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20 April, 2004@12:00 am

      Dilated Peoples have come a long way since their underground breakthrough theme song, ‘Work The Angles’, delivering their third effort (fourth if you count the shelved debut, Imagery, Battle Hymns, Political Poetry), Neighborhood Watch. While this latest LP sticks to the script for the most part, longtime fans may be a little sour over the new, polished sound presented on a few tracks. However, consecutive listens show that ain’t a damn thing changed, and Dilated is as solid as ever with this release. 

     While Dilated again employs outside production, for the most part it is kept in-house (Evidence, DJ Babu) and within the fam (Alchemist, Joey Chavez). However, some of the strongest cuts on the album show that they don’t even need to do so. The crew comes together in top form on “Who’s Who”, where Rakaa and Evidence trade rhymes like Erick and Parrish, while Babu sounds the alarm over a ridiculous Evidence produced track. Again on “Closed Session”, beatsmith-to-watch, DJ Babu concocts one of his illest beats yet, as the crew is joined by Planet Asia, Defari, and Phil Da Agony, for one of the best posse cuts in recent memory. 

    While the lead single “This Way” (feat. Kanye West) isn’t exactly what we are used to from the crew, the rest of the outsourced production doesn’t hurt the release at all, nor does it take away from the original Dilated sound. One of the album’s best tracks, “Tryin’ To Breathe”, is produced by longtime dues payer, Reef, as Rakka and Ev wholeheartedly describe L.A. survival, as Reef’s track helps animate images of Cali palm trees and sunsets. The ever consistent Alchemist chimes in with four solid tracks, most notably the opener “Marathon”, an Eric B. & Rakim influenced party starter propelled by rolling basslines and presidential hand-claps, as well as the evil-female anthem, “Poisonous” (feat. Devin The Dude), which is a well-produced, commercially tinged joint, yet one that hardly disrespects the rest of their catalog. 

     As usual, each member gets their own chance to shine on the solo tip, helping carve their individual identities. Evidence gets egotistical in true form on “Caffeine”, a heavy Nucleus produced banger, sprinkled with his usual sarcasm and cleverness we’ve grown to know and love. Meanwhile, Rakaa gets political on “Big Business”, spitting true-to-life lyrics that reflect the current state of world events: “Al Quada hit the apple and the world was stunned / the villain, trained by the hero for killin’ / now you twist twenty-dollar bills up to see buildings.” DJ Babu closes the album out with “DJ Babu In Deep Concentration”, which pays homage to Eric B’s “Chinese Arithmetic” and DJ Premier’s similarly titled theme song, respectively. 

    It seems like many heads are sizing up the album on the strength of the Kanye West assisted lead single, “This Way”, thanks to it’s heavy commercial radio and video play. However, while some are quick to prejudge and assume Dilated went “pop”, consecutive listens to Neighborhood Watch prove it to be another solid entry into their catalog, showing a Gang Starr-eqsue consistency with each release. Now what’s up with an official release of Imagery, Battle Hymns, Political Poetry?

  Mixtape D.L.
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