Dilated Peoples Interview (by A to the L)
With the release of the sophomore album “Expansion Team”, Dilated Peoples have forced their way into Hiphop’s inner circle – the artists who can drop singles that the radio can pick up on, without having to change anything or compromise their integrity in any way. On tour on the UK to promote “Expanion Team” and the lead single ‘Worst Comes To Worst’, I had a chance to catch up with Dilated and toss a few questions at them. As I spoke to Evidence, Iriscience could be heard in the background, conducting other business on another phone. Babu was absent – digging for beats was the excuse…
So how’s the tour coming along?
Evidence: Man, the tour’s going great : the reception has been very warm. It’s been sold out both nights so far – PRE-SOLD out! Cat’s have been trying to scalp tickets outside : and the audience has been showing a lot of love, singing along with the words. You know there’s nothing better than getting on a plane and flying 6000 miles to find that people are into your shit.
Are you pleased with the response that Expansion Team has received so far?
Evidence: Definitely. You know, being pigeonholed as underground artists : artists who are never destined for sales, it feels good to be breaking through and breaking those stereotypes, and just showing people that honest music translates – no matter what the sound.
‘Worst Comes To Worst’ has been out for a while in the states, but is about to get its UK release. Tell me a little bit about the ideas behind it.
Evidence: Like I said, we just want to put out honest music. ‘Worst Comes To Worst’ is the first single, and was the first track we recorded for the album. We never really had any intentions of it actually being a single : we just wanted to go in and put some ill music down, and then the people took to it. And that’s the best thing – not having to hire the hottest producer or having the biggest director for your video : just being able to do your thing – and that makes it feel good.
How did you hook up with Guru and Premier during work on Expansion Team?
Evidence: Well, we’ve known them for a long time, just through meetings on the scene. We always had a lot of respect for those cats. Me personally, I really looked up to Gang Starr, and have been influenced by Gang Starr : and I can say that for Babu and Iriscience as well. For me, Premier is one of the illest of all time – a true legend. Guru as well. I mean, if you listen to all the Gang Starr albums, Guru doesn’t just spit – there’s a message behind what he says, and there’s not really a lot of cats who have that type of credibility to just drop knowledge and drop gems on people. We had actually toured with Rage Against The Machine and Gang Starr, and we got really cool with Premier, Guru and Freddie Foxxx and Big Shug. And when it came down to make the album, we put in a phone call and they returned it.
The UK release of ‘Worst Comes To Worst’ carries a remix of the track featuring Guru and Havoc – was that recorded at the same time as the original, or did it come later?
Evidence: It came behind the original. Obviously Havoc (from Mobb Deep) is the person we cut up for the chorus : and to go from lifting that vocal from ‘Survival Of The Fittest’ to actually having him come out to perform the hook was just amazing because thats where the whole song starts. And then after that, people kept hitting us up like “Hey how come Guru’s only just talking on the hook?” So we was like, its only right : hold tight we got a remix coming with Guru busting on it.
What is it like being one of the only few urban acts on Capitol’s roster? Do you feel Dilated would be better suited to a label that had a larger urban roster?
Evidence: It’s a double edged sword, y’know? When we were shopping our deal, a lot of labels we went to were commending us on the work we had done up to this point, but also telling us that if we were gonna get into this major league type of position, then we’d have to get with these producers, we were gonna have to change this up and come with this. Capitol was one of the only labels that was willing to put out the record as-is. In fact, they had a lack of urban acts, and I think we got a lot of attention because of that. You know, we were allowed to be ourselves : and going into the second record, we didn’t feel that we had to do this or do that, because we basically tell them how we feel. And now that Capitol has bought Priority Records, we’ve been speaking to some of the cats at Priority who’ve been helping us out with some of their contacts in the hood.
What’s your motivation to keep bringing underground flavoured hip-hop? Don’t you ever get the urge to just bug out and make a happy party cut?
Evidence: Well you know, you got songs on the album like ‘Heavy Rotation’ with Tha Liks : that’s a party jam straight up : and we’ve done a lot of cuts in the past that have moved people. If I’m gonna go and do a party jam and hire this person and have a sound that’s not me : I think the people could smell that a mile away, to be honest. I don’t think that : I just think the people aren’t stupid, you know? If it comes down to it, and we’re really feeling like we’re gonna do it – then we’re gonna do one of the illest party tracks ever. But so far, I like to think of us as a group who goes out there and actually rocks parties as opposed to making party music.
