Dilated Peoples 

20/20 (Capitol)

As song titles go, you could hardly pick one that sounds more banal than "Back Again." But in the case of Dilated Peoples' new single, it'd be hard to pick a more relevant phrase. That the L.A. trio is "back again for the very fourth time" on the same major label is one of the remarkable stories in recent hip-hop. Longtime fans who carped about Dilated's pairing with Kanye West on 2004's Neighborhood Watch probably have the resulting single, "This Way," to thank for the group's continued presence on Capitol. But the rest of the album remained undiluted Dilated: no-frills hip-hop made with two turntables and two microphones.

The defiant 20/20 is touted as a return to those simple pleasures, minus big-name guests and obvious hooks. At times, there's too much déjà vu: There are so many underground groups now tapping into the same aesthetic that the novelty of Dilated's old-school approach is gone. However, Rakaa and Evidence, along with DJ Babu, compensate by ratcheting up the intensity; hard-hitting boom-bap like "Alarm Clock Music" is a ringing reminder of how clear their vision remains.


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