- 13 Apr 04
The old-school impulses of Los Angeles’ Dilated Peoples are to the fore on this, the hip hop trio’s third album.
The old-school impulses of Los Angeles’ Dilated Peoples are to the fore on this, the hip hop trio’s third album. There’s undeniably great warmth in this music – the Peoples tend to favour old soul records for their sampling needs, and DJ Babu utilises a beautiful string break or a coosome female backing vocal or a thrilling electro-disco flourish with the best of them. And their wordplay can be switchblade-sharp when they want it to be – like on album standout ‘Big Business’, wherein MC Rakaa comes out swinging, taking on the post-September 11 new McCarthyism and coming on like Michael Moore, Gore Vidal and Chuck D rolled into one.
But so much of the rest of Neighborhood Watch (wherein, tellingly, MC duties are mostly handled not by Rakaa but MC Evidence) is unfocused, overlong and, frustratingly, about nothing in particular – or maybe just feels that way. The BPM, as well, begins at a low-speed, old-school lope and doesn’t change for the whole album, resulting in an agreeable wash of soul-soaked beats, played at a heavy-lidded joint-rolling pace, and not much else.
And that would be absolutely fine, if we weren’t so spoiled by the idea-stuffed every-syllable-counts rigour and boundless imagination of succinct wordmasters like Sage Francis, Buck 65 and Messiah J. Without that kind of intelligent voice constantly wilfully upping the ante, all that’s left here are (granted, absolutely top-drawer) café-bar hip hop beats absolutely guaranteed to engage you for at least the amount of time it takes to finish your pain au chocolat.