There is something to be said for artists who find a balance between the left and right brain, learning to hone and deliver outrageous creativity with the rhythm and urgency of a Type-A CEO. Ohio emcee (among a long list of other crafts), Aaron Evans, has learned this delicate balance, and is now bearing the fruit of such in unexpected ways. Aaron Evans has been consistently utilizing his innate creativity to build a community of like-minded individuals beyond a decade and has a rather impressive list of accomplishments to prove it – which you can read up on HERE. As Evans has built this community, let’s call it his FAM, he has not only used his gifts to promote his own art, but has also linked up with artists like SD’s Generik and Gill Sotu. Recently his relationships with both of these artists have combined and the momentum of all three artists is reaching a critical mass, carrying their message(s) into the ears and hearts of a growing number of listeners. The recent release of Gill Sotu’s MOVEMENT inspired a friend of Evans’ to post Aaron Evans’ Trolley Show music video for We All Work feat. Generik on reddit.com, which turned the year(ish)-old video viral; the video’s popularity landed it on ABC’s RightThisMinute.
As Aaron Evans and his FAM earn the ears and hearts of an ever widening circle, he recognizes the importance of pouncing on an opportunity that many will never see and the following words are what’s on his mind right this minute:
I always like to allow an artist to define who he/she is before and questions are asked, creating a context for understanding the answers that follow. So, who is Aaron Evans?
I’m an unimaginable crazy artistic madman, a delusional dreamer. I’m a emcee, author, producer, director, designer, photographer and untamable thinker. (I crochet too.) I stay in a state of constant creation. I’m a beautiful disaster, with a bounty of blessing and a troth of adversity. I see my art as a form of activism to unite people. I’m a truth seeker, and just like every other brilliantly haunted artist, I make art because I have to, it’s the only way I can make sense of our fucked up world. Without creative expression I’d probably still be shacked up in a padded room praying for a reprieve from my own insanity.
But more than that, I’m just Aaron. In a day-to-day sense, I’m still pretty “abstract”, but it’s very important to live by the mid-western manners and values my family raised me by. I aim to be a good neighbor, friend, companion, and community member. I’m a rebel, but I don’t think that means having to act like an asshole in my everyday life, or that I can’t contribute to bettering the lives of those that surround me. In fact I think it even more important to open doors for old ladies, lend a hand by jumping some one’s car, having an all-night conversation with a friend with a broken heart, genuinely talking to the baristas that I get my coffee from daily, etc. I love to break stereotypes, and so I never give anyone a box to put me in.
Bottom line, I’m out to change the world. I make no apologies about that. With every piece of art I aim to lend a hand to that effort. We live in an era of great darkness and I plan to use every breath in my chest to spread light. Be it as a rapper, through a religion or a corporation or a political agenda. If your motives are selfish, suppressive of the peoples right to freedom and truth, or void of any more value, you’re in my artistic crosshairs!
*If you really want to figure me out just visit my website www.aaronevansimagination.com often. I constantly update it and it will link you to all my social media outlets where I often rant about a million random things. (It’s also a great place to pick up my music. Wink, Wink…)
A great point of departure, or arrival depending on your perspective, for a brief journey through the mind of Aaron Evans is the current success of your San Diego trolley performance video on YouTube. Can you break down the philosophy you hold which inspired the creation of “We All Work”?
In a simple sense, my philosophy is just that. We All Work. There’s 7 billion dreams in our world and infinite ways to reach them. The common factor found in those of us who achieve them is that we work our fucking assess off. We all have something dear to our heart that we work for. Relationships take work. Recovering from mental, physical or emotional injury takes work. Reforming polices takes work. Art takes work. Going to a 9-5 job to support a family takes work. Answering interview questions takes work.
