Sometime in 1992 on Long Island's north shore, four-year-old Jared Evan began smacking the chairs in his family's basement with hockey sticks. To salvage their furniture, his parents borrowed a friend's old Ludwig drum set and passed it on to their rambunctious son. Two years later, Evan was taking drumming lessons three times a week and imitating drummers from some of his favorite bands.
Now 21-year-old Evan is poised to make major noise in the music industry. His song "Frozen," which he recorded by himself on his laptop in the closet of the very same basement where he began drumming with toy hockey sticks fourteen years ago, is featured on the soundtrack to the LeBron James documentary, "More Than A Game." The track received 8,000 streams on Imeem in its first week -- the most of any track that week besides the other three singles released from the set.
Evan is also working on his as-yet-titled debut album, slated for a 2010 release on Zone 4/Interscope Records. So far, he's tapped on producers Timbaland, !llMind, The Kick Drums, Jimmy Douglass, IllFactor and Zone 4 labelhead, Polow Da Don.
Jared describes his sound as "a melting pot of psychedelic blues, rock 'n' roll, alternative rock, R&B," and, most importantly, hip-hop. This mix was birthed when Evan was sent to a boarding school for kids with behavioral disorders at the age of 11. "I always knew about hip-hop growing up; I saw it on TV," he recalls. "But it wasn't what I was interested in then."
But other students started putting him on to hip-hop acts like A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, Run DMC, Mos Def and Kool G Rap. Then in 2001, a classmate introduced him to the Wu Tang Clan, and two years later Evan was a self-professed, full-blown hip-hop head. "I realized that it [hip-hop] takes serious talent, just like Robert Plant's singing takes talent," he says.
Returning to his native Long Island for high school and then a short college stint, Evan decided to put all his efforts into making music in his late teens. Influenced by Mogwai, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rat Tat Tat, he started rapping over instrumentals of Radiohead, Air, and Coldplay songs.
But it wasn't until 2006, when Evan met Matt Graham, founder of BRND MGMT and now Evan's manager, that he began to turn heads. Graham invited Evan to visit Atlanta and rap for music executives Scooter Braun and Jermaine Dupri and rapper Young Jeezy. Although that performance didn't materialize into anything more than verbal adoration, Evan continued building relationships through internships at recording studios and music magazine, among other opportunities.
One of those relationships was with video director Rik Cordero (Nas), who was so impressed by Evan's lyrical prowess after listening to his mixtape, "Radio In My Head," last year, that he decided to shoot two videos with the newcomer: one for a track titled "Headphones" and another for "Frozen."
The clip for the latter immediately began to make its rounds in the industry, eventually landing in the hands of producer Polow Da Don. "Often you meet artists in the music game and they tell you that they are trying to create a new lane. Well, Jared is really on some other shit," says Polow.
That relationship led to label interest, with Evan finally signing to Interscope Records through Polow Da Don's Zone 4 imprint last June.
For someone presented with such big opportunities so early in his career, Evan conveys a refreshing level of self-awareness and has managed to stay true to his own solitary vision. Inspired by rappers like Nas and shaped by life-changing events such as his best friend's death and his parents' divorce, he brings that same genuine emotional weight to his debut album.
"In the spectrum of things, I have a lucky and blessed life, but [these incidents] made me realize I don't want to take anything for granted," he says. "I don't let anything get to my head simply because I have so much to gain -- I have so much distance to go. At the end of the day, I'm just doing what I love."