Live Music + Gig Reviews

Dilated Peoples @ ULU, London

14 September 2001

In October 2001, the hip-hop collective of three known as Dilated Peoples release their second album, called Expansion Team. As their support slot for Limp Bizkit‘s current tour had already sold out, this evening at the University of London Union was a chance for anyone unable to get to those gigs to hear Dilated Peoples up close and intimite.

It was clear from the moment they appeared on stage that they wanted to get intimate with the audience too, the two MCs almost falling over themselves to shake hands with their public. Said public was an off-term crowd, consisting of a bewildering cross-section of society. Hip-hop fans aged 16-30 jumped about at the front, waving their arms and generally being energetic, while curious onlookers wearing everything from chin studs to woolly jumpers clustered in fidgety groups further back.

As the set began, immediately obvious comparisons had to be drawn with fellow west-coasters Jurassic 5 and with De La Soul, but while the sunkissed vibe of Dilated Peoples apes both, they have some way to go before they offer hip-hop as classy as Three Feet High and Rising. That’s not to ridicule them however, for they are a collective with many more tricks up their big baggy t-shirt sleeves than is at first obvious. DJ Babu is a revelation, clearly a fine talent who can scratch amazingly precise beats and whose choice of samples set the mood for the MCs to rap over. As an individual and group DJ champion, his talents were well documented and recognised even before becoming an integral component of Dilated Peoples.

The constant howling of “BABOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” by the MCs, known as Evidence and Rakaa, was an irritant. Was it necessary to constantly ask the audience to cheer the DJ’s name? Whatever, one of the MCs wears a baseball cap perfectly set at 90 degrees sideways (pictured, right) while the other (pictured, left) can only be described as a big boy. Both have stage presence to spare, but it was the larger of the two whose vocal talent was the more obvious. Lyrically there wasn’t much to note. An impromptu piece about war was, given the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the USA, perhaps inevitable, when one considers that the collective operate on a freestyle basis, making up material on the spot of gigs.

On the whole the material from the new album and last year’s The Platform was listenable and rather fun. They aren’t the easiest entry-point into the LA hip-hop underground scene but, with major label support, their brand of clean, energetic hip-hop coupled with their undoubted talent will undoubtedly win them admirers and friends.

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Dilated Peoples @ ULU, London