Dilated Peoples: Directors of Photography
"Show Me the Way"
It’s been eight years since Los Angeles-based Dilated Peoples dropped its last studio album, and the hip-hop trio took that time to explore its members’ many creative passions, spanning music to visual art. After touring internationally and pursuing solo projects, Evidence, DJ Babu, and Rakaa (Iriscience) are back with Directors of Photography, their fifth LP and first since 2006’s 20/20.
Reconnecting listeners will be quick to notice the group’s signature style and sound, but they’ll also hear some sharper production elements and a clean, confident pulse woven throughout the 16 tracks. The three members effortlessly showcase their individual strengths, shaping platforms for each to address their own interests and inspirations.
Indeed, the title of the LP thematically speaks to their pursuit of artistic expression as a whole; as they explain, to be a “director of photography” implies employing a process of actively selecting and re-contextualizing influences, reframing them into a new whole. This is taken literally here with an inclusion of interludes that feature snippets of interviews and the artists speaking to their crafts.
The staying power of the group’s tried-and-true conversations between MCs and DJ—that chemistry between rhyming and scratching—features prominently throughout. The pacing of the entire effort is impeccable, ranging from the steady, piano-heavy start of “Directors” to the downtempo guitar progressions and pensive lyrics of “Let Your Thoughts Fly.” Standout tracks include “Figure It Out (Melvin’s Theme),” which showcases Babu’s turntable talents with some stellar scratching, and “Century of the Self,” featuring Rakaa’s take on advertising, propaganda, and the negative side to consumerism supplemented with catchy, pointed bass lines.
Directors of Photography is a refreshing return, showing that flow only improves with time.