How do you go about creating a track? Do you all sit down and discuss things, or does one of you just come up with a beat and run from there?
Evidence: You could go through every track on the album and there’s a different story for every single one. Sometimes Babu brings the hook to the table, or he’ll have an idea of a cut that’ll spawn a lyric, like ‘Eardrums Pop’ you know? Sometimes Iriscience has a hook : like ‘Trade Money’ was his idea : and we’ll write it around that. Other times I’ll come with a beat, like ‘Heavy Rotation’ : there’s just so set way of doing things.
Who would you like to collaborate that you haven’t yet, whether it be Hiphop, Rock, or any other form of music?
Evidence: If you followed our music, you can see that we’ve already got down with a lot of legends, and that’s something that I’m really proud of – the fact that we’ve collaborated with these people and made good music with them. As far as a list? KRS-One, Rakim, De La – those are legends : but I think if it happens kind of “organically” and we meet up with these people on the road : you know, I’d rather work with someone like that, that just having our label call someone – that usually leads to an uncomfortable situation.
I know Babu has the Beat Junkies, but are Evidence and Iriscience working on any side projects?
Evidence: Yeah, definitely. Iriscience got a solo record coming, I got mine coming as well. Its always gonna have the Dilated logo on it – it’ll be all over his, it’ll be all over mine, we’ll be touring together : but we’re definitely solo artists who came together to make this group, and because of that I think its only right that we put out solo records, to enable us to express ourselves outside the dimensions of the group.
And what about the Beat Junkies? Has working with Dilated affected Babu’s work with Beat Junkies, or are has he been able to balance the two activities?
Evidence: Well he’s the Dilated Junkie essentially. You’d need to get his thoughts exactly on this, but I feel that Babu has become a part of a “rap group”, whereas before he was just a straight battle deejay, and there’s definitely changes that go with that. Also, a good part of that is that he’s become an ill producer now : and he’s also making the Beat Junkies name more well known, by just repping them when he’s with Dilated. There’s always certain things you can do for the cause : Beat Junkies represent on our new album : we have a cut called ‘Dilated Junkies’ where they kill it, every single one of them : they come on tour with us and rep : you know, he just as much a Beat Junkie as he’s ever been.
How big an influence were Run DMC to you coming up? The comparison between two nice emcees and a deejay who cuts shit up is just too similar not to mention…
Evidence: Run DMC you’d need to talk to Iriscience about : EPMD was more my thing. Don’t get me wrong – Run DMC was the shit to me, but I was more into dancing when Run DMC was out, I wasn’t trying to emcee as much. Later came EPMD, and that’s when I was trying to do my thing too. So they really inspired me, from a lyricist’s standpoint, you know : me actually wanting to do rap music. And that’s another group with two emcees and a deejay. First it was Erick Sermon, Parrish Smith and K-La-Boss : and then it became DJ Scratch : but I loved both. K-La-Boss always seemed to be more responsible for the beats so his presence on the cuts wasn’t felt as much : and then Scratch came in and really started fucking tearing up the record. I think Babu was really influenced by Scratch, and I was really influenced by Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith. Especially Parrish Smith – he was always my favourite. Hold up :
(At this point Iriscience is in between calls so Evidence hands him the phone 🙂
Iriscience: As far as I’m concerned, Run DMC have been a big influence because that’s a format that they took all over the world, and changed rap music with. Stripping it all down to its bare elements : coming out in all black, with just the music and their personality and letting everything shine. So in that way its definitely a big influence because its taking things back to the essence, with spitting lyrics and the ill cuts and beats : and rocking the shows and rocking the parties.
(Another call. Iriscience tosses the phone back to Evidence and we continue.)
Lets go back about year to the whole Eminem episode. Is that definitely squashed now, and what were your feelings on the situation at the time?
Evidence: Just self-defence : protect yourself basically. I didn’t call him out, he called me out. There was a lot of confusion over Everlast’s verse on our album, but just for the record, that was something that Everlast did, we weren’t necessarily a part of that : but we chose to leave it on the track because its what he was saying. Then Eminem lashed out at me personally for some reason, because of that : and I retaliated. Its all Hiphop :that’s how it goes : he’s come back since then, and dissed us again : At this point, I talked to one of the members of D-12 and he told me it was all good, and you know, I don’t really wanna get famous off some shit like that, and that’s why I never put out the Bobby Fischer joint officially. I just wanted to let people know that I could rep for myself when it comes down to it.
