Tupac was right, Cali’s not just sun and switches. Though Evidence might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of West Coast hip hop, him and his group Dilated Peoples have been showing the game the true meaning of longevity. With a cult following and four LPs under their belt, the crew has been spreading California love for a minute.

Stepping out of the fold for his solo endeavor last year, the well received The Weatherman, the crew’s lead MC is now making a name for himself without his Dilated brethren, Rakaa aka Iriscience. Having dropped his first ever mixtape recently in preparation for The Layover EP, Mr. Slow Flow is going hard to the paint and is determined to score with his latest offering.

XXLmag.com caught up with the Grammy-award winning MC and producer to discuss beats, why he doesn’t sweat the mainstream and his new group with The Alchemist.

XXLMag.com: You’re a member of one of the most respected crews in hip-hop. Now that you’re a solo artist, do you feel that you’re getting the same respect and look that you deserve, having put in so much work with Dilated?

Evidence: I know I will, I’ve seen people do it, it just takes time. I remember when Everlast was like ‘Yo, I’m gonna sing’ and then like a little while later he’s six times platinum and Grammys and Carlos Santana songs. I’ve called people crazy before like, ‘Oh, you’re doing that? Goodbye. But they’ve proved me wrong. I always tell people, you can never measure somebody’s determination. You have to make people believe it and believe you. I’ve done a lot with Dilated, I’m just not congratulating myself for that right now.

XXL: You just released The Layover, which is an EP. Why was this the right time to put out new material for you, with your Cats and Dogs album slated to release early next year?

Ev: The original concept just came from wanting to put something out to literally and figuratively hold people over until the next release. And I spoke with my manager like ‘Yo, I’m doing a lot right now, you need to step your game up’ type of thing. We were having like a heart to heart. I was like, ‘There’s a lot of kids on the net right now that I can fly them in here, put them in my garage and they’d be interning, outdoing you 2 to 1.’ I was just trying to spark something. And he was like ‘Cool, I respect that, but you know what, you need to step your game up right now.’ And it took me by complete surprise ‘cause since I dropped my solo [debut] I been touring non-stop and had a lot of things connecting. And he was like, ‘That’s good, but your album came out March of ’07. There’s kids who’re killing it right now putting out things 2 and 3 times a day. What are you doing? You need to be recording everyday.’ And from then we were just on to something.

XXL: A lot of rappers undergo image changes but you’ve pretty much remained the same ‘ole G. Do you ever feel like you’re unfairly relegated to just strictly being a part of that underground or backpack rap scene ?

Ev: That’s cool. Put it where you want to put it. Everyone has to have their spin on it. I’ve actually been doing something called Prog-Hop lately. Me and Alchemist were talking about progressive rock, which is something we’ve been sampling a lot of lately. The records we listen to for inspiration are these prog-rock records. Backpack, you can call me that, I don’t know if I necessarily agree with it, underground definitely, but this Prog-Hop, progressive hip-hop, we’re doing some shit like that. People are starting to put it in their iPods as a new genre so you can say that if you like.

XXL: Prog-hop huh? You seem to be going left while everyone else goes right. Do you pay attention to the mainstream stuff at all ?

Ev: I was just a guest judge on "106 and Park" and I didn’t know the majority of the videos for the whole time I was sitting there. So I’m sitting there clapping and kids are going crazy and I’m like, ‘I don’t know this one, I don’t know that one.’[laughs] I think there’s a point where you outgrow that. It's like if you’re 31 like I am, and you’re rushing home [to watch videos], there’s more so something wrong with you. I’m not trying to relive my childhood everyday and have to know how to do the new dance or whatever. I’m in a position where [my music] is relevant to my life and where I am right now.

XXL: In addition to The Layover, you got another project dropping called The Purple Tape Instrumentals. What’s good with that?

Ev: I put out one on 2004 called Yellow Tape Instrumentals, then after that Red Tape Instrumentals and I’m just getting around to this one. They’ve always been kinda like my “B-list beats” or beats from songs that people would ask for just the instrumental of. It's not what I would call my best beats, stuff I didn’t try that hard on, but sometimes when you don’t try those are the ones that the people like the most. And sometimes when you try, and think this is it… But it’s a lot of clean beats, bumping, feel free to do mixtapes with them or do whatever.

XXL: So what’s next for you?

Ev: Me and Alchemist are a new group called Step Brothers. People have been waiting for us to do something together for a long time. There’s a song on The Layover called “So Fresh” and that’s kind of like the world premiere of the group. So definitely check for that album as well, coming soon. -Anthony Roberts