Artist: Dilated PeoplesTitle: 20/20Rating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Max Herman

Dilated Peoples have always prided themselves as being artists of expansion, but on their fourth official long-runner, 20/20 (ABB/Capitol), they don’t exactly push the envelope. They do, however, bring the best elements of their Hip-Hop to the forefront, including comprehensible yet razor-sharp rhymes and scorching mid-tempo beats.

The album aptly kicks off with the Alchemist-produced sure shot single “Back Again,” and from there, the heat keeps on coming. On the MC tip, Evidence and Rakaa sound more confident and composed than ever. Meanwhile DJ Babu showcases his underappreciated production skills on a grander scale. Cuts like “You Can’t Hide, You Can’t Run” and “Satellite Radio” see this trio maintain their sample-driven, boom-bap sound that they have utilized since the mid-90s. Although on “Kindness for Weakness,” they do get a little more adventurous by turning up the soul a notch and by enlisting Talib Kweli to aid with the rhymes (a la “This Way” featuring Kanye West).

While Dilated’s last album, Neighborhood Watch, evoked wildly mixed reviews, 20/20 is sure to appease longtime fans. Ironically, the only real misfire is the title cut, “20/20,” which features an overly-busy beat that almost completely drowns out Ev and Rakaa’s rhymes. All in all, though, this album reaffirms that Dilated is one of the most consistent groups around. And in 2006 it’s good to see that a group like them, who undyingly respects the four elements of Hip-Hop, are still doing their thing on a major scale.