To me, life is work. Inaction, apathy and laziness are a form of the emotionally walking dead. That doesn’t mean that, often times, working isn’t rip your hair out hard, illogically frustrating and downright draining on one’s eternal spirit. And I guess that’s why I made this song, to remind myself, and everyone else, “to keep sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.” It’s not always easy. For every gift the universe has given me, it’s given me two obstacles to overcome. I think that’s something most of us can relate to. The success of We All Work feels like jumping a football field sized obstacle in a single leap; still I know more are bound to come soon enough.
It’s only made me more aware that I’m in the hunt of my life, and my senses are keener than ever.
To what do you attribute such an eager viewership of the “We All Work” video?
It’s just raw, real, Hip Hop, and to top it off, it oozes with positivity. People are sick of negative, degrading Hip Hop. They’re craving something uplifting. Most mainstream rap, is just pop music now a days. And pop music has always lacked soul. It’s almost as if people are just trying to see who can make the biggest clown out of themselves while regurgitating nonsense. My music is the antithesis of that. Every word I write is straight from my heart and aimed right at yours.
That night on that trolley, I opened my heart, Generik opened his heart, the people opened their hearts, and we all got free. And that’s what music and art is truly meant to do, set you free.
The Trolley Show team – Nate Elegino, Ryan Washburn, John Ramsey, Jermaine Jackson and Rob Knauf really – did a superb job of capturing and editing the video to really relay what happened that night. The people may have gotten free, but we had to win them over first in order to be able to take them there. And that’s what the real allure is. For a 4 min video it tells quite a story. Rowlberto Productions really has a good thing building with A Trolly Show and I encourage readers to check out their other work. The Silent Comedy, Todo Mundo and Allen Stone are a few of my favorites.
SAC truly hopes that Aaron Evans and his entire FAM finds an even greater sphere of influence in the wake of “We All Work”’s success – let’s take for granted this IS happening, where would you point fans, new and old, to dig into your catalogue and get to know you?
The best place to keep track of the many mediums I practice is my website. www.aaronevansimagination.com I have all my previous videos, albums and articles posted, as well as upcoming shows and public appearances. I’m really proud of my videos for “I’ve Been Blessed” and “Look At Califorina” (Feat. Sojourn, Real J Wallace and Beatsmith Resit.) and would love for people to check those out in the wake of all this.
AND, I just released a new album MOVEMENT with Gill Sotu a Soul Singer/Poet who is just incredible talented. I only appear vocally on two songs but did all the tracks, handled the design and Executively Produced the album. It’s chock-full of talented guests such as Kevin Sandbloom, Peach, Deacon Blair, Jerrica Escoto, and Alyssa Earley and just has an overall feel-good vibe.
Beyond that, make sure to add me on your preferred social network sites which are listed below. And MAKE SURE TO SPREAD THE MUSIC!!! Word of mouth is any artist’s best friend – you all have no idea how important it is and how much it means to me.
As I have observed, lifted my fist in support of your movement at live shows and at home and have dug into your catalogue myself, I can’t help but perceive a deep sense of purpose and an unusual rootedness in your music. Where does this intense focus come from as much of hip hop (or rap for those looking to mince my words) has succumbed to lazy, superficial musing?
Really, the answer to that would take a book, which I plan to start scripting soon. So I’ll keep this answer short.
I’ve always felt like I had some greater purpose. I’ve never lacked confidence and when I was younger let it become cockiness far to often. But I’m 33 now. I’ve grown up.
All I know is I’ve been threw way to much drama in my life to not have a purpose. I wouldn’t be tested so much, be on the edge of death so often, watch the people I love suffer through so much unless there’s a deeper purpose. Shit, just in the last 9 months I’ve been through 2 surgeries and a brief period of homelessness just to get back on stage, then 2 days later We All Work goes super viral due to a random post on REDDIT from a neighbor of mine who came to [the Gill Sotu] show and was inspired by my performance. That just seems like destiny to me.
That said, I’ve always also felt that I would work tirelessly until my work is done and then quickly die. Every breath is a blessing and I try to do as much with each one as I can; I’ve learned never to take life for granted.
