Dilated Peoples: Triple Optics

George Benson, once sang “I knew back then, what I know now/If I understood the what, when, why and how/Now it's clear to me, what I should have done/But hindsight is 20/20 vision.” Dilated Peoples on the other hand, have flipped it and with their fourth release titled 20/20. Here, they are using foresight and leaving the past in the past. Evidence and Rakaa had already formed Dilated Peoples after crossing each others’ paths at various Hip-Hop shows before DJ Babu of the Beat Junkies became the third member of the group.

After dominating the late 90’s indie world with such twelve-inch classics as “Work the Angles”, Capitol Records came calling. Having only tasted mediocre crossover success since, Dilated Peoples wear the backpacks placed on them by the industry with pride. Admitting this, a laughing Babu says "I'll wear my backpack with pride, preferably Louis Vuitton, I have no problem with that." Another Louis Vuitton Don, Kanye West checked in on the 2004 album’s “This Way”, but still undershot the response the group probably intended.

Back at it, Babu and Evidence spoke to AllHipHop.com about the vision behind 20/20. Old topics are revisited, and you’ll get some insight into one of the few artists with independent freedom and major backing. Even Barbara Walters is starving for 20/20, read up.

AllHipHop.com: How you feeling today?

Evidence: I’m good. $**t I am great, excited about this new album.

Babu: I am excited [too].

AllHipHop.com: I can hear it in your voice. The new single, “Back Again” is doing quite well. How is the promotion for that going?

Evidence: Just as good.

AllHipHop.com: As far as 20/20, what can we expect?

Babu: You can expect us to be doing us.

Evidence: We made this album for our true fans.

AllHipHop.com: Though MTV supported Neighborhood Watch, those true fans you speak of, seemed to reject it…

Babu: Yeah, you’re right with that last album we could’ve lost a lot of our fans, but our fans are loyal, and they rode it out with us while we tried our hand at something a little different. Our fans feel as though they know us personally, and we respect their opinion and that is what we take to heart.

Evidence: We took a lot of chances with that album, if nothing else it brought us new fans.

AllHipHop.com: You once said in the past that the first two albums showed where you came from philosophically, and that the new album shows where you come from literally. Can you explain that?

Evidence: We made some pretty bold statements and got political, but this time around we are back to making good f**kin’ music, and I felt the need to bring the attention back to lyricism.

AllHipHop.com: It’s as if rappers have taken the helm, and MC’s are fighting for position. How would you describe the difference between a rapper and an MC?

Evidence: An MC is the master of ceremony or the mic controller. The one who holds down the party second to the DJ; a rapper on the other hand, brings flavor.

AllHipHop.com: How do you respond to the critics who point out the teeter-tattering Dilated Peoples does between underground and mainstream?

Evidence: You know, half of the time I don’t pay attention to the critics. In most cases, they don’t know our music, or from which we came. There are still people who don’t even know we are from L.A. Because of our sound being similar to the underground sound of the Bay, they think were from there. So if the facts aren’t straight; what the hell does their critique mean?

Babu: It can be upsetting at times because some of our new fans that are not familiar with us prior to “This Way” may buy, based upon a review and that gets to us at times.

AllHipHop.com: You all are down with Okay Player; do you interact with a lot of the other artists or people on message boards?

Evidence: Not really, there are some hot acts over there, like ?uestlove and Black Thought - those are my boys. But I haven’t been in touch with the people from Okay Player in some time.

AllHipHop.com: Are you feeling The Boondocks?

Evidence: What’s that?

AllHipHop.com: You’ve never seen The Boondocks; the cartoon created from the comic strip?

Evidence: No, I don’t get much television time in.

Babu: I have seen it, and I was laughin’ my ass off, but I am not avid watcher.

AllHipHop.com: With three creative minds, not to mention artistry with testosterone flowing how have you all withstood the pressure?

Evidence: Understanding my position. I have a dual role of producer and rapper, but most importantly, I understand I’m in a group.

AllHipHop.com: It’s been said that you, Joey Chavez and Alchemist function as a unit. With the individual shine that Al has gotten through his resume and solo albums, has it made you step your game up?

Evidence: Hell yeah, he is doing his thing right now, perfecting my skills is a must right now.

AllHipHop.com: Looking back, what ever happened with that Eminem beef?

Evidence: It’s done! I don’t talk about it anymore, but I will say this: I didn’t have anything to do with it originally, and didn’t authorize the money made from it.

AllHipHop.com: Gotcha. Some say Hip-Hop in its truest form is being choked out by the mainstream; what do you think?

Babu: Hip-Hop as a culture is beautiful, and the music is phenomenal. Things go wrong when you have people who don’t understand or live the life, it gets all messed up in their repackaging efforts. To do our part, we’ve always maintained creative control at Capitol [Records].

AllHipHop.com: How have you been able to do so because you all still have the mindset of independents?

Babu: Yeah, something like that. We’ve been [at Capitol] longer than some of the employees, and seen some of the executives come and go. We’ve been out there finding out for ourselves from day-one and that’s what’s helped us live up to the expectation and foundation laid. We are probably the only artist sitting in on promo meetings and looking over shoulders. We have been self-managed from the inception. We just hired a management team to ease some of the load. We are firm believers in not letting anyone else project an image of us out to the masses that is not a true representation.

AllHipHop.com: That said, what happened with the Volvo commercial, that wasn’t really you guys, right?

Babu: There’s a crazy story behind that situation. Dave Myers who is one of the top directors in the game, he was working on a commercial for Volvo and they wanted to use the song, and have us to in the commercial. We all went back and forth with Volvo and we thought all was fine. Then we get phone calls telling us the commercial was out. Volvo went out and got actors who favored us and went with their own concept. That was crazy, but it all ended up well because Dave directed the video and we came up with what hot concepts for the video.

AllHipHop.com: Babu, one of the impressive independent releases of 2005 was The L.J.’s project you did with Defari. Still, don’t you think it was a little strange to use the Likwit Junkies’ name and not include The Liks, Lootpack, King Tee, or Phil Da Agony?

Babu: You know, Defari and I had been working together and the album just came together. It's a crazy hot album. It was nothing personal. Those are my dudes too.