So do you think the Bobby Fischer cut will ever see an official release?
Evidence: No. Definitely not : definitely not : bootleg only.
Speaking of bootlegs : whats the deal with the first Dilated album on Immortal (Imagery, Battle Hymns, And Political Poetry)? Do you think that will ever see the light of day?
Evidence: Um : I hope not! The record is a good record : it’s a honest record : its definitely us. But you know, I was 15 years old at the time, and I had a really high voice, and I was trying to struggle and try to sound more like a man at the time. My lyrics were on point, but presentation wasn’t really up to date : so to me : the fact that the record never came out was a good thing.
Do any of you have time to use the internet?
Evidence: Iriscience, I know, is definitely on the net a lot. Myself – I don’t have a computer. I never go on that, though I think I might pick up a computer and try to work it all out in the next few years. Babu, I can’t really speak for : I don’t know about him.
The reason I asked you was because in the last year or so, Dilated have signed with the Roots online-management team at Okayplayer. Has being affiliated with Okayplayer boosted your career or do you see a drastic difference in fan base since becoming a part of their team?
Evidence: I don’t know if we necessarily fit into the equation : I definitely know that they have a lot of top notch groups, and the fact that we’re allowed on there to become a part of that website is an honour : I think its good – its opened us up to a lot of new heads who might have not necessarily known about Dilated, but who are into the Roots and that type of sound. I think, its also interesting to see all the cats who are hitting the site, and have good things or bad things to say about Dilated – a lot of energy is channelled onto that site about us, and its probably tripped the people at Okayplayer out a little, like “Damn there’s a real presence here.”
What do you think will happen to Hip hop in 2002 in light of recent events? Will emcees start to examine their lyrics a little more before the put them out : will consciousness take more of a forefront?
Evidence: I hope so. The only thing though about human nature is that people tend to forget very quickly. Something that’s very prevalent today, might not be as important tomorrow : people tend to forget the importance and the value of things. I think what happened was a real jolt : it got people shooken up : but as you can see nothing’s really changed in music you know what I mean? At the end of the day its up to the artists, as people, to make the change.
What artists are you listening to at the minute?
Evidence: I got Gang Starr in front of me at the minute : I got Ghostface : I got a lotta stuff I’ve been working on :I’ve been working with King Tee and Phil Da Agony, and Joey Chavez. I’ve also been kinda getting away from rap too – just listening to some r’n’b, or you know, just some shit to relax my mind, so that when I come back to the Hiphop shit, I’m coming back refreshed : you know?
Any plan to work with british mc’s / producers in the future? Have you heard much of the UK scene?
Evidence: Yeah, yeah. We’re becoming more and more educated to that. Iriscience, he’s been out here a lot more than I have, so he probably knows the artists a little better. I’ve worked with the Creators : working with them was definitely an ill experience because they not actually rapping : they’re talking through beats : and the beats are universal. As far as lyricists go : a lotta people are doing their thing out here, and that’s good to see. We’ve chilled with Roots Manuva in the past, and a few other people in the industry who’ve made some moves : I think its good : its good to see people getting busy and creating a scene that’s still independent in a major way. They do shit for themselves you know? They don’t feel like they have to cater to American audiences in any way : and that honesty is to be admired.
“Worst Comes To Worst” gets its UK release soon.. any ideas on the next single?
Evidence: Trade Money : we made an edit for it : shortened it down a little bit, remastered it, and got a little more umph out of the bottom, and we made an ill video for it.
You’d mentioned earlier about the solo projects, but what about work on the next Dilated album? Anything underway?
Evidence: That’s coming first before the solo joints – number three Dilated record.
Just in finishing off… for people who may not have checked for you yet… what can someone who’s never heard Dilated Peoples expect from The Platform and Expansion Team?
Evidence: Honest music. Three cats who came together as individuals to form a group. Some of the illest cuts in the world from one of the world’s top notch deejays. Two emcees who learned to work well with each other, with completely different styles, and managed to find a platform where they could come together. That’s real.
Thanks again to Evidence & Iriscience for taking part, and for Sarah at zzonked for setting this up.