You have built a name for yourself in the underground scene and have two “homes” so to speak. Thoughts on Columbus and San Diego hip hop scenes – not as much comparing as just sharing your observations of and contributions to each.
They’re both stacked full of talent but both are starkly different. It’s just two completely opposite worlds. I can say with certainty, each has really played a vital role in my growth and development as an artist.
The biggest difference is how each scene has come up. Columbus really came up on the strength of it’s emcee’s and producers. RJD2, Blueprint, Illogic, Camu (RIP), Copy all blew up really young. Like when we where 18-19 years old. Shit, just at my high school we had Rashad, Fly Union, Tage, Illogic and Me. I mean, Rashad was flying out to New York freshman year. That’s just not normal and equally unusual is the insane amount of successfully national acts all from the same graduating class. Columbus had lots of other really dope artists in the 3 other elements, but it wasn’t until a bit later that they started making nationally recognized moves.
Here in San Diego things seemed to happen in reverse. The B-Boy, Graffiti and DJ elements really made the major moves young. Freestlye Sessions, Tribal, Wild Style Technicians, No Sucker DJ’s, The Armory seemed to make the most noise outside the city. The last few years the Emcee’s and Producers here are just really starting to put their aspect of the scene on the map.
At the end of the day, San Diego and Columbus couldn’t be more different on more levels far beyond Hip Hop. That’s made studying and dissecting the growth and development of all that more fascinating and at the same time all that more challenging.
Can you share a little about your recent injury, your recovery and how both have impacted your music? Do you find that your music, “We All Work” for example, serves almost as a sort of soul-medicine as you experience adversity?
My music does more to heal my soul than I could ever put into words. As I said, without art I’d probably be locked up somewhere in a straight jacket. When I step on stage my spirit gets absolutely free more than any other time in life because I believe it’s a performer’s duty to get the crowd free also. But if you can’t release yourself in the moment there’s no chance anyone in the crowd will ascend to that peak.
In the last year I lost my Grandmother who was my best friend and endured the same surgery twice. Art really was my light at the end of the tunnel. I find it beautiful that 2 days after my return show all this viral viscosity happened. Even more fitting is that it was the song We All Work that’s been my sole focus leading up to my comeback. Beyond the creative and business work, I have to stay in shape for my shows. By the week before my return I was riding my bike 8 miles a day and doing yoga 3 times a week. It just has to be done or else I can’t make it through my set. I’m way too wild on stage to not prepare to release that kind of energy.
I have intentionally held this question off until the end of this interview, but feel now is the time: who are some artists (spanning all mediums/genres) who have most impact fully helped to shape the man and the artist Aaron Evans?
Everyone!!! I love it or hate it all art fuels me. I’m more or less addicted to art.
Great art pushes me to always strive for new heights of creative expression. It’s reminds me that I’m just one genius in a vast sea of brilliant minds. Many innovations have come before me and many will come after so I am able to appreciate my role and part in that lineage. I have a line where I say “keep in mind the flame is eternal, the barrier is finite, therefore we all must take our turn to carry forth the light.” I think that line applies to all knowledge, be it creative or philosophical.
Bad art teaches me what not to do and stirs the fire inside to stay sharp and on top of my game.
NO ARTIST, no matter how talented, is above being humbled by the universe (I know this first hand.). Often, art that I hate comes from someone whose art I once loved. Sometimes the skill set is super fresh, but the message is hollow, which is a huge turn-off for me. Sometimes, bad art is so uninspired, that it absolutely pisses me off to a point of rage. But from the rage great things can be born. That’s where my new “Becoming A King” series came from. Pure rage. Rage at the senseless lyrics & messages being feed to the masses by Hip Hop and Pop music in the modern era. I’m fighting on the side of an army out to take art back from these negative entities and the response to We All Work and my other music, as well as artists like Macklemore breaking through, tells me the tide is turning in our favor.
