While Q-Tip and Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest continue their 20-year tradition of bickering like an old married couple, and Posdnuos and Dave of De La Soul quietly separate themselves from third plug Maseo and pursue their arguably ill-conceived concept project, First Serve, two members of the illustrious Native Tongues collective are actually stepping past petty differences and working together to move their historic crew’s legacy forward.
Dres of Black Sheep and Jarobi of A Tribe Called Quest have joined forces as evitaN (Native spelled backwards) to show that men of a certain age can still rip it and that the Native Tongues need to once again be officially reinstated. Speed Of Life (dropping digitally June 26th) will hopefully do the aforementioned as well as leave millions of Hip Hop listeners’ jaws dropped upon hearing the formal rhyming debut of Tribe’s longtime non-rapping fourth member, who arguably outshines his Black Sheep partner.
With a bevy of recordings so strong recently released buzz cuts – “Who Is This,” “The 3 Kings” featuring Sadat X, “P.T.I.” and “Give It To Me” – will not make the cut to the album’s final tracklisting, Dres and Jarobi’s debut as a duo (alongside additional appearances from Rah Digga, Havoc of Mobb Deep, Homeboy Sandman, and the esteemed Dean of Funk University, Bootsy Collins) is shaping up to be the type of crew project long starved Native fans have been hungering for.
HipHopDX caught up with Dres and Jarobi late yesterday (May 30th), right before an evening studio session, to chop it up about their new union. Jarobi (who was coming from his day gig as a Chef serving up pan-European cuisine at August restaurant in New York City’s West Village) and Dres (who surely spent a good portion of his day teaching his toddler-age son how to grip a mic properly – as seen at the end of this clip) got on some grown-man discussion with DX about their evolution into evitaN, Chi-Ali’s plans as a soon-to-be free man, and just what all of it means for the greatest group of groups in Hip Hop history.
HipHopDX: I gotta jump things off by asking you Jarobi about your progression as an emcee. ‘Cause that guy on that demo version of “Scenario” and that guy rippin’ it on “Give It To Me” ain’t the same guy.
DX: [Laughs] So what happened, man, to get you to this point?
Jarobi: Dres. I can’t say that I’ve been rhyming the whole way through [the last 20 years] because I haven’t been. I’m not gonna lie to you, I started to do a project in like ’96 but besides then I hadn’t really touched a pen until September of last year.
And, I don’t know, [those new rhymes are] just where my mind is at. Like, I didn’t know what I was gonna do when I came in here [to the studio], and this is the stuff that came out.
DX: Now, Dres, you told SOHH, “Jarobi might wind up being the dopest emcee in A Tribe Called Quest.” Better than Q-Tip? You ready to call it?
Dres: I mean, granted, the body of work isn’t as extensive, but this is my word, I think if you take two debuts and put them next to each other, he’s clearly in front of him.
And I think given the opportunity to amass a similar amount of work – and we’re talking strictly lyrically, strictly as an emcee – I think that it would definitely be in the eye of the beholder, it would definitely be up to the consumer to judge for themselves. But me personally, I think Jarobi has something that I think neither Tip nor Phife [Dawg] possess.
And don’t get it twisted, they’re incredible emcees, and dope brothers – Those are my brothers [and so] I’m saying this internally as it relates to family. But at the end of the day, in Michael Jordan’s family it was his brothers and him. And though we might not of seen his brother play, he was able to call if for what he felt it to be. And, I’m calling it for what I see it to be. I would see it, as far as a debut goes, Jarobi is literally light years ahead of them.
And given the opportunity I think he’ll be able to surpass the great feats that they’ve accomplished lyrically. I think he’s an incredible emcee. He’s massively intelligent, which is one of the reasons why I even asked him to do the project. I’ve known Jarobi for a long time and he’s always been a sharp brother, always. He’s an intricate brother. And he’s a thinker. He thinks about what he says before he speaks. And having been on stage for 20 years, I knew he had to be soulful. So it felt like a no-brainer to me. And [that intuition] proved to be 110% correct.
DX: I don’t wanna rehash too much history, but I gotta ask you Jarobi, can you clarify once and forever whether you voluntarily had your slated verses for The Low End Theory cut or if Tip pulled ‘em off the album and that’s what made you bounce?
Jarobi: That’s what people think; people think stuff like that? No, I voluntarily left. And, I can’t even really say that I left, I just kinda like took a back seat – like, way, way, way in the back.
It was never a situation like, “You’re out the group.” Or it was never a situation where it was like, “I’m leaving the group.” That was never the case. I had other interests. And, I didn’t make the decision to pull my verses off [The Low End Theory] album, but that was the correct decision to make. Because, I wouldn’t have been around to do shows and support it anyway. So that was the correct decision to make.
I saw [Q-Tip] yesterday. So as far as any problems or shit like that, that’s fucking ridiculous. He’s been one of my biggest supporters of me being here in New York. Like, real talk, he’s holding me down.
DX: You mentioned 20 years ago you had other interests. In the just-released video for evitaN’s “Who Is This” we see you grindin’ at your day gig as a chef. Was culinary school already in your sights before you left the microphone alone or did that come into the picture after?
Jarobi: Oh no, I only wanted to do two things in my life and that’s cook and do music.
And I’m ultra-blessed and ultra-fortunate to be able to do that. When I left the Hip Hop scene initially people were like, “Oh, you’re fucking insane, dude. Look what you’re walking away from.” But, a lot of those same people, my contemporaries, 20 years later I definitely have a [skilled trade] and those people are struggling to figure out what their next move is gonna be. So at the end of the day, I definitely feel vindicated, and I feel like I’m really, really, really smart for [having gone to culinary school].
And plus, the other thing about it too, if I woulda kept going [with music], we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. People wouldn’t be as interested as they are in what’s going on [with me].
Dres: Sometimes we gotta go through what we gotta go through to be where we’re at. I was thinking about the same thing with me and [Mista] Lawnge [of Black Sheep]. ‘Cause if me and Lawnge [didn’t have our issues, me and Jarobi] wouldn’t be here [today as evitaN]. And this is my word, I feel so confident of us being in the right place right now in our lives [that] I’d much rather be here than be on the back-side of a successful Black Sheep career. I’d much rather be here.
DX: Now, Dres, I think you already answered this question, but did you know about Jarobi’s standing as an emcee – that he hadn’t picked up the pen in years – before you asked him to come record an EP for your label, Bum Rush, or were you trying to pull him out of his shell on the mic?
Dres: Um, well, I asked Jarobi maybe a year or two ago did he have anything. Like, initially it was gonna be an EP. It was gonna be five songs. And I was like, “Do you have anything I can listen [to]?” ‘Cause I kinda wanted to gauge where he was at for myself. But, I knew innately that this kid has something to say. And [I also knew that] it’s probably gonna be pretty fly that …Read The Rest By Clicking Here…