As hip-hop culture (DJing, MCing, b-boying, graffiti art and beatboxing) evolved in the late 1970s and early 1980s, two things were hallmarks of the movement: DJing and lyrical excellence. In the last several years, no rap group has done more to champion those elements than Dilated Peoples. The Los Angeles based trio of Rakaa, Evidence and DJ Babu inject their music with humor, insight and social commentary, and DJ Babu's cuts add an additional layer of excitement and complexity to the group's material. The trio's first three albums - 2000's The Platform, 2001's Expansion Team and 2004's Neighborhood Watch - are hailed as exemplary examples of quality hip-hop. So after enjoying the biggest radio and television exposure of its career with the 2004 hit "This Way," produced by and featuring Kanye West, Dilated Peoples wanted to make a point that they had a clear vision for their music, hence the 20/20 title for their new album. "We've done a lot of experimentation, worked with a lot of different people and tried a lot of different things," Rakaa explains. "With this record, we wanted to really get back to a real, uncut pure vision and get back to the pure, boom-bap sound that really made us all get together as people and want to make music together." Lead single "Back Again" perfectly illustrates this point. With DJ Babu (also a member of the World Famous Beat Junkies) accenting the thumping cut with his precision scratching, Evidence and Rakaa update their fans on their musical agenda and highlight their dedication to the art of rhyme. "Don't worry if I write checks, I write rhymes," Evidence says on the cut, playing off a famous line from Diddy. Evidence felt it was important to draw attention to lyricism with the group's first single. "In today's rap game, people are worried about whether or not I'm making money, but it's not glorified that I'm writing my own rhymes or making my vision clear," he explains. "I just felt it was a bold statement and needed to be said." On "Alarm Clock Music," the crew gets off equally thought-provoking rhymes over a powerful, keyboard and scratch-propelled beat. "We named the song 'Alarm Clock Music' because it is supposed to wake people up," Rakaa says. "We wanted the beat and those cuts to come across like that. Lyrically, the third verse in particular had to do with conflict, whether it's on the block or nation to nation. It doesn't matter if it's across the street or across the world because they're very closely related. The song itself is a wake-up call." Then, on the soulful "You Can't Hide, You Can't Run," the group raps about making the best of a bad situation. "Life is going to come at you regardless," Rakaa says. "It doesn't mean you can't flip lemons to lemonade and lemonade to Minute Made. You can make the best of a bad situation and I think it's more necessary than ever. There's no shortage of nonsense coming at you because it's a crazy world right now." Dilated Peoples then gets aggressive on the confrontational "Kindness For Weakness" and then team with reggae king Capleton on the pounding, politically charged "Firepower (The Tables Have To Turn)." Firepower is especially important to the group because of reggae's link to hip-hop. "I've always got to give respect to Jamaica and to reggae music for creating Kool Herc and ultimately creating hip-hop," Rakaa says. "Without reggae music, there is no hip-hop." Elsewhere, Evidence highlights his lyrical acuity on the lyrically intense "Another Sound Mission" and DJ Babu showcases his superior turntable and production skills on the scratch-heavy "The One And Only." Like the rest of the album, the music on "The One And Only" explodes out of the speakers. The beats from Alchemist (Mobb Deep), Evidence (Beastie Boys, Linkin Park), Joey Chavez and Bravo, and DJ Babu (Dilated Junkies) are among the most forceful of Dilated People's career. The group made a point to feature intense production on 20/20, something that makes the album an exciting aural experience that will translate well to the group's highly regarded stage shows. "We said to ourselves, 'The energy levels have to be up,'" DJ Babu explains. "A big part of our group is performance. Another way of looking at the songs that we make for the record is things that we're adding to our live show. That's another side of us that fans really love us for, having music that translates well onto stage. Rakaa put it well when said, 'A lot times when we're in the studio we try to capture the energy that happens on stage.'" Indeed, Capitol Records signed Dilated Peoples in part because of their live show, which is among the best in hip-hop. After the success of the 1997 single "Third Degree" b/w "Confidence" and "Global Dynamics" and the addition of DJ Babu to the fold a year later, Dilated Peoples became a fixture on the tour circuit. Their shows, typified by brilliant tag-team rhyming between Rakaa and Evidence and turntable supremacy from DJ Babu, demonstrated that hip-hop shows can be entertaining and prominently feature a DJ. "We're one of the groups responsible for helping correct one of the most serious rap wrongs, which is the DJ being regulated to a stage prop," Rakaa says. "We make sure that Babu is up there with us and gets the equal shine because the DJ is the backbone of the culture and he's the backbone of our group, too." Once signed to Capitol Records, Dilated Peoples built upon their momentum by delivering stellar hip-hop music, including the meditative "Worst Comes To Worst" from 2001's Expansion Team and the inspirational "This Way" from 2004's Neighborhood Watch. Cognizant that their music should stand the test of time as individual songs as well as when put together for an album, Dilated Peoples returned to their roots to make 20/20, their most focused work to date. "20/20, the whole album was made on a 12" mentality," Evidence says. "We weren't worried about the whole album, how it was going to connect and if we had two love songs and one party song. We just banged it out. We put the record together two or three days before the end of it. We didn't sit and ride with it. We had it and knew where we were going, but it was more about the individual tunes. There was no questioning ourselves. It was just about making music." Book Dilated People for shows and concerts at Heavy Rotation booking agency. 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