But, I guess the art that most inspires me is the art I’m surrounded by everyday in my house. I have pieces hanging from many well-respected artists and friends such as Arek (Who did the art for Becoming A King), Andrew Kern, Stacks Malone, Konstant Be, Lalo, Eyemax 3D, Michael Webster, Bobby Sehgal and many others’ fresh pieces I’ve acquired along life’s journey. It’s like a street-art museum in here.
I also cover the American Glass Blowing Culture in a series titled Perpetual Motion for SKUNK Magazine (The second largest GREEN publication in the world). The last few years those deviants have really kept me focused and driven. One thing I like about the glass culture is that it’s constantly re-upping its bar. You can never rest on what was dope last year or month or really even last week because someone is doing something fresh and new right now that’s just mind-boggling. Thus far, I’ve already covered many of my favorite artists and enjoy being surrounded by their energy. I have pieces from J.A.G., Slinger, Chad G, DWreck, Laceface, Ryno, Sokol, CREEP, Shipwreck, Liberty Glass, J.O.P. and several others. I even have a memorial pipe for my Grandma B (Aka The Rock from my F.A.M. Ablum) that actually arrived the day the video blew up. It was uniquely special to get her tribute piece the same day. It’s for an upcoming article on Shipwreck, Dwreck and Luke Willson.
So yeah, the list is endless, Miles Davis, Jimmy, Bob, Portishead, Cee Lo, Aesop, The Beat Poets, Architecture both ancient and modern. Buskers, leaf weavers, tattoo artist, I watch at least 2 documentary’s a day, and I guess the ultimate answer is Life.
I see creation and design in everything. Be it the angle and length of the prong of a fork, to the same attributes in a blade of grass. From the Great Wall of China to The Grand Canyon. From the way a tree’s branches twist and wind to the way some rock a fill on wild style graffiti. It’s all art – some natural, some man made. But it’s all art, and it all inspires me.
Now that there is a great deal of attention on you, I imagine your next move will be as purposeful as, if not even more than, each of your previous maneuverings. Where can we expect next from Aaron Evans?
September 3rd I’ll be launching my new 6-part video series “Becoming A King,” in which I become a living, breathing piece of art in the form of a Graffiti Lion. There will be 3 albums accompanying it, with 2 videos from each album. Parts one (Final Days) and two (Roar) which will both be released on the 3rd and are from a project titled “A Line In The Sand”. It’s pretty much just that, a line in the sand between me and the negative entities I’ve mentioned above.
Part three (Stronger) and four (If The World’s About To End) are from a album called “Beautiful Disaster” which share a lot of my mental unrest and hard work toward overcoming that obstacle. It has a lot of stories on it both from myself and things I made up in my mind. This will begin to more directly confront the ideas in our world that are poisoning us and at that same time moves in a more mainstream direction. All the beats are made by San Diego master producer Mr. Ridley who is a fellow madman who makes nothing but bangers.
The final chapter is an ablum I’ve been working on for years, and plan to spend the next 12 months finishing up, which is called “Who’s The King Of The Jungle”. This will find me at the end of my journey. I’ve yet to decide what part five will be as I may want to address new topics that arise during this adventure; I can tell you that part six, the final installment, is the title track from the album, and will leave people speechless. This is my masterpiece and I’m out to prove once and for all that THIS LION is the King Of The Jungle. I’ve never lacked confidence and this is my greatest project to date. People will want to make sure to visit www.youtube.com/aaronevanstv on sep. 3rd to see the epic start to this quest.
I’ve had this in the works for years but it’s pretty wild how it all lined up at the same time. I hope it doesn’t come off as conceited after all this press, but I’m ready to rumble. I’m down to go set for set with any musician in the world and I guarantee noone will bring more passion to the stage than me. Like I said, I want to change that world; change only happens with unapologetic passion.
Last thoughts, concerns, words for hip hop culture?
We are RISING,
We are ONE!!!
A special SAC thanks to Aaron Evans for reaching out to us – reminding us that local artists truly appreciate and need one another.
Peace and Love,
*all responses to the questions above remain the sole property of Aaron Evans. Photos provided by Aaron Evans as well.