Dilated Peoples Talk Their Return with 'Directors of Photography' and Working with Aloe Blacc

Dilated Peoples Talk Their Return with 'Directors of Photography' and Working with Aloe Blacc
After an eight-year hiatus, Dilated Peoples return with their fifth full-length album Directors of Photography on August 12 on Rhymesayers. While this might seem like an eternity, the Los Angeles-based trio composed of Evidence, Rakaa and DJ Babu have stayed busy with their individual projects and solo careers, ensuring that the gap between releases hasn't really meant the group have been totally out of the spotlight since they completed their major label obligations with 2006's 20/20.

"Because we never stopped touring, because we never stopped working on side-projects with each other, whatever the case may be, the dynamic within the group itself is pretty much the same," Rakaa (a.k.a. Iriscience) tells Exclaim! in a recent interview.

Indeed, DJ Babu has been steadily issuing his Duck Season mixtapes and production for other artists. Rakaa released his solo album Crown of Thorns in 2010, in addition to going back to school and getting a degree in advertising. And Evidence has been the most prominent of the trio in the intervening years, releasing solo albums The Weatherman and Cats and Dogs, as well as this year's Step Brothers album project with Alchemist.

The bulk of the production on Directors of Photography is handled by Evidence and Babu, but the trio also enlist some of the finest purveyors in boom bap in 9th Wonder, Diamond D and of course, close Dilated affiliate Alchemist as contributors. The group just dropped their latest Jake One-produced single "Show Me The Way" featuring Aloe Blacc, an artist whose recent mainstream success came after years of running in the same West Coast underground hip-hop circles as Dilated.

Blacc appeared on the title track of Rakaa's Crown of Thorns album and also showed up on Evidence's Cats and Dogs. "He is a good example of somebody who came up the hard way," says Rakaa. "But he made it work and for us to be associated with him for the new single, it isn't anything weird for us. But for some people it's 'Wow! You got Aloe Blacc on your record!' That's the weird part — how other people react to it. For us it's just the homie Aloe, you know what I mean?"

The group's preference for working with close associates as opposed to hired guns appears to have paid dividends and been an instrumental factor in the Dilated Peoples' longevity. DJ Premier, (who mixed the group's 2001 single "Worst Comes to Worst") was behind the boards on Directors of Photography's first offering "Good As Gone," which directly addresses the staying power of the group who first came to prominence via the invigorating 1998 single "Work the Angles."

"It's speaking to us directly as a group, the spirit and the vibe that we've always brought," says Rakaa. "There's a lot more noise out there, but that doesn't mean the music is gone, it's just a lot more music out there. We're happy to see it all grow. We're just making sure that people know that the swords are still sharp over here and the platform we stand on is still dangerous to step up to."

Dilated Peoples have several U.S. dates coming up, and you can see their complete schedule here.