Dilated Peoples have always been a well-respected underground hip-hop group. In the past, the West Coast trio has collaborated with legends like The Liks, Xzibit, White E. Ford, Black Thought, Erick Sermon, and more. From their critically acclaimed “Work The Angels”, Dilated Peoples began to have very strong following. Consisting of DJ Babu (of the Beat Junkies) on the wheels of steel and Evidence and Rakka on the microphone, the group was never about flossing or cars or hustling drugs. They were much more similar to Hieroglyphics due to their down to earth quality. Their debut album “The Platform” was basically a collection of all of their singles. With tons of production by The Alchemist, this album included the infamous Eminem diss by White E. Ford (aka Everlast). Their sophomore album, “Expansion Team” was a very mature and tight effort with incredible beats, unique yet universal themes, and intelligent rhymes. “First Things First” (produced by Premier) was a classic track. Even though they are signed to Capitol Records, Dilated Peoples were always considered underground. In the spring of 2004, they finally released their 3rd album “Neighborhood Watch”. Their single “This Way” (produced and featuring Kanye West) is getting major airplay on the radio and on television. This could be their breakout album. Guests include Kanye West, Defari, Phil Da Agony, and Planet Asia. As always, Evidence, DJ Babu, Kanye West, Alchemist, Reef, Nucleus, Joey Chavez handle production. While “Neighborhood Watch” is a solid LP, it is not as powerful as “Expansion Team”. Still, “Neighborhood Watch” sticks to the Dilated Peoples formula that the fans have counted on for years.
While some of the songs on “Neighborhood Watch” do fall into the filler category, there are a handful of songs that are instantly appealing. “This Way”, produced and featuring Kanye West is not only their biggest hit to date but has a timeless quality to it. The kids singing on the hook along with the hypnotic bass line make this a classic track. While Evidence’s voice does get annoying, his flow and lyrics are tight. As an emcee, Kanye West does a decent job but he mainly talks about women. Although his verse does go with the theme of burdens and the epiphany that this lifestyle must change, he does stray from it a bit. Rakka does an excellent job on the final verse. “I can’t live my life this way!”, is a beautiful sentiment. Although it may seem desperate and depressing, the gospel sound of the song gives it a positive and affirming quality and enlightens the listener that things can actually change for the better. Another interesting track is the Reef produced “Tryin To Breathe” that uses a sample of “It Ain’t Raining (On Nobody’s House But Mine)” by The Dramatics. “Poisonous” featuring Devin The Dude (produced by The Alchemist) is a wonderful track about the evil side of attractive women. Devin does an outstanding job as usual. “World On Wheels” (produced by Alchemist), “Caffeine” (produced by Nucleus) and “Big Business” (produced by Babu and Rakka) are also decent tracks. “Closed Session” is a huge posse cut produced by Babu that features Defari, Phil Da Agony and Planet Asia. The album closes off with the Gangstarr inspired “DJ Babu In Deep Concentration”. Babu is an excellent DJ and while this track is not as good as the original (“DJ Premier In Deep Concentration”), it is wonderful to see DJ tracks on LPs again.
A minor flaw of “Neighborhood Watch” is that Dilated Peoples are generally doing the same old thing and some of the songs are a little too long. Evidence is a decent producer but his voice and delivery never changes. As an emcee, Evidence does not attempt different flows or styles and does not show a range of emotion. He’s not sad. He is not furious. He is just talking. This makes his performances become repetitious. Rakka, on the other hand, does show more emotion and range. The opening cut, “Marathon” (produced by Alchemist) is just too long and actually somewhat boring. Some of the other songs have this same problem. Sometimes, Dilated Peoples do not sound inspired on some tracks.
“Neighborhood Watch” is generally a solid album but some of the songs are a little too long. Their previous effort, “Expansion Team” was excellent (their best album to date). On “Neighborhood Watch”, the formula remains. There are tight boom-bap beats, Babu’s incredible scratching, indie-flavored rhymes by Evidence and Rakka. “Neighborhood Watch” has all the ingredients of a great album but a lack of inspiration on some tracks bring the LP down a little bit. The different themes of women, business, and lifestyles improve the flow. “Neighborhood Watch” would satisfy fans of Dilated Peoples but some may disappointed if they are expecting another “This Way” on the album. At the end of the day, you have to respect Dilated Peoples for working hard and not conforming to the diamonds, guns, and moronic themes of contemporary hip-hop music. Even though “Neighborhood Watch” does not break any new ground, there are enough thought-provoking themes and good production work to make it a decent LP.