Dilated Peoples

Knock, knock. Who is it? Hey White America, it's Kanye, open up. Yo, what's good ... oh Babu, Evidence, and Rakaa ... uh, come on in.

Dilated Peoples' third LP, Neighborhood Watch, sees the portly Southern Californians still starved like college students, still vowing to sneak some good old skool elements into the Viacom machine. And with the bulletproof sanctuary of Kanye's famous backpack, plus the usual above-par Alchemist production, the time seems as right as ever to do it. Sway, lead the way.

Setting aside for now which neighborhoods are truly watching Dilated, the thirteen tracks contained here mostly eschew the overly optimistic pretense that quelled 2001's Expansion Team. Guest spot singles such as "This Way," featuring a smackably smooth Kanye West (warning: It's his only contribution on the album), and "Poisonous" with snafued Texan Devin the Dude exude crossover potential. The six-minute round-table cut, "Closed Session," with Planet Asia, Phil Da Agony, and Defari, is the type of Nineties-era banger rarely found on albums anymore.

Yet resurrecting long-forgotten traditions is probably Neighborhood Watch's lone saving grace. With Lil' Jon and Lil' Flip controlling all media outlets, Dilated Peoples' simpleton formula for preserving hip-hop, considered boring a couple years ago, has become viable during brief crunk intermissions because Kanye says so.

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Hunter Stephenson