Published Jan 21, 2014Brothers from another mother, Evidence and Alchemist grew up in this rap thing together, trading rhymes, swapping beats, sharing laughs and blunts and a passion for making dope ish. Both are accomplished L.A.-based artists whose indisputable catalogues include solo and group work; the friends' paths have crossed professionally several times. Evidence raps a little better than he produces; Alchemist's beats are more memorable than his verses.
But Lord Steppington by Step Brothers — yep, a handle jacked from the Will Ferrell comedy that used Dilated Peoples' "Live on Stage" in a memorable job interview scene — marks the duo's first full-length effort as a team.
As we chop it up with Ev and Al over the phone, the conversation flips between earnest and silly. Alchemist — the kind of guy who reupholsters his staircase with old Levis — seems to get a kick out of good-naturedly needling his questioner, and inside jokes abound. The dues have long been paid. It's playtime.
You guys have worked together before. How did you go from friends and collaborators to official group?
Evidence: Al and I never sat down together and decided to become a group. Basically, we just started featuring each other on a lot of records and instead of saying 'featuring Alchemist' or 'featuring Evidence,' we just put 'Stepbrothers' in parentheses. People asked for records, and we did more songs labeling it that. One day we looked at the iTunes and realized there was a lot of shit sitting in there.
So is this LP a collection of stuff recorded over the years or all new?
Alchemist: Pretty much all new shit. We got together in the studio, made sure the lighting was right. The lighting was important, very important. Various tones of light bring out various emotions. Channelling with the proper lighting is key. Smells and lighting. Smells. Smells. Like, you know how you hear some songs and your face might turn up like you're smelling bad poop? You get that lip, that Billy Idol, like ungh. You know that lip? I equal that to a bad smell. Smells are important.
It sounds like you're both having a little more fun on this project.
E: I'm just having fun because I'm so much taller than him. I get more bitches, people just gravitate to me to answer important questions faster, things like that.
And according to your lyrics, you've never been put in the friend zone.
E: I just don't get put in the friend zone. I get crazy pussy. Some people have to go through that shit, and I just never had to do it. If a chick is hanging out with me, I don't want to be friends all day. Experiencing pussy before rap — didn't need it.
Is that because you're a rap star or because you're charismatic?
E: I think it's… my parents are from Brooklyn.
What's it like producing for another producer who just happens to rap?
E: It sucks. I only got one track on the album, that's how dope he is. Al is ill on the production tip; it's hard to fuck with him. I love my beats, I love what I do, but he was the sound shaper of the record, and I had to fit in that sound and that shape. I wasn't good at geometry, so it didn't work out. Awesome. I got one track. So I'm not producing for another rapper; I'm being produced.
How would you describe the lyrical direction of Lord Steppington?
E: I had my Dilated shit, which was in the early 2000s, a more guarded era, where I wasn't smiling in pictures so much. I didn't really want to tell you who I was. I just wanted the music to be ill, like a graffiti writer's ill. You just look at the work, and you like it. You don't have to know everything about the person doing it. Then I started doing solo records, and I let fans know more about who I was as a person. I went through ups and downs. I talked about my mom passing away, money, all kinds of shit. I became an open book for a while. So for this, it's just fun for me not to have to do all of that. As an artist, it's rewarding to get love from people who understand where you're coming from on the personal shit, and it's a step up artistically, but I don't want to keep talking about depressing shit all the time. I'm a happy person. I'm not that dude. So having a record like this is a huge relief for me. If I want to spit eight bars, that's done. Twenty-four? Fine. Song is six minutes? Awesome. Song is two minutes? Awesome. You love it? That's incredible. You don't like it? I get it. There's nothing here that's like anything I've done. This is me working with a person I enjoy and look up to. Hopefully it lives and has a campaign.
And you created the whole album in-person. No e-mailed verses, even from the guests.
E: That was the illest shit. For me to go on tour and Styles P came on the bus. Nobody mailed shit. Everybody was in-person.
A: It's unique in 2017. It's crazy. Do you feel it? Did you feel that in the deep girth of the vocals? They were here. They were here. Do you smell it? Smelling is a version of feeling. That's way the nose feels.
The guest list is impressive. Which studio session was the most memorable?
A: Anything with Blu. He's great. He's an awesome talent. It's always an interesting studio session when he comes through.
E: Like the mind of Minolta.
A: Did you ever use a Minolta camera? How about Polaroid? I'm actually looking for a good Polaroid so I can shoot old-school photos. Did you really listen to the album?
Yes. A highlight was the return of your kiddie group, Whooliganz. Did you have to convince actor Scott Caan to rhyme again, or has he always been dabbling with it?
A: I was going to apologize for me rapping on an album full of rap. It's kind of a midlife crisis, revisiting my youth. Scott got busy on the album, though. He was dibbling for a while. Then he came over, and we were like, "Yo, you should just dabble with it." So he dibbled and dabbled and shit came out hot. Fuckin' killed everybody. What the hell is going on here? Actually, nah, that's one of my favourite Ev verses on the album. He didn't body Ev, but he did his goddamn thing, man. He's great. He's amazing.
E: And we recorded that near Stonehenge on a moving bus. So it wasn't in a studio, but we were together. Some people wait for the bus to stop to record; he did not. He rapped while the bus was rolling.
A: You can hear in the background, it sounds like reverb, but it's actually just the bus. With this rap shit, you don't really notice it, because it's rap. You blend it all together.
I was actually at the Soul Assassins tour when you and Scott opened up for House of Pain and Cypress Hill. What are your fondest memories from that tour?
