by finding a groove Evidence neglects. Praising Boldy James’ verse on “All of that Said” best illustrates Unlearning Vol. 1’s shortcomings. Boldy adheres to his gritty, steel cut delivery, but he raps with conviction. He injects striking imagery and subtle technicality into his bars. Whereas Evidence coasts on scant delivery, Boldy’s minimalism makes it a treasure to pick through his verse.

More than anything the issue might be Evidence’s attitude. He’s passionate about his subjects, reconstituting his struggles into optimism. But he’s just another instrument on a beat tape. His flows aren’t dense with secrets hidden amongst the beats, they’re just another layer in the mix. Unlearning Vol. 1 doesn’t house much besides some solid features to evoke a reaction. Evidence is just too set in his ways to either learn or unlearn his resting principles. “Moving on Up” ends on a sample advocating self-knowledge being the driving force of artistic development. Funny, ‘cause Evidence knows exactly who he is and has no desire to push that.

Unlearning Vol. 1 is a quicksand trap, sucking the veteran MC into a veneer of iteration rather than innovation, with the grimy texture of unsifted flour instead of a crumbly finish, and a passable delivery that reeks of stubbornness.
50 %
Nothing Learned, Nothing Gained
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  1. Coleman

    June 28, 2021 at 9:17 am

    You’ve essentially exemplified why music reviews appear so novice.


  2. Kamil

    June 29, 2021 at 6:20 pm

    How dare you speak so poorly about the legend! His production never fell off, I would say, it got even more interesting. Mr Slow Flow provided some great lyrics as well. His true fans will enjoy and truly appreciate the record. This man has been in the game longer than I’m alive and I respect it. Go hype review some lil uzi vert and never speak about legends craft.


    • Winslow Simmons

      July 1, 2021 at 10:13 am

      Yeah I give this review a 40% lol


  3. Math

    July 1, 2021 at 3:57 am

    I think you miss a point.
    Evidence is great, everything he does this last 10 years is insane and unlearning vol.1 is crazy deep.
    He’s a lyrical wizard and has great poetry with superb vision of life.
    This project is magnificent with this intimate touch that music miss so much nowadays.
    Hope you listen it again and get what i mean because there’s some true gems on this project


  4. Mr Porter

    July 2, 2021 at 11:15 am

    I shall never revisit this site again. These new rap critics are straight garbage. If an artist don’t sound like Migos and every clone rapper that “raps” these days, they are garbage according to you. This album is a fucking new classic especially compared to said group and all of their acolytes that I just mentioned. Just stop reviewing real hip hop!!!! Name yourself bullshit rap critics. That is what you are best at. Fuck Spectrumculture!


  5. Joo

    July 2, 2021 at 11:34 am

    I can’t lie this album felt like he just putting stuff together he always has a guarantee banger at least one track that makes you goo ooooh weeee but this album sounded flat something wasn’t there


  6. Juice

    July 16, 2021 at 7:41 pm

    Crucify the “old head “ is your esthetic. This is one of his best produced works in years. Amazing production and sounds hungrier than he has in a while. Your “boomer double speak” is dedication to an art form. No “ flash “ means pure no gimmick reliance on song writing and dedication. No a very good review (full of hipster double speak).


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