Dilated Peoples

Neighborhood Watch

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Not that rappers Evidence and Rakaa ever have to coast on their productions, but the strength of Dilated Peoples since their debut has been the beats, not the rhymes. When the productions of the Alchemist or Babu or Evidence are flying, records like Work the Angles or The Platform have followed suit -- and allowed the group to grow steadily as lyricists. But just as DP have crested as a strong group of community-minded artists, the productions failed them. Most of the blame for Neighborhood Watch has to go to the previously invincible Alchemist, whose productions are front-loaded on the record. Unfortunately, his beats aren't rugged or hooky, just astonishingly weak, even on the trailer single and opener, "Marathon," driven by a sharp but played-out bassline that just won't stop banging. Only Evidence's "Who's Who" and Babu's posse track, "Closed Session" (featuring Defari, Phil da Agony, and Planet Asia), reach the level of past Dilated Peoples tracks. On the lyrical side, the trio continues to improve, using the title track to explore how life in an active neighborhood can cycle between vigilance and paranoia, and outlining on "Poisonous" (featuring Devin the Dude) the perils of a girl with complications. Producer of the moment Kanye West stops by for the player-life exposé "This Way," and true to form, a weak production sinks the solid rapping.

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