Since their beginnings as pioneers of Los Angeles' progressive underground rap scene, Dilated Peoples have been celebrated as one of hip-hop's most provocative and imaginative collectives. Neighborhood Watch - their much-anticipated third Capitol Records release - is the acclaimed trio's most fully realized collection thus far, a remarkably accomplished development of their idiosyncratic meld of inspired beats, ill turntablism and brisk, bright wordplay. Tracks such as the thought-provoking "Big Business" and the soulfully energetic single "This Way" offer amble proof of the power of rap in its purest form - two skilled MCs and an extraordinarily inventive DJ.
"It's a continuation of the Dilated Peoples sound," says Evidence, " but at the same time, I feel that it's a better record than the last two. I think it shows the power and timelessness of our music."
"It's still imagery, battle hymns and political poetry," says Rakaa. "It's still big beats, big cuts. But hopefully we've gotten better as songwriters, as artists, as people."
"We're a group that's constantly evolving," says DJ Babu. "We're always trying teach ourselves new things in every aspect of our game."
If their previous album - 2001's breakthrough Expansion Team - found Dilated Peoples opening up their style to the world around them, Neighborhood Watch sees the group bringing it all back home, focusing their widescreen worldview on their native Los Angeles.
"Everything else we've done has tried to show where we come from philosophically," Rakaa says. "This record is about where we come from literally."
The group's hometown roots are immortalized on Neighborhood Watch with the booming "World On Wheels" (inspired by the famed Mid City roller disco) and "1580," a skit which conjures up golden memories of legendary Los Angeles AM station 1580 KDAY, the world's first ever round-the-clock hip-hop station.
"KDAY would play all the obvious west coast records," Rakaa explains, "but they'd also play people like Run DMC and KRS-One. It was where everything came together, as far as different styles, different flavors from other parts of the country. They brought it all together for us to feel it, to feel the full spectrum of what was out there. That's where we get our attitude of cutting edge traditionalism."
That back-to the-future spirit has defined Dilated Peoples' work from Day One, beginning with their early independent releases through 2000's Capitol debut, The Platform. The trio has made it a mission to keep rap's roots strong while making sure the branches continue to flourish outward. "You have to always respect your roots," Rakaa notes, "but at the same time you need to push forward and be open to new things. You have to be willing to go new places."
With that in mind, Dilated Peoples decided to open up their musical boundaries by collaborating with one of today's biggest producer/artists, Kayne West. Renowned for his work with such rap luminaries as Jay-Z, DMX, Ludacris, Talib Kweli and countless others, West was enlisted to produce and lend vocals to the record's first single, the uplifting "This Way."
"We were talking about different producers and Kanye was someone everyone liked," Rakaa says. "We wanted to do something outside of what we've always done, and he was someone we thought we could do quality work with that could also move our parameter a little bit." "This Way" defines one of the album's most powerful themes, that of growth and self-improvement. Rakaa explains; "It's a song about change about not being satisfied with where you are, and realizing that if you're not in the right place you can elevate and build towards something better."
In addition to West, Dilated were also joined in the studio by longtime family members such as The Alchemist, executive producer of this record and general inspiration and motivator, Nucleus, and Joey Chavez, along with friends like Rob "Reef" Tewlow (50 Cent, Fat Joe). Of course, a number of tracks were produced by Evidence and Babu, both of whom have accrued a spectrum of production credits ranging from Linkin Park to the Beastie Boys to J5 and the Beatnuts.
"The production is something that has always drawn people to Dilated," Babu says. "Even when we're not making a record, me and Ev are constantly producing and putting down beats. We're always working on the next thing. Obviously, for me, being a DJ, I'm always trying to keep my crates current, so when we're out on the road, me and Ev go crazy record shopping. We keep it fresh, for ourselves and for the future of Dilated."
While Neighborhood Watch is unquestionably centered around the core Dilated trio, there are also guest appearances from raw MCs such as Planet Asia, Defari, and Phil Da Agony, who join in on the boisterous "Closed Session." Among the album's highlights is "Poisonous," which features Houston-based rapper Devin The Dude, known for his unique stylings on records by Dr. Dre, David Banner, and Scarface.
"Devin is somebody we really wanted to work with," Evidence says. "He's got a real crazy style - he sings and he raps. You can tell that he is doing what he does from the heart."
With its chorus refrain of "Pace yourself/so you could face yourself/Run hard/you really only race yourself," the album-opening "Marathon" (12 inch vinyl released on ABB Records) serves as a mantra for Dilated Peoples' career as well as a positive universal philosophy towards life itself.
"People are running hard out there," Rakaa says, "trying to compete with the next man in the next lane, or with that they think success is. Then they get frustrated because they can't run fast enough to keep up with what's going on. I'm just letting cats know that life's a marathon. Figure out what you're trying to do, find your pace, and just go. You might not be the first person to cross the line but if you stick with it and do your thing, you'll get where you need to go."
With Neighborhood Watch, Dilated Peoples have stepped up and taken their sound and songs to the next level, a goal that fuels them through every stride of their journey. One thing's for sure - for Dilated Peoples, the finish line is nowhere in sight.
"People are getting on and off this escalator so fast," Babu says. "The kid that was six years old five years ago is now 11 and just getting into music, there's a good chance he's never heard of Dilated Peoples. We're constantly trying to win new fans while staying true to the fans that have gotten us this far."
"The beauty of Dilated Peoples is that we haven't reached where we're supposed to go yet," notes Evidence. "We've always tried to build on the last thing we did, nurture that and make it grow bigger." Like Rakaa always says; "The objective is to keep the same people in the front row, just make the audience go back even farther."
--- from the official Dilated Peoples website