Dilated Peoples - Directors of Photography (Review)

Dilated Peoples - Directors of Photography (Essence of Hip-Hop)

"Directors of Photography" is the latest album from Los Angeles hip-hop trio Dilated Peoples (consisting of emcee/producer Evidence, emcee Rakaa Iriscience and DJ/producer Babu). The album features guest appearances from Vince Staples, Aloe Blacc, Krondon, Gangrene and others as well as production from Evidence, Alchemist, Diamond D, 9th Wonder, DJ Babu and others. It was released on August 12, 2014 via Rhymesayers Entertainment, LLC.

1) Intro - Skit

2) Directors - The first song on the album finds Evidence and Rakaa Iriscience announcing their return over a dark-ish Evidence produced piano loop with rolling drums. The beat is good, but the rhymes and scratching by DJ Babu both standout to me as being even better than the production. Not a bad song, but it's not quite as dope as I was hoping for after all these years. - 3/5

3) Cut My Teeth - This track features the first of two Alchemist beats on the album and it's pretty good. The instrumental is similar to the previous one in tempo and tone, but I think I'm feelin' this one a bit more than the first. Lyrically the song is good as well, with both Evidence and Rakaa rapping about their past, where they come from and about coming up in the rap industry. Nice. - 3.25/5

4) Defari Interlude - West Coast veteran Defari spits a quick verse over a quirky Evidence instrumental mainly centered around a sped up sample. Once again, the rhymes are dope, but the beat is a bit underwhelming for me. - 2.5/5

5) The Dark Room (featuring Vince Staples) - Now this is better. Twiz The Beat Pro and Evidence collaborate and deliver a darker beat with a chopped up vocal loop, swirling synths and stomping drums. The beat and rhymes by Ev and Rakaa are nice, but the hook by Vince Staples brings the song down a bit in my opinion. Still, I'm feelin' this one. - 3.5/5

6) Good As Gone - DJ Premier comes through and delivers my favorite instrumental on the album so far, with a chopped up sample in his signature style over boom-bap drums. As far as the rhymes go, both Rakka Iriscience and Evidence come through and spit verses about how people thought Dilated Peoples were done as a group before the duo trade off rhymes on the third verse. I'm feelin' this one as well. - 4.25/5

7) Show Me The Way (featuring Aloe Blacc) - This was the second single released from the album (with the previous track being the first) and it's real nice. The beat, by Jake One, is mainly centered around an upbeat piano loop over hard hitting drums and both Rakaa and Evidence sound great over it as they kick some motivational rhymes about working hard and not letting life overwhelm you. Very dope track. - 4.5/5

8) Figure It Out (Melvin's Theme) - This joint is primarily a DJ Babu instrumental track for him to show off his scratching skills, but both Evidence and Rakaa do spit some quick verses near the end. The scratching and rhymes are dope, but the backing instrumental has a sort of sluggish feel to it. It's not my favorite track on here, but not bad. - 3/5

9) Let Your Thoughts Fly Away - Legendary hip-hop producer Diamond D shows up on this cut and delivers a darker instrumental featuring a dreary backing sample, almost depressing guitars and soft pianos over mellow drums. The beat is pretty dope and both Ev and Rakaa sound good enough over it. Nice. - 3.25/5

10) Century of the Self (featuring Catero) - Rakaa spits some socially conscious rhymes over a beautiful Oh NO production centered around a light piano loop and head nodding drums. The beat is banging and Rakaa's lyrics are top notch, but the chorus brings the song down a tad. Regardless, this one is still fire. - 4.5/5

11) @mrevidence Interlude - Skit.

12) The Reversal - Evidence goes solo over an odd Babu instrumental with what sounds like dark distorted synths over plodding drums. The beat took some time to get used to, but it's grown on me a bit and Ev's rhymes are on point (as expected). Nice track. - 3/5

13) Opinions May Vary (featuring Gangrene) - This song features the last Babu instrumental on the album, this time with Dilated's in house DJ delivering a head nodding piano loop over some crazy ambient backing noises, stomping drums and ill scratches. As usual when these guys link up, the rhymes from Oh No, Ev, Rakaa and Alchemist are humorous and the beat has a sort of quirky feel to it. - 3.5/5 

14) Trouble - This song finds Ev and Rakaa trading off some braggadocios bars over a chopped up vocal, organ and piano loop. The beat, by Evidence and Bravo, is pretty good, but the rhymes are better. - 3/5

15) L.A. River Drive (featuring Sick Jacken) - The Alchemist comes through with what is easily my favorite instrumental on the entire album, with a beautiful sped up soul sample made even better by the DJ cuts found throughout. The beat is flames and all three emcees rip it, as Rakaa and Evidence team up with Psycho Realm's Sick Jacken and spit some carefree rhymes about their hometown. This is by far my favorite cut on here. - 5/5

16) The Bigger Picture (featuring Krondon) - The final song on the album finds Evidence and Rakaa linking up with Strong Arm Steady emcee Krondon over a soulful 9th Wonder production. The beat and rhymes by Ev and Rakaa Iriscience are dope and fit in nicely with "photography" theme of the album, but the chorus by Krondon isn't quite as good. Still, I'm feelin' this track. - 4.25/5

I'm going to rate the album

3.5 / 5

because there are a quite a few bangers on here, but there are a few underwhelming tracks as well. Lyrically the album is fire throughout, with Evidence and Rakaa Iriscience ripping every track and holding down the majority of the album themselves. Sure there are a handful of guests on here, but most of them just provide the chorus and leave the spotlight for Ev and Rakaa to shine. Speaking of shining, DJ Babu's cuts on this album are flawless (as usual). They add so many layers to every track and elevate the quality of each song they are featured on. The production, however, doesn't fare quite as well as the rhymes and the cuts, with some of the beats falling flat in the overall scope of the project. That's not to say the production is terrible (there isn't really a BAD beat on here, honestly), its just that some of them lacked the "wow" factor I was expecting from an album I've been waiting for for 8 years. Still, there are a few joints on here where the production really steps up and those are by far my favorite songs. All in all, the project is dope and is hopefully not the last time we hear from Dilated Peoples as a group.


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