Courtesy of Evan Czako

March 1, 2016

JONES | Listen to My Friend Evan

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I have a friend named Evan whose rapper name is Dough Boi and he makes music and you should check it out on SoundCloud. I realize how unappealing that sounds.

My reaction to people on social media or YouTube hawking their “fire mixtapes” and begging “please just give me a chance” always inspires a mix of disdain and embarrassment in me. The only music I ever listen to is either critically lauded or at least signed to a record label. Evan is the only exception.

Maybe the reason I like Evan’s music really is just the extra emotional heft of knowing an artist personally. I like music that at least appears to be confessional, but in the end I run up against the fact that I really don’t know in the end how authentic or honest Bob Dylan or Kanye are being. I know much better how authentic Evan is being, which is pretty goddamn authentic. Evan makes brave, honest music. He doesn’t lie, exaggerate or self-aggrandize. His pain is real, his insights are real and his release is real and is realized through his music.

This is, to my knowledge, the first piece of music criticism on the work of the rapper Dough Boi. In the pursuit of transparency, I reiterate that Evan/Dough Boi is my friend. I’m going to call him Evan for the rest of this article because Dough Boi is a silly name that he will hopefully either outgrow or recast by becoming so influential and ubiquitous that his silly name will come to signify something else altogether, like what happened to the Beatles.

Evan has completed three projects since he came to Cornell. The first was released this past summer and is titled The Best Mixtape in 5Evar. The tape is credited to the “Street Scholars,” a duo made up of Evan and DJ Bailey Smooth, the latter being my freshman year roommate. This mixtape is pretty bad, as Evan now admits. On the other hand, “Did You Miss Me” is pretty, “Yo Breath” is pretty funny and “The Friend” is pretty sad. “My Body is a Thing You Should Touch” features a godly beat created by Bailey out of Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body.” Let’s move on.

Evan released a full-length album called Bad Beginning on Oct. 24. He wrote all the lyrics, crafted all the beats and basically did everything except for the sample of Bailey playing acoustic guitar on “Alarms.” Bad Beginning is a concept album about Evan’s freshman year and is, as you might infer from the title, a pretty rough trip. It’s one of the most monomaniacally focused breakup albums I’ve ever heard. There are moments of joy and beauty — the opening promise of “We Can Be Anything,” a layered a cappella cover of Bill Withers’s “Lean on Me” — but for the most part, the record fluctuates between bleary depression and white-knuckled determination to persevere. It’s a despondent, exhausting and cathartic work. “C2H60” is an incredible song about the void of partying that is even more explicit in its criticism than Kendrick’s often-misconstrued “Swimming Pools (Drank).” “Guardian” is a beautiful ode to Evan’s friends and family. Bad Beginning ends with its strongest two moments: “Last Letter,” a moment of closure with the girl who inspired the album, and “Until,” a showcase of Evan’s expert word-spitting so potent that you should actually just listen to it.

I was very impressed by Bad Beginning. Nonetheless, I rarely want to listen to it, because it’s so unrelentingly troubling, particularly for a close friend of Evan’s. That’s why I am thrilled with the direction that Evan has taken his music. His most recent project, released a few weeks ago, is Don’t Worry, a 15-minute EP. (Evan: “Don’t call it a mixtape. I realized that when people say they made a mixtape nobody ever wants to listen to that.”) Don’t Worry is quite simply one of my favorite things to listen to at the moment. It’s soothing, comforting, playful, amusing, exuberant; essentially, everything that Bad Beginning was not. While Bad Beginning consisted of a variety of sounds generally built around synthesizer and keyboard effects, Don’t Worry has a more natural feel, with most of the songs featuring Evan’s mandolin. It only consists of four songs. Any student struggling under crippling amounts of work can relate to the opening track, “Make It Better.” “Sorry II” contains the wonderful lyric: “I am not cold-blooded, you’re a squad of chameleons/And I’m sorry for mistaking you for wanting to be my friends.” My dad described it via text as “v strong” and a “song of hisself.” Then the tape really hits its stride, with Evan’s best two songs ever. The first is the titular “Don’t Worry,” a beautiful and dynamic instrumental track featuring mandolin and recorder. The tape ends with “January,” which takes the ubiquitous shout-out track to stratospheric heights of joy and gratitude. Evan raps, “Shouts out to my ex, I probably didn’t deserve ya / Sorry ’bout the tape, I ain’t taking it any further,” a line so mature and tasteful after the bitter depths of Bad Beginning that I smile every time I hear it.

I’m proud of Evan. I think he makes wonderful music. Check it out.

Jack Jones is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. Despite all the Amputations runs alternate Wednesdays this semester. He can be reached at jackjones@cornellsun.com. 

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