Published Aug 08, 2014"Dilated never left, I'd like to welcome us back," says MC Rakaa (Iriscience) on "Directors," ostensibly the title track from Dilated Peoples' first album in eight years. It's a contradictory statement, but it actually makes sense. During their hiatus, DJ Babu, Rakaa and particularly Evidence were individually active on various levels, with solo albums and various other projects, so while the group haven't released anything new collectively, they haven't been out of sight and out of mind.
On their return, they sound wiser and refreshed. "Good As Gone," the DJ Premier-produced head-nodder, is the closest the group gets to explicitly acknowledging their lengthy absence. A little more exposition might have been welcome, but there's an undercurrent of humility on tracks like "The Bigger Picture" and the come-up fable "Cut My Teeth," indicating that Rakaa and Evidence are appreciative and thankful to be still around. That approach seems to have won them a ton of respect from their peers, because if you're a longtime fan of the group, a production line-up featuring the aforementioned Premier, Jake One, The Alchemist, 9th Wonder and Oh No, as well as Evidence and Babu, is pretty much an all-star line-up.
Jake One lends his formidably crunchy drums to the Aloe Blacc-assisted "Show Me The Way," a track that evokes the Dilated theme of straddling mainstream appeal without sacrificing underground credibility they explored previously on tracks like the Kanye West-produced "This Way." Elsewhere, the bluesy "Let Your Thoughts Fly Away," scored by DITC's Diamond D, exhibits Rakaa and Evidence's cryptic and abstract lyrical exercises that are also notable on tracks like "The Dark Room." DJ Babu, the inventor of the term turntablist, gets to flex those skills on the quirky "Figure It Out (Melvin's Theme)." And while Rakaa gets to express his socio-political critiques on "Century of the Self" and Evidence gets an extended showcase for his patented monotone flow on "The Reversal," the internal chemistry of the trio is never in question. Welcome back, indeed. (Rhymesayers)