Dilated Peoples | Underground Essentials
It was Los Angeles in the late 80’s and early 90’s when a young Michael Perretta (Evidence) began experimenting in QD3’s studio next door to his house. The teenage graffiti artist would there learn how to execute an iconic hip hop sound that would have ripple effects across the culture forever. Joining forces with Rakaa Taylor and Melvin Babu in 1992, the group Dilated Peoples was born.
West Coast Beginnings
ABB Records was the first label to aid in the release of their timely discography. Combining the MC skills of both Evidence and Rakaa with the vital talent of DJ Babu, the group would see their first signs of success with the critically acclaimed albums Third Degree and Work the Angles. Around this time, their presence began to put them in the network of many other rising and established talents such as DJ Premier and rapper/producer Kanye West. With their momentum gaining, the group unleashed their third album Neighborhood Watch, sporting production from their team as well as Kanye and the up-and-coming producer The Alchemist. Selling upwards of 143,000 copies, it became clear that this underground act was important and gaining prominence in the culture.
In 2006 (two years later), Dilated Peoples released their final Capitol Records album 20/20. This would be their lowest charting drop, but with the immense cult following and notoriety they had obtained, it was celebrated as an iconic album of theirs. Dropping off the map for years afterwards, they finally returned to give the people one last group effort: the 2014 album Directors of Photography. The standout “You Can’t Hide, You Can’t Run,” is the most popular song from the project, showcasing what Dilated Peoples is all about. With a chorus featuring chopped up vocals that backs up traditional flows and conscious lyrics in the verses, this landmark track pulls you into the trio’s world of harsh realities and an inextinguishable grit for survival.
Having backed down from the spotlight aside from featured moments on soundtracks and affiliate projects, the group has released other material through solo ventures. Namely Evidence’s three albums, the most recent arriving in 2018, Weather or Not, which covers many areas of his life from relationships to tragedies. Rakaa himself dropped one project in 2010 called Crown of Thorns, and has since shown scarce activity on the scene aside from Dilated People’s movements.
DJ Babu has only widened his footprint in the industry. Since joining The Beat Junkies at the start of his career, he has worked to curate and host some radio shows and other lanes of entertainment for the DJ scene. Most notably, he worked with his crew to open up The Beat Junkie Institute of Sound, based in Glendale, California. This music “school” offers a wide range of courses, workshops, tools, and opportunities for newcomers to learn the ins and outs of DJing and adjacent skills. Giving back to the community through his art is an obvious goal of his, and the positive effects of such a movement will bring success to the west coast scene and the lives involved.
Leaving Their Mark
With conscious lyricism and traditional boom bap instrumentals, each project Dilated Peoples released cemented their place further in the genealogy of underground hip hop and beyond. Listening to an album sucks you into their world, where the twists and turns of life are combated with infectious hooks and anthems of strife and survival. Dilated Peoples’ mark on the culture still exists today, even without new releases. The Alchemist himself is a striking example of how their grassroots efforts to bring a chopped up west coast sound to the world is still in effect to this day. Contemporaries and critics alike will always look to this iconic act as an important piece to the evolving puzzle that is underground rap.