A: I apologize if you were at that tour. It was dope. I was 15, smoking bong hits until 10 o'clock in the morning — sorry, Mom. Fifteen, wild, it was great. At the time, those guys were as big as you can be. I didn't have a physical sexual altercation that whole tour, I was so young. I had groupies but didn't know how to flip it — I was 15. It was pretty crazy seeing that shit at an early age, but it kinda fucked me up: How do you go back to school after that?
E: Do you like fun facts?
E: I was on that tour with them, just smoking weed.
A: Which city were you at?
The Toronto stop.
A: I remember that day. These old dudes came up on the Cypress Hill tour bus with 10-speeds and the craziest weed. They saved us on that leg of the tour. It was a hockey arena, right? How about this? The fuckin' ushers at that show wore Soul Assassins vests, and I still have one. Has the Soul Assassins insignia on it. That's a fun fact.
So will that old Whooliganz album that got shelved ever see the light of day?
A: There's been talks, ideas. Talks and ideas. I was actually decent [at rapping] then. I was way better then.
E: He was the illest rapper out of all of us — it was crazy. What happened?
Do either of you remember your very first rap?
E: No, but it probably had something to do with positivity.
A: Everyone's first rhyme was positive. On a positive vibe.
E: It would be the equivalent of turnt up now — positive. Positive jams. Then you smoked weed and became losers.
A: You got all cynical and shit.
E: It was fun. It was positive.
Dilated's "Live on Stage" (produced by Alchemist) plays in Will Ferrell's Step Brothers. That's why you named the group that, right?
E: I had seen the movie prior to it coming out and thought, "This idea's gold." We thought we were going to be on it, right away.
A: There's another Step Brothers out there. So peace to Don Trip and Starlito — they're also Step Brothers.
E: I like them. We don't have beef. I watched their Vlad interview — they're dope. We're like the white version. It's not a competition.
A: It's a collective. I've never even seen the movie Step Brothers.
E: I was at the screening to hear the music in the shit. That's how excited I was.
What kind of cheque did you receive for having your song used in a blockbuster film?
E: A lucrative one.
A: One that makes you say, "Maybe we should call our group this." We might flip to the Anchormen after this interview, because the timing is better. Ride that wave a little bit.
What would you like to do that you haven't done yet?
E: I'd like to go zip-lining in South America somewhere.
A: I'd like to do crack or heroin without it affecting me. Just one time but not get affected. Hit the pipe once, blow it out. Okay, that's what it is. And not get hooked. That'd be tight.
The "Step Masters" video is fun. Did you actually compete in all those silly contests?
E: We actually did those contests.
How competitive are you with each other?
E: We're just friends. I can't keep up with him. Alchemist got bored with all the jeans he had. He was sick of wearing them one time and cut them up and made them into the upholstery for his stairs. So you're walking up the stairs stepping on 501 denim. The execution was kinda ill.
What made you do that, Al?
A: Lack of weed and something to do. It's all a legend anyway. All a legend. Like the couch I made out of Air Jordans. You got any Air Jordans, man? How many Air Jordans you got? A man is measured by the amount of Air Jordans he got.
Zero, sadly. More of an Air Force 1 guy.
E: Air Force 1s. I'm waiting for those to come back around. All it takes is for one rapper to wear them again.
A: So… do you like having sex? Just in general. I'm doing a poll. Do you like turning up? Do you enjoy smoking weed?
So, what other projects do you guys have coming out?
E: Dilated Peoples next, on Rhymesayers. Then the next Evidence solo. And then I'm going to reassess my life.
A: Various sneak-diss projects that I can't really comment on because it would be like a sneak diss. I have a lot of shit coming — crazy, mad, wild shit coming out. Oh, my God. I get fuckin' crazy thinking about it. You got me worked up just thinking about it. I don't know what to do with myself now. I'm coming out with a lot of shit next year. I got a lot of shit in this computer. I should just turn it upside down and shake everything out of it.
What keeps you so inspired after years of pumping out beats and rhymes?
E: It's not work. Love, passion.
A: There's too much good shit out there, man. There's too much people that are dope. Fuck that. I want to be dope too. Can I be dope? Can I too?
E: Uh… nah, I was going to say something but it sounds fucked up and cliché. But you can just imagine what I was going to say.
E: When you're young, you think, "I don't want to make pop music. I want to have a career like Gang Starr. I want to do this or do that." Secretly you're willing that into reality, whether you realize it or not. So ten years, 15 years later, here we are with a career. I'm not saying we're on the same level as Gang Starr, but you get what you ask for. It's like when you're going to the red light district and you want a blonde, you pick that — and you get what you ask for. In that scenario, you get what you ask for. Real shit.
Anything else you want to let the people know?
E: The album is velvet. Fake velvet, but it's a velvet-like material. I think we have the first velvet rap album in history.
A: It was inspired by Coming to America when they go into the barbershop, and the old man was like, "This is beautiful. What is this? Velvet? Is this velvet?" So think of that scene when you touch the plushness.
E: It's pretty ill. So thank the people at Def Jam — they killed it.
A: The actual CD is velvet. It's crazy. No, it is velvet. Ask Rhymesayers — it is velvet. Hey, you got Instagram? You got any pictures of food you ate recently. Furry things? Dogs, cats, animals? Anything interesting?
I do have it, but don't take too many photos.
A: Have you ever been to an Instameet? It's creepy. I hate everything about that. When Ev shows up, it's like Stevie Wonder showed up at a concert. They fuckin' roll out the Instacarpet for him. Ev's big on Instagram.
E: This has been ill.
A: He's the man.
E: Have sex, smoke weed.
A: Enjoy those things when you get them… Toronto, we'll be there soon.