Much has been written on how underrated California’s Planet Asia is over the years. Countless reviews from this very website give you an indication of how acclaimed he is as an emcee, one who truly utilizes his most powerful tool – his voice. The West Coast has some of the best voices in history, but Planet Asia’s might just be the best because it captures everything great about that part of the world. There’s the twang, but it’s not overemphasized. He’s dropping some gangsta shit but it’s wrapped up in a beautifully eloquent delivery. You could just as easily hear him rhyming alongside Killah Priest as you could Snoop Dogg.
“Rule of Thirds” seemed to go under the radar in 2021, considering it’s the reunion of Evidence and Planet Asia. It’s most definitely hyperbole, but their 2006 record “The Medicine” was a bit of a cult classic. This was when Dilated Peoples were at the peak of their powers, coming off the back of the “20/20” album which was full of excellent Alchemist and Evidence production. We can’t forget the mixtape “Dilated Steady” alongside Strong Arm Steady either, a personal favorite from that era. Their new album sees the two in different situations: Planet Asia has barely changed his style in 20+ years because it always works. He’s certainly influenced a bunch of rappers in that time. Evidence however has grown as a producer but has adapted his style toward the wave of minimalist gloom that Alchemist and Daringer champion. It’s not quite as severe a change as that sounds, but a noticeable transition from the sun-filled punchiness you usually equate an Evidence beat to have. He clarified this on 2020’s “Unlearning Vol. 1” that it “wasn’t a sequel to Weather or Not”, perhaps outlining this is a different Evidence.
As far as the production goes, “Rule of Thirds” is certainly more experimental and less immediately enjoyable than “The Medicine”. The emphasis on rhyming to loops is certainly present but there’s no more than there were on Planet Asia’s “Anchovies” album. “Take It Lightly” is beautifully crafted almost to the point that it steals the show, albeit it is far too brief to stand out on the album. That’s a noticeable shift too – most of these songs scrape the two-minute mark giving this a rougher feel. What I mean by this is it’s a selection of Planet Asia rhymes to Evidence beats, rather than a traditional album with structured songs and memorable hooks.
When he says “let me paint” on “Live from the Kremlin“, that’s exactly what Planet Asia does. “Stayin’ Dangerous” and “Green Thin Wood” are downtrodden and grim sounding which you can imagine Big Twins or Eto’s harsh tones painting pictures to – it doesn’t quite have the same potency with Planet Asia. However, on “Stay For Credits”, the Fresno emcee excels almost sounding possessed with his verse. The presence of Evidence on the vocals maybe lit a fire in Planet Asia’s belly, but he sounds noticeably hungrier here – it’s just a shame it’s at the end of the album!
“The Pack Made It” is a tough reimagining of “Dipset Anthem” if it was remixed by Dario Argento. Evidence injects a haunting cry into a real grimy instrumental that’s again, too short for my liking. The best track is “Nag Champa” featuring Milano Constantine; more traditional in its style and the way it thumps through the speaker really makes it stand out on an album that’s largely understated.
My own personal misgivings with Evidence’s shift towards Alchemist’s modern approach aside, the Dilated one’s discography is one of my favorites. There’s an inherent bias accompanying this review, one that’s itself contradictory given Evidence has shown his variety and growth throughout “Rule of Thirds”. Planet Asia does his thing, as you’d expect, but “Rule of Thirds” still leaves me slightly disappointed despite it having plenty of examples of good chemistry. In “Boom Bye” Planet Asia mentions that “The Medicine” was ahead of its time and that “the patients didn’t get it”. There may be an element of truth to that, but “Rule of Thirds” feels less significant in comparison. Most songs scrape the two-minute mark and we are left with an album that’s a bit scrappy and unstructured, and doesn’t stick out in Planet Asia’s huge discography like perhaps it should do.