Dilated Peoples Neighbourhood Watch

Dilated Peoples Neighbourhood Watch
This Los Angeles crew found themselves in a tight spot when it came time to deliver their third record for the overly critical world of hip-hop. Often frowned upon for coming up with the same formula of massive beats, mind-numbing cuts and battle raps, Dilated had to change their pitch up without alienating their devoted underground fan base. Neighbourhood Watch is a combination of classic Dilated but also dips into some dangerously corny territory such as the dreadful "Poisonous,” which actually samples ice dropping in a glass as Devin the Dude warns cats about girls who will "treat your heart like Toys R Us.” This is probably not the change that people were hoping for and cats were definitely not looking for a collaboration with hip-hop wonder boy Kanye West for "This Way” — a single that will bring Dilated more attention in mere weeks than they received in the past five years. The usually reliable Alchemist has helped shaped the sound of Dilated Peoples in the past so taking the majority of the production duties should have been a sure bet for some dope cuts, but he managed to slip. Evidence has to pick up the slack with "Who’s Who” — a simplistic jam that rides a consistent beat but manages to emerge head and shoulders above most tracks. The Joey Chavez-produced "Reach Us” is also reminiscent of what we normally expect from Dilated with an angelic slow-paced rhythm heightened by Noelle’s subtle vocals. Posse cut "Closed Session” and "DJ Babu in Deep Concentration” throw more tallies into the correct column when sizing up Neighbourhood Watch, but there’s definitely more question marks with this release than their whole discography put together.

Do you find you’re given a responsibility of being defenders of the underground? Rakaa: I can't necessarily be mad at people for looking at us like that because we’ve done what we’ve done for a long time. We just do what we do and some people connect with it and some don’t. I’ve not liked everything that anyone’s done and I’ve had problems with certain songs from every group, even my favourites. Yeah, we are underground artists because our roots are strong and we’ve stayed true to what it is we want to do. Even if we’ve branched out and experimented, we’re still the same cats. I’ll take that as a compliment, but if you don’t think we can rock stadiums or get played on the radio then I think of it as an insult. So it’s really the intent of the word "underground” that dictates whether I have a problem with it or that I appreciate it.

The Platform was the starting gate and Expansion Team was showing your growth. Is there a theme to this record? It’s a continuation but at the same time it’s a very distinct chapter. At this point I don't really feel the need to tell the world I’ve got skills on every song. You can brag all you want about what we’re going to do to imaginary MCs and how dope we are, but at this point I wouldn’t be wasting anyone’s time unless I thought my group was nice. We carved out a stronger niche for ourselves in songwriting and creating pictures, where if you close your eyes and listen to some of the songs hopefully you’ll go to where we’re talking about. It was the goal to make a more graphic and vibrant album. (Capitol)