Beneath the Bootsy-esque basslines and ear-piercing electronic whines of the Dre Hit Machine, something very intriguing is happening in West Coast rap. Ignoring the allure, money, and trite lyrics of the “gangstas,” true rhyming and DJing is forming a unique school out on the Left Coast. Though mostly associated with the Bay Area’s Hieroglyphics crew, Aceyalone, Zion I, and Cali Agents, LA groups like Jurassic 5 and Dilated Peoples cannot be ignored.
Expansion Team, Dilated Peoples’ second release, is a strong follow-up to the mixed results of their freshman effort, The Platform. A much stronger, more coherent project, this album will definitely place the group in the forefront of the West Coast mix. Of course, it’s hard to place them in a category with their California associates since this album is straight from the East, with guest appearances by DJ Premier, Guru, Questlove, and Black Thought from The Roots, Tha Liks (nee Tha Alkaholics, for those who didn’t know), Beatminerz, and Ju-Ju from The Beatnuts. But, I’ll leave this dilemma to the hip-hop geographers.
MCs Evidence and Rakaa spit ferocious lyrics all over the CD, expanding beyond their usual battle rhymes and adding a bit of flair missing on The Platform. DJ Babu cuts wax and produces with the best of them. And surrogate family member, The Alchemist, shows why he’s one of the most talked about up-and-coming producers, as exhibited by his work on “Live On Stage” and “Worst Comes to Worst.” With this good, steady head nod of an album (especially the standout track “Dilated Junkies”), Dilated Peoples redeem themselves and excel with an authentic, true hip-hop you won’t find on commercial radio.