Dilated Peoples has been a staple in Hip Hop since before I even had a pair of headphones. However, once I truly got to delve into Hip Hop, Dilated as a group seemed to disappear. We saw Evidence drop a number of solo albums and solidified his name as the best emcee/producers in the game; soon after, Rakaa dropped his debut album; and DJ Babu continued his Duck Season series while producing for the likes of Defari, Evidence, LMNO and more. Evidence did many interviews hinting at a new Dilated Peoples album the past few years and now, in 2014, Directors of Photography is a reality.
I’ll start this off by saying Dilated picked up right where they left off. Their past projects and the eight year gap between Directors of Photography and their last LP has led to this. New relationships created in that time frame are seen on this album with production from 9th Wonder, vocal help from Vince Staples and the album being released through Rhymesayers.
The album starts off with an intro and “Directions” where the crew reintroduces themselves, reminding the listener that they’re back. Lyrically, Dilated does what they’ve always done, using wordplay and personal anecdotes to get their point across. Evidence, coming off of his Step Brothers project with Alchemist, continues to elevate his game on the mic. The chemistry that Ev and Rakaa have keeps the record interesting as it’s beyond clear that these two have mastered their style over the years they’ve been in this game together. We also get the lost art of “trading bars” back on this project. All the songs come together to create a project that really does sound well calculated, not just a compilation of the good songs they’ve put together over a certain timespan. The production also keeps this train running smoothly with Babu and Evidence handling the majority of it. I have to give props to Evidence as his production has continued to get better and better throughout his career and it shows. With piano loops, hard hitting drums and even some sounds we wouldn’t expect from Dilated like on “Figure It Out (Melvin’s Theme),” we get production that hits hard, keeps the listener wanting more while fitting the style of Evidence and Rakaa.
Dilated still plays the role of the underdog (and rightfully so) with a number of tracks that are meant to motivate the listener and let them know you can achieve your dreams. Tracks like “Cut Your Teeth” and “Show Me The Way” tell the listener to get up and work. On “Show Me The Way” Rakaa says “Feet hit the ground running, butterflies in my stomach/Like I’m anxious trying to get it, trying to learn a lot from it”. But don’t think for a second that Dilated can’t slay a beat, DJ Babu came with one of my personal favorites on the album with the Gangrene assisted “Opinions May Vary.” Every emcee on this track slays their verse. Oh No continues to drop gems with his guest appearances starting off the track as he declares, “Pardon my french, fuck everyone that ain’t fuucking with this.” There’s so much lyrical diversity on this album that whether you like personal tracks or beat slayers, you will be satisfied with Dilated has put together here.
Directors of Photography is the album we all wanted from Dilated Peoples. The production, despite having a myriad of producers involved, gives the album a cohesive sound. Evidence and Rakaa bring some of the best rhymes they had in their careers. Interludes break the album up, provide some context and actually add a comedic element to the album. There aren’t too many guests here, letting the group shine, but the spots where guests show up fit with the crew perfectly. Dilated Peoples keeps getting better and in an industry where good Hip Hop crews are a rarity, this record is one heads are bound to appreciate. Let’s pray there isn’t another six year until their next album.