Dilated Peoples - 20/20 Review
by Patrick Muldowney
From the moment I heard the opening beats to "Back Again", I wanted to write this review, even though writing a rap review is difficult since I've been a fair weather friend of the genre most of the last decade. 20/20 is fair weather though, to a world that has become oversaturated by grillz, spinnerz, and thong bikinis. Listening to Dilated Peoples is like listening to relatives to Gang Starr, EPMD, Kool G Rap, Public Enemy, Cypress Hill and ___________ (fill in your favorite originators here). I'm not sure who I am to say what is real but Dilated Peoples is keeping it there with raps that have a political and social conscious, while fluctuating between rhymes that are chill to venomous. During "Alarm Clock Music", Rakaa perfectly states Dilated Peoples in this new world, "I love Hip Hop but s*** changed/Some say we're too serious and conscious." By releasing 20/20, Dilated Peoples and Capitol Records have shown that the criticisms are not as relevant as the rhymes of Evidence and Rakaa.
Back to "Back Again". This song has the necessary catch musically and lyrically to be a certified hit on popular radio. The track actually has a bass line running through it reminiscent to the funk of Bootsy Collins rather than the formulaically heightened bass drum found in hordes of modern rap. This helps the track bump more clearly in your stereo without losing any of the kick. Evidence enters with a style akin to Redman, which is an unusual mix of toughness and humor. The verbal irony is thick with confessions about smoking "no more, but ain't smoking no less." Evidence has a knack for word play that is carefully constructed while still seeming cool and careless in his delivery. This ability places him with the top rappers of today, because his combination of voice, vocabulary, conscience, and experience, is so rarely found. With his subtle allusion to Rakim's "Microphone Fiend" in the last verse, Evidence makes this album drop like hydrogen.
At first, "Back Again" hit so solid, I was disappointed with the aftermath, but this was short lived. Evidence, Rakaa, and Babu produce magic on every track, whether you become wrapped up in the obscure, yet perfectly fitting, samples, or the genius of the rhymes. For example, on "Alarm Clock Music", Dilated Peoples sample Brian Protheroe, an artist from the '70s who was lost in the shuffle of artists like Procol Harum. The knowledge and vision shown with this sample may put their tracks up with Dr. Dre in quality. Also, "Alarm Clock Music" is a defining moment on the album for Rakaa, who is biting politically. In reference to Bush's presidency: "Tricknology, propaganda and fear/Makes hard to believe you own eyes and ears."
Listening to 20/20 is like traveling through a hip hop time capsule. Whether "Olde English" spins, and you remember how much you liked early Wu Tang and Mobb Deep, or "Another Sound Mission" reminds you of that first listen to Illadelph Halflife, Dilated Peoples is fresh without forgetting its roots. The respect these men show to each other, exemplified in the tribute to "the backbone" Babu on "The One and Only", shows that this is less about money to them, and more about passion. If more major labels released albums like 20/20, rap might see the return of many fans that have been hibernating, reminiscing about when rap mattered socially beyond the shallow end.
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Dilated Peoples - 20/20
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