In today’s day and age of dwindling quality in major label rap, Dilated Peoples are looked at as the last hope for fans of backpack rap, acting as one of the few true hip-hop groups still recording under contract with a large conglomerate - in this case, Capitol Records. They’ve shown progression in between each release ? sometimes to the fans dismay - but are they growing upwards or outwards?
Looking back, it seems Expansion Team is arguably the crew’s most definitive release, with both The Platform and Neighborhood Watch complementing it as solidly constructed bookends on both sides. Along comes 20/20 this year, hosted by pusherman Dr. Greenthumb (aka Cypress Hill’s B-Real), who delivers his customers a new kind of dope that promises to “make you see straight”, which of course is a metaphor for the new Dilated LP.
Opening with the lead single, “Back Again”, you quickly get a clear sense of what to expect from 20/20. Here we have a very typical, trademark Dilated joint, featuring Alchemist-helmed chipmunk soul, and Babu winding it back for Evidence’s clever lines and Rakaa’s political intrigue. Dilated’s “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach carries throughout much of the record, with solid joints like the pair of Evidence produced bangers, “You Can’t Ride, You Can’t Run” and “Kindness For Weakness” (feat. Talib Kweli), which re-interpret rare grooves into chopped up backpack beats, ripe for Rakaa and Ev’s signature styles. “Alarm Clock Music” and “Satellite Radio” find Rakaa and Ev, once again in their element, serving up fresh rhymes over dope beats, despite some lousy song titles and lazy hook structure. Evidence shines as usual on the quintessential solo cut, this time entitled “Another Sound Mission”, with a Joey Chavez produced beat, over fresh ’88 drums and raining keys.
But while Ev and Rakaa are still some of the best emcees in the major label recording arena, they can’t seem to avoid the linear progression that plagues 20/20. This might sound fresh and new to someone who’s never bought a Dilated LP before, but the formula has begun to get a bit tired with the latest LP. It’s not so bad on any of the aforementioned tracks, but when the poorer selections seep through, it begins to make much of the rest of the LP sound equally boring. The sleepy “Olde English” suffers from a heavy Joey Chavez track and an even heavier verse from Defari, which brings down the momentum built by the album’s first four tracks down to a lull. The same can be said for the Strong Arm Steady poisoned “Rapid Transit”, which suffers from a questionably included Krondon verse and annoying adlibs from Phil Da Agony. The repetitive “Firepower” with Capleton might be a hit with the ganja crowd, but sounds out of place with the rest of the record. Add the fact that most of the songs on the LP use samples from other Dilated records as hooks, and you’ve got a whole lot of redundancy on one record.
Again, the LP has its solid moments, but unlike previous Dilated albums, there isn’t any incredible, stand out moments that drive the point home. Couple that with a few snoozers that weigh the album down, and you’ve got just an average album from the Peoples. Regardless, whiile Rakaa’s blend of spiritual and political viewpoints and Evidence’s endless cache of hot one-liners still make these guys some of the most interesting emcees to listen to, they may need to rethink their formula if they want to keep listeners around for another sound mission.
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