Throughout his long-awaited solo debut, The Weatherman LP, Dilated Peoples frontman Evidence works to convince listeners and himself that his value to hip-hop can't be reduced to album sales or royalty checks. He says it best on "Evidence Is Everywhere," where he frets, "They're measuring love, I'm ranked top-seeded / They're measuring sales, I ain't broke even." The next track, "Things You Do," defiantly celebrates Dilated Peoples' uncompromising, non-commercial brand of hip-hop purism. Dilated Peoples bubbled up from the L.A. underground to release four critically acclaimed albums on Capitol, and it scored a few minor hits in "Worst Comes To Worst" and the Kanye West-produced "This Way." But now, Evidence is back on his independent grind with ABB. Then again, he never abandoned his independent ethos or True School aesthetic (or ABB, which continued to put out Dilated's vinyl), so the underground is less a place to return to than a headspace Evidence never left.

From the production to the rhymes to the scratching of DJ Revolution and DJ Babu, Weatherman is rock-solid from start to finish, but some tracks are much more than that, like the bittersweet coming-of-age song "A Moment In Time" with Planet Asia, or the slinky Slug duet "Line Of Scrimmage." "Hot And Cold" finds Evidence and fellow double-threat Alchemist paying homage to Notorious B.I.G.'s "What's Beef," while on the stellar "NC To CA," Evidence hooks up with ABB labelmates Defari and self-proclaimed "big fat hope" Big Pooh, plus Justus Leaguer Joe Scudda.

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As its title suggests, Weatherman is a dark, stormy album from a battle-scarred veteran surveying a musical landscape inhospitable to artists unwilling to play the major-label game. With its hard, spare beats and straightforward rhymes, Weatherman is meat-and-potatoes comfort food for underground hip-hop heads, but in the right hands, meat and potatoes can be pretty damned tasty. Without ever deviating from a b-boy stance, Weatherman gives listeners the full measure of the man behind it.