Sampling The Beatles for the purposes of hip-hop sounds like a great idea. If you listen closely to something like Sgt. Pepper’s, you’ll find some amazingly raw beats. Their music is so transcendent and hip-hop is so nimble in its ability to absorb musical influences from any genre, it seems like a perfect marriage.
Perhaps this is why Danger Mouse’s mash-up of Jay-Z’s Black Album and The Beatles White Album—The Grey Album—is considered by many to be so brilliant. This reviewer, however, thought it was inexplicably overrated—a disservice to both artists. It made the excellent Black Album worse and did nothing to highlight the greatness of the White Album. Danger Mouse chopped up The Beatles’ samples to the point they were unrecognizable. He could have been borrowing from anything, so what was the point?
Evidence’s I Don’t Need Love EP, produced by Twiz the Beat Pro, is much better. Evidence, a veteran MC and member of the longtime California group Dilated Peoples, seamlessly blends the sounds of the Fab Four with solid hip-hop beats and rhymes on the accidentally leaked release that was at least partially intended to be part of an upcoming Evidence solo project, Cats & Dogs. On I Don’t Need Love, he’s doing much more than jacking Beatles’ tracks and rhyming over them while at the same time leaving enough of their imprint on the songs. You recognize the samples, but maybe can’t place them right away.
Beatles’ songs like “Here Comes the Sun,” “Come Together,” and a “A Day in the Life” are used as lush sonic backdrops on “Think’n Bout Thinking” featuring Fashawn, “Frame of Mind” and “Lines of Cocaine,” respectively.
When other bands try to cover the Beatles, it often feels like why are they even bothering. But it’s a testament to I Don’t Need Love that you can listen to the Beatles’ “Because” off their Abbey Road album and Evidence’s “Because” back-to-back and appreciate them both on their own terms.
If you’re not that familiar with The Beatles’ catalog, it might be informative to listen to Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper’s either before or after this EP. Those LPs seem to be from where Evidence is drawing much of his inspiration.
I Don’t Need Love’s low point lyrically is “Egg Men (StepBrothers),” another painfully tired hip-hop ode to weed. The subject matter, which at this point is about the furthest thing from interesting, takes away from another nice turn musically. It is funny, though, to hear Paul McCartney refer to a joint as an “herbal jazz cigarette.”
Conversely, the EP closes out with a hidden bonus track sampling “Hey Jude,” with Ev very humorously offering up a recession-era anthem about “Paying Off My Debts”:
“I put some paper in a bullshit stock/a year later tried to slang my watch/I bought a crib in the shitty side of town/interest only, no money down/it looked nice, but really a façade/tried to grow some pot, burned down the garage/drove to Vegas with dreams of being large/got caught counting cards at The Mirage.”
The potential for incredible hip-hop being drawn out of Beatles’ tunes has still not been entirely tapped. With all the brilliant beatsmiths in hip-hop and all the brilliance in the legendary group’s music, the concept still hasn’t quite peaked (though, as mentioned above, many would swear by The Grey Album). Hip-hop has certainly mastered wringing every last drop of flavor out of the dusty old soul archives, so maybe tapping groups like The Beatles is another creative trove that has some buried treasures. I Don’t Need Love is a fresh example.
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