There was a time that Jared Evan was considered a high priority artist by Jimmy Iovine, signed to Interscope Records via Polow Da Don’s Zone 4 imprint in 2009. After a mountain of money was poured into his development, some moderate success, a mixtape, a couple of singles and a few high profile tours later, label restrictions on his creativity choked the the singer, songwriter, rapper and producer and Evan departed the majors for a dose of fresh air and the chance to do things independently.
Finding himself during this time, he seems to have now unlocked his true musical potential. Moving more away from the rap pretty boy image Interscope tried to market him with, Evan’s recent material boasts copious amounts of heart, soul and a dash of rock – with love for bands such as the Beatles and Led Zeppelin – plus a generous helping of Hip-Hop.
Sitting down with SoulCulture, Jared Evan talks industry politics, musical growth and the creative process behind his recent collaborative effort with Statik Selektah, Boom Bap & Blues [read our review here]. The indie grind isn’t an easy one but, with hard work and determination, resetting the career clock isn’t always a bad move – or so Jared tells us…
“I’m independent now. I’m starting over again,” he states. “It’s hard for an 18/19-year-old kid to know what he stands for. I was just making music. I didn’t really know what I was trying to do.” Reflecting, Evan admits to his earlier material not being up to par. “The shit that I made on Interscope wasn’t good. You could tell that I was young and just starting out.
“I think the time that I spent on the label and everything I went through these past couple of years, it made me discover who I am. You can tell I’m way more cohesive with what I do now. What I do now is who I am…” he muses, identifying his mixtape The 4th Chapter as a turning point; “I think that project solidified my lane.”
Inspired by a broad spectrum of music, Jared states, “I’m a classic rock kid that fell in love with Hip-Hop, but I have been influenced by people like Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, and stuff like that. Soul music has a really big impact and influence in the music I make… I always try and make you feel something.”
So where did it all start for Evan? “My father put me onto classic rock when I was a young kid. He put me on to [bands like] Led Zeppelin and Steeley Dan,” he reminisces. “I think the fact that he showed me that early on in my life it allowed me to do some more exploring as I got older.” The resulting exploration led the young, musically inspired hopeful to pick up an instrument.
“I wanted to be a drummer,” he explains. “I basically grew up a drummer first before I started rapping, singing or producing. I had this dream of being in a rock band and playing the drums.” This dream would soon become a footnote in his story of musical progression; “As I grew older I started to experiment with other styles of music. Hip-Hop was one of them. I started to rap more. Then eventually I started to sing. I just kept doing it and doing it. It just kinda evolved in to what I do now.”
Like everyone who loves Hip-Hop culture, there’s always that story about the first time coming in to contact with rap music. For Jared Evan it had something to do with him being a bit of a misguided troublesome youth. “I got taken out of public school and sent to this school for troubled kids when I was like 11/12-years-old,” the now 23-year-old explains. “One of the kids I was really close with listened to a lot of Wu-Tang [Clan],” he recalls. “He actually played me a record called “Dog Shit” by ODB and I really liked that song so I wanted to see what the rest of the Wu-Tang was like.” He admits to illegally downloading, with the help of peer-to-peer file sharing site Kazaa, a music video that changed his life forever. “I downloaded the Wu-Tang video for “M.E.T.H.O.D Man” and just fell in love with it. I then just fell in love with the whole Hip-Hop [culture].”
His latest project, Boom Bap & Blues, was produced entirely by Massachusetts hailing DJ Statik Selektah. “His style of production is so polarizing from what I do musically, that when you put us together there’s something brand new,” Evans says of their chemistry in the studio. The two met a year ago when Evan was on the hunt for new producers to contribute to his The 4th Chapter mixtape, before Statik came up with the idea for Boom Bap & Blues. “He was like, ‘Let’s just make a whole project. Let’s just make a whole thing that’s cohesive’,” Jared recalls, “so we scrapped the idea of him contributing to The 4th Chapter and then we started working on a new project.”
Thinking back, the New Yorker reveals, “Not a lot of people know this, but originally we were gonna call Boom Bap & Blues [something else] – The Devil Wears Prada – and have the whole thing be about bitches and shit. We then kept making songs that sounded so Hip-Hop – they were so Boom Bappy and shit. [We] then came up with this idea to call it something else – it was actually Statik who came up with the idea of calling it Boom Bap & Blues.” He describes working with Statik as, “a super unexpected collaboration – because he’s always working with hardcore rappers, and people think I should be put with a poppy, Pharrell type of producer. I think the fact that me and him are unexpected is why it’s so good.”
Tapping into his keen interest in cinema, album track “Uma Thurman” takes inspiration from the character the actress plays in Kill Bill,” exploring “how really sexy hot girls have the power to do whatever they want.” He explains, “They’ll chop your head off metaphorically. They’ll break your heart and rip it out. They’ll do whatever they want.” Taking further inspiration from Quentin Tarantino, Evan’s album artwork was also a nod to the director’s work; “The album cover for Boom Bap & Blues is actually a play on Reservoir Dogs,” he adds. “If you’ve ever seen Reservoir Dogs, they’re all wearing black suits with slim ties. It’s very gory.”
Despite having been a major player at Interscope for just under two years, with Timbaland, Pharrell Williams and Game all declared fans, Evan’s rise to commercial success could be considered sluggish prior to his latest deal. “I think it’s hard when you make the kind of music I make,” Evan ponders. “It’s hard for that type of music to go viral because the stuff that usually goes viral is stupid and corny,” he says, laughing.
“I always say there’s two ways to blow up. The first way is for you to go viral, and the second way is for a record label to take you and give you the supplies needed to help spread you globally. I don’t think my music is corny or stupid, so it has a harder time… I just think it takes a little longer.”
Jared Evan’s album Boom Bap & Blues is available to purchase via iTunes.