From the Merriam-Webster website, the worddilated (di·lat·ed) is defined this way:

1 : expanded laterally; especially : being flat and widened 
2 : expanded normally or abnormally in all dimensions

That certainly seems apt. Ever since first blazing their way into hip-hop music on the “Work the Angles” twelve inch, Dilated Peoples have been expanding both the boundaries of the artform and the size of their audience. Their full length debut “The Platform” was as solid a statement as you could ask for from any new group, and by the time “Expansion Team” rolled around a year later they had simultaneously solidified their place and sound. With a strong push from the popular Okayplayer website Dilated seemed to be on a roll and gathering no moss – just more heads who felt that Evidence, Rakaa Iriscience and DJ Babu were the truth like 42 was the answer.

The question is, where have the Dilated Peoples been for the last three years? Well Babu is a member of the Beat Junkies, which keeps him busy when not producing beats and cutting wax for Dilated. Ev has been flexing his skills both behind the boards as a producer and in front of it with cameos, while Rakaa blazed up cuts like Herbaliser’s “Verbal Anime” and Babu’s “Ends to Means” single with his own imitable style. Well the three are finally back together again, and “Neighborhood Watch” is the result. What better way to kick off such a long-anticipated album than having hot rapper and producer Kanye West pull double duty on your first single? “This Way” is the result. West’s light and bouncy choice of winds and drums on the beat match well with the sung chorus between verses, but it’s the raps that bring it all together in harmony:

Rakaa: “Go ‘head! Flip a coin so the game can start
Believe I know the drama, kid name the part
I learnt before the hot flame came the spark
It’s like before the pop fame came to ‘Pac
But this industry’ll play with your life man
They playin with your rent, food, water and lights man (yeah)
That’s why Rakaa brings it like that ol’ Toddy Tee jam
‘The Batterram’, then I’m off to Amsterdam
To rest up for strength to deal with this weight
To deal with these deals to deal with this hate
I dedicate this Jam Master Jay
Run-D.M.C. showed me how to walk, this way”

It’s hot to death no doubt, but it’s not actually where the album starts out. In fact, it’s the next to last track. The Alchemist produced “Marathon” comes first, starting with a special tribute to “Eric B. is President” before the heavy bassline rolls in and the deep-throated Evidence sets off verse one:

“Yo, first up, I stay updated
Stay in the zone, and no question, stay Dilated
Understand, I exercise patience (right, right)
Respect my paths cause the road, these cats paved it (set it off)
Now that we’ve got that straight, it’s time to move on
I don’t train for sprints, I train for marathons
A long haul – we built for this It’s proven, every year more people cop our shit
The point I’m gettin at, we buildin a army
Couldn’t thank ’em enough, for real, I feel strongly
Right now, we parked in a comfortable spot
By 2004, we’re out to own the whole lot (Out for the top!)
To settle for less is short change
So we keep our heads with us, as there’s more to gain
And with, war is pain, so we roll the dice
It’s all for the love, but some pay the ultimate price”

Literally speaking, “Marathon” is a statement that Dilated Peoples are in this hip-hop game for the long run. Individually the elements work well. Babu will always be a mad scientist on the wheels, Rakaa will be the Aceyalone-esque verbalist of the trio, and Evidence’s down to earth and no-nonsense flow will always stay low. When they come together though, the Dilated Peoples truly do expand. You can call it gestalt, and if you don’t know what that is here’s another handy dictionary definition:

Merriam-Webster: “A structure, configuration, or pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts.”

That’s kinda headdy yo! To break it down more simply, a gestalt simply means that the sum is greater than the parts. Think of it as the individual members of Dilated coming together like Voltron, to create a super hip-hop robot capable of destroying all the lesser forces of whack rap. Dilated achieves this result over and over throughout the album. From the Evidence and DJ AM produced “Who’s Who” which sounds like a throwback to EPMD’s “Mr. Bozack,” to the surprising “Poisonous” produced by Alchemist and featuring Devin the Dude (no bullshit), the ethereal Joey Chavez laced “Reach Us” and the hot to death Evidence track “Love is War” flexing a sample of “I Can’t Fake it Anymore,” this shit’s tight like cork in a 90 year old bottle of wine. Just peep how Rakaa lays down science on “Tryin’ to Breathe”:

“The summer felt like the winter, and I ain’t talkin ’bout weather
I see a ‘Cold World’ like the GZA
It’s a blizzard out here – you holdin? Twist up
But don’t sneak tobacco in my rizzler
I’m from where they jack cats for their turkish links
Swatch watches, Fila, and Le Coq Sportif
They took Jordan One and Two’s right off your feet
If you fought back and won then you caught more beef
The 80’s was so crazy, cats are still afraid
Of Darryl Gates, the chokehold, crack and gangs
I hustled but I made it through a crack in the game
While a lot of homies got trapped back in the day
From where, ugly pollution brings a beautiful haze
Sunset rays, orange-lavender phase
Tryin to keep my chips up and protect my plate
But the police watch every breath I take”

Of course no Dilated album would be complete without a West coast all-star set and “Closed Session” features all the big names – Defari, Phil Da Agony and Planet Asia. No Dilated album would be complete without DJ Babu getting a solo chance to shine his turntablist skills, and the Premier tribute “DJ Babu in Deep Concentration” serves nicely. As the album’s finale, it also makes a statement about Dilated Peoples dedication to the elements of hip-hop. You can find them all represented strongly on “Neighborhood Watch,” which can be viewed as both them holding down their Cali turf and keeping an eye on the hip-hop collective to which they belong. Under their guidance, falsehood shall perish and whackness be banished. Long live the expanders.

Dilated Peoples :: Neighborhood Watch
8Overall Score