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Cats and Dogs represents everything that’s good at the forefront of underground hip hop. It’s the second solo album from Evidence of the legendary Dilated Peoples; production comes from DJ Premier, Alchemist and DJ Babu and there are guest spots from Aloe Blacc, Raekwon, Slug, Aesop Rock, Roc Marciano and Prodigy. What more can you ask for than that? A dope MC backed by the some of the best talent in the scene. But despite all this, there’s something about Cats and Dogs that  leaves you wanting a little bit more.

That’s not to say it’s a bad record, far from it. It’s solid almost all the way through. Like Evidence said in a recent interview about Dilated Peoples’ body of work, there’s no way you could say it’s wack. But neither could you say that’s it’s amazing. The vast majority of the tracks are good, and occasionally, as in the case of “Late for the Sky,” very, very good.

Evidence’s flow is well, what we’ve come to expect from him: considered, measured stories told in his steady baritone. But multiple listens in, I still can’t recall a memorable line or witty couplet off the top of my head. The same with the beats. They’re solid beats that will get your head nodding when the record’s on, but like the rhymes, won’t leave much of an impression once the record stops. Most of them follow the same pace: majestic, stately, with soulful samples and hard-hitting drums. It’s a strong formula and it works. But it’s only when Evidence deviates from this pattern that he really shines on the uplifting “Late for the Sky” and “Same Folks.” This pair bounce in like a breath of fresh air, precisely because they’re lighter, more positive tracks, a burst of sunshine through the rainclouds if you like, which makes it a crying shame that “Same Folks” in particular has been relegated to bonus track status.

Having said that, that’s probably because it doesn’t quite fit into Cats and Dogs concept, of, well, it never rains but it pours. Its sacrifice is therefore understandable, if regrettable. It leaves us with an album that’s more consistent, but less surprising. Which brings us to the album’s flaw: it just doesn’t break any new ground. Evidence himself is aware of this (“I ain’t claimed to be a game changer”) and while finding your groove and producing more of the same quality that you’ve been good to enough to furnish the public with for the last ten years isn’t a bad thing, it just means we have a(nother) good album, not a great one.

In his autobiography Life, Keith Richards muses on why he still makes music in his old age and how people perceive his reasons for doing it, suggesting that most think he should just pack up and enjoy his retirement. But he carries on because despite the possibility of diminishing returns, being a musician means that you have to go on creating and making music because it’s what every part of your body and soul urges you to do.

It might be slightly strange to compare the relatively youthful Evidence with a true veteran of Richards’ age, but given the expiry date of most rappers’ careers today, rather than criticise Evidence for furnishing us with another solid album, perhaps we should simply celebrate the fact that one of hip hop’s relatively unsung warriors is still out there and doing his thing well. Cats and Dogs might not find Evidence a new audience, but it’ll no doubt delight the fans he already has. Either way, respect is due.

-Will Georgi

Comments

  • sstretch

    I don’t know about the reviewer, but this album was tight. should have gotten an 88, or 89 at least.

    check out the beats at http://www.soundcloud.com/sstretch68323

  • J.Lans

    This is one of the most solid releases of the year. The reviewer has no ear for this type of music and thus gives a subpar review.

  • Bill A

    I think the reviewer has a pretty good take on the album. First off, I’ve been an EV fan since the early Dilated records and have been excited to see the evolution of Evidence the artist. The Weatherman LP definitely established Evidence as a solo artist capable of great things with a bright future. So far, I’m slightly disappointed with Cats and Dogs–it’s not that it’s not another solid effort, I think part of it [for me] was that the album came up short of my expectations. Following all of the press leading up until the release, it’s obvious that EV is a well-spoken rapper trying to stand tear down the barriers between his artistic persona and his real self. This is definitely something I admire, it just feels so far that using the Weatherman LP as a benchmark, he didn’t deliver on this as much as I had hoped. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if repeated listens didn’t change my mind. The last track of the album, The Epilogue, has me eager to hear what’s next for Evidence. This track had me just as excited as the first time I heard I Know.

  • Sean

    Wow, this is a horrible review. “It just doesn’t break any new ground”?s The fuck? So every rap record that comes out has to be ground-breaking for people to care, right? FUCKOUTTAHERE. Dude said himself he ain’t trying to be a game-changer, hell I would hope not. Name a “game-changing/ground-breaking” rap album — not GOOD, not SOLID, but GAME CHANGING — in the past 10 years and “The Blueprint” is the only one that people can really say, save for maybe Kanye’s first two records and Outkast’s double LP as honorable mentions. That’s because it truly changed the game and broke new ground….great records have come and gone since Blueprint but did we dismiss them? Did we dismiss Thug Motivation, Game Theory or the Eminem Show? NO. But every artist that releases a non-ground-breaking record is just dismissed now? This is why J. Cole will never get big, not because he isn’t dope but because people like this reviewer were anticipating — for whatever reason — the second coming of Jesus H. Christ and instead got Joe Christ. WTF, sometimes people just want to hear Joe. And the people that make solid records shouldn’t be relegated to “meh it didn’t really amaze me” status. Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from an Evidence apologist and I personally think dude and the rest of DP are, at best, bland and, at worst, coasting off of reputation for the past decade but if he put together a solid project, give him that. Don’t backhand-compliment this brotha and others like him just because he didn’t turn bottled water into boxed wine. Shit!

    • klls

      word the fuck up!!!

  • http://soundcloud.com/juiceboxjackson juiceboxjackson

    You guys are acting like he gave the album a 50/100…this is why the rating system is so misleading and has the potential to confuse. I don’t think he said anything unfair about the album…it’s a completely enjoyable album and definitely one I think I will listen to years down the road. Maybe you outta nudge it 2-3 points higher for that but really, I think the review is pretty spot on.

  • http://gametheory4-20.tumblr.com 4:20

    the main question is did does this Will Georgi guy smoke weed? ’cause listening to this album while smoking a joint compared to bein sober there’s a big difference. Will i think you better listen to track #9 “James Hendrix” a few more times before you say there’s nothing groundbreaking on this lp, smoke somethin! peace

  • MT

    OKP needs to get reviewers who can actually write well. Trying to read this crap is hard on my eyes. Plus, this dude needs new ears because this album bangs through and through. Beats are dope, rhymes are solid and on point. I’d give this album a 90.

  • Eric Surnamer

    Mr Author – This is Evidence’s THIRD solo album, not his second. And your attempt to draw correlation between Keith Richards and Evidence falls short. In fact, it dilutes whatever your point is. The fact that you cant see this album to be the best foot forward by Evidence to date is beyond me.