Release Date: Aug 12, 2014
Record label: Rhymesayers Entertainment
Genre(s): Rap, Alternative Rap, Underground Rap, West Coast Rap, Turntablism
“I’m out in the shed and the tools brand new.” With this single line, Evidence succinctly articulates the essence of Directors of Photography, Dilated Peoples’ first LP since 2006’s 20/20. In those eight years, Evidence, Rakaa Iriscience and DJ Babu have all kept busy, but the mind of the group itself has only progressed. Speaking recently with HipHopDX, Babu discussed the hiatus in better detail, saying, “We needed that break.
"Dilated never left, I'd like to welcome us back," says MC Rakaa (Iriscience) on "Directors," ostensibly the title track from Dilated Peoples' first album in eight years. It's a contradictory statement, but it actually makes sense. During their hiatus, DJ Babu, Rakaa and particularly Evidence were individually active on various levels, with solo albums and various other projects, so while the group haven't released anything new collectively, they haven't been out of sight and out of mind.On their return, they sound wiser and refreshed.
Returning to the game after an eight-year hiatus, one would expect the ground to quake as Dilated Peoples stake their claim in the land of underground hip-hop, but Directors of Photography is a wonderfully loose and casual effort rather than the expected epic album. This comes partly from the glad-to-see-again chemistry that members Evidence, Rakaa, and DJ Babu display during this hang-out session on wax, all of them coming off successful solo careers. Guest star Aloe Blacc may have just walked off his R&B superstar appearance on the Today Show, but his feature cut, "Show Me the Way," features a busy and beautiful Jake One production with no radio-aimed fluff.
Listening to Dilated Peoples in 2014 is strange, not just because so much has happened to the group’s three members — Evidence, DJ Babu, and Rakaa Iriscience — since 2006’s 20/20, but because rap’s underground scene has since been blotted out by the Internet’s omnipresence. That’s not to say that underground rap doesn’t still exist; it’s just that it’s no longer subterranean or counterculture. It is merely another subsect of niche music logged in a data bank somewhere, waiting to be retrieved by anyone.
In the eight years between this and Dilated Peoples’ last proper full length, the hip-hop landscape has shifted. To illustrate just how far the scales have tilted in favor of disposable pop rap with or without an associated dance move, one only needs to look towards Nas and Nick Cannon’s subtle-as-a-hammer-to-the-knee screed against corporate rap, “Eat dat watermelon”. Directors of Photography helps to tilt the balance back towards thoughtful, well-crafted hip-hop, and while it doesn’t quite scale the heights of Dilated Peoples’ early 2000s heyday, it proves a welcome return for the group.
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.