Unity is loosely defined as the state of being one. Dilated Peoples emerged on the scene over 20 years ago and delivered two classic albums, The Platform and Expansion Team, on Capitol/EMI Records. The West Coast collective is back after a eight year hiatus and hungrier than ever with their latest album Directors of Photography. The Los Angeles triad (Rakaa, Evidence and DJ Babu) combine to oversee, select, and perfect every inch of their Rhymesayers Entertainment effort, suggesting that chemistry is king.
The cinematic inspired track “Directors” sets the mood for the album. Mr. Slow Flow and Rakaa rhyme effortlessly over a head-nodding piano based track. The vocal sample at the end of track suggests what a DP does. “Cut My Teeth” is a track dedicated to humble beginnings as Rakaa and Evidence rhyme, “the strong prey upon the weak, this is where I learned to stand up on my own feet/so much I see, on the streets of Venice Beach is where I cut my teeth.” Aside from those opening tracks, the LP is bolstered by two quality singles, the DJ Premier produced “Good as Gone,” and the introspective Jake One banger “Show Me The Way” that features singer/MC Aloe Blacc.
Dilated’s last album 20/20 suffered from repetitiveness at times, so to combat this, the trio utilizes well placed interludes and handpicked features. Whether it’s a hungry Defari rhyming mercilessly on “Defari Interlude,” DJ Babu showing out on the wheels of steel on “Figure It Out (Melvins Theme)” or the hilariously funny “@mrevidence Interlude,” the group truly understands when a break (commercial) is needed.
Evidence and Rakaa rhyme great alongside other artists, as shown by their performance on the Gangrene assisted “Opinions May Vary,” the Sick Jacken featured track “L.A. River Drive,” and the Krondon hook on the 9th Wonder produced “The Bigger Picture.” Vince Staples lends hook duty on “The Dark Room.” Here, Evidence channels Gordon Willis, attacking the dark composition with consistent quotables. Evidence confidently raps, “I miss Pun and only met him once!” Rakaa delivers a stellar verse as well.
Directors of Photography’s biggest strength is also its biggest weakness. The fearless threesome stick to a formula that have made them internationally known. The inability to stray from this formula results in monotonous records towards the end of the project. You have to applaud the trio for sticking to what works though: dope beats, dope rhymes and dope cuts.
Back in 2006, Dilated Peoples released their fourth studio album and it received mixed reviews. Eight years later, their latest album showcases the maturation of the group and the ability to truly control the process of starting from scratch. Directors of Photography shows that three artists that have achieved individual success can come together once again to create something substantial despite years of inactivity.—Praverb