The underground Hip Hop scene in Los Angeles from the 90’s to the year 2000
During the 90’s Californian Gangsta Rap acts such as N.W.A, Dr.Dre, Snoop Dogg and Death Row (with Suge Knight and 2Pac) had managed to polarize media attention and thereby caused the shift of the Hip Hop epicentre from New York to Los Angeles. The city’poorest neighbourhoods, like Compton and Watts, had recently been the scene of political unrest and gang violence. Gangsta rap became the voice of this unrest and united the spirit of g funk with street savvy rhymes.
However, as well as birthing this violent offshoot, the Los Angeles Hip Hop scene was also the hub of a lively underground movement which distanced itself from gangsta rap but was, at the same time, extremely creative. From the beginning of the 90’s groups like The Pharcyde and The Alkaholiks were showing a different side of the city of angels. This movement continued to grow and proliferate under the shadow of gangsta rap.
A great contribution to the movement was made by the independent label Stones Throw Records, which had been set up by Peanut Butter Wolf and whose roster comprised Madlib, J Dilla and the Lootpack. This fertile environment, which distanced itself from gang life and exuded positive vibes, soon gave birth to Dilated peoples.
Who are the Dilated Peoples?
One DJ in particular, of Filipino origin, had emerged from this underground alternative scene together with his crew: the Beat Junkies. He was known as Dj Babu. As well as being a phenomenal Dj he was also a beat maker. He began collaborating with various MC’s who were spawned by this new scene.
Among these, a duo of rappers had already made a name for themselves with a couple of singles and bootlegs. We’re talking about Rakaa a.k.a Iriscience and a youngster with Italian origins called Evidence. Together with Dj Babu they decided to form Dilated Peoples.
The Platform, Dilated Peoples’ underground success.
Dilated Peoples soon got noticed in the underground scene thanks to the flow, technique and voice of Evidence and Rakaa as well as DJ Babu’s incredible scratches. They soon signed a deal with Capitol Records and released their debut album titled “The Platform” on May 23rd 2000. One of the records’ strong points was the impeccable production which was mostly done by another young Californian talent who came up under Dj Muggs of Cypress Hill and who would one day become one of the most respected producers in the game: The Alchemist. The remaining beats were produced by Evidence and DJ Babu as well as Swift of the Alkaholiks, Kutmasta Kurt and Joey Chavez. The features were also illustrious: B-Real of Cypress Hill, The Alkaholiks, Defari, Phil Da Agony, Planet Asia and Erick Sermon
The album immediately stood out because it was closer to the East Coast sound rather than that of your typical Los Angeles rap (it isn’t a coincidence that Alchemist began working with Mobb Deep during that same period) and it was fully based on technique and style. “The Platform” was also well received by music critics and the general public, thanks to the talent of Evidence, Rakaa and DJ Babu, although lyrically it was inferior compared to their following projects.
Dilated Peoples contribution to the underground scene.
Los Angeles and the whole U.S Hip Hop scene had discovered a new group of artists with an original and innovative style, meanwhile, the success of Californian gangsta rap was slowly declining. Dilated Peoples would go on to publish 4 successful albums in the following years. After their contract with Capitol Records ended in 2014 they went independent for the release of their album “Directors Of Photography”. Since then all three members have embarked on solo careers. Evidence has had the most successful and prolific solo career. He released 4 albums and also started beat making with a unique style, thus becoming a point of reference in the American Underground Hip Hop panorama. By dropping The Platform on May 23rd 2000 Dilated Peoples, with their introspective lyrics and formidable skills, opened up the doors for an alternative underground current in Los Angeles.