They are a crew that needs no introduction – the literal frontrunners of the independent hip-hop movement, and last purveyors of hip-hop culture through major label support, Dilated Peoples. The expansion team of Rakaa-Iriscience , Evidence , and DJ Babu has put in a year’s worth of work following last year’s debut, The Platform, delivering just what we asked for – a full-length release, full of all new material.
The crew easily dodges the sophomore slump by expanding the team for real, employing a number of different producers and a few guest emcees, giving the album a diverse, yet still very unified sound. Most notably is the addition of DJ Premier, who delivers another easy win on “Clockwork” , where the each of the Peoples step up their game to match the ferocity of Preemo’s production. The Beatminerz also deliver a memorable sound bwoy blast on “Trade Money”, as Ev and Rakaa explore necessities of the root of all evil. The Liks drop over a classic Evidence banger, “Heavy Rotation”, tightening the chemistry between the two crews, taking listeners back to the Coast II Coast days, and naturally, the forever on point Alchemist reaffirms his posistion as one of hip-hop’s greatest new producers, delivering his trademark soul on “Live On Stage” and “Worst Comes To Worst”.
But unlike albums like De La Soul’s Mosaic Thump or countless other label generated collage albums, Dilated Peoples don’t rely on their guests to make the album for them. They in fact carry the bulk of the weight themselves, even venturing into a few solo cuts for the respective emcees. While Evidence flexes his clever wordplay, ego, and attitude on favorites such as “Panic” and “Night Life”, Rakaa uses his solo efforts to make more poignant observations, such as on the Last Poets inspired “War”, or through the beautiful piano expressions of “Pay Attention”.
Make no mistake, Dilated’s Expansion Team is one of the tightest hip-hop releases this year. Despite a few track or two that might seem a bit drab (“Self Defense”), or a few sub par invitations to extended crew (“Dilated Junkies”, “Defari Interlude”, “Phil The Agony Interlude”), you really can’t be mad at this album. Sure, Rakaa may have repeated himself a few more times than necessary, and Evidence may not have had as many surprising lyrical antidotes as he did on some earlier tracks, but who’s counting? All minor little nitpicking aside, more so than The Platform, Expansion Team is Dilated Peoples defined, and a testament to the Gang Starr like longevity that their future holds.
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