Dilated Peoples Talk Instagram, Staying Relevant, and “Directors Of Photography”

Dilated Peoples haven’t released an album in eight years. In that time they’ve all put out successful solo albums, switched from Capitol Records to Rhymesayers Entertainment, and toured all over the world. Now that they have reunited to make new music, what should we expect from the L.A. trio?

Today, the crew released Directors Of Photography, 18 tracks of head-bobbing joints that will stab you in the eardrums. We caught up with Evidence and DJ Babu to talk about the new album, the record label switch, and their love for Instagram.

Mass Appeal: What brought you guys back in the studio together after eight years?

Evidence: It was something that was promised to the people. When we got out of Capitol, we did our solo records first because we couldn’t do those under the contract. It’s no secret to our fans that we were solo artists that came together to make something bigger. In the liner notes for the Expansion Team, which came out in 2001, it said look out for my solo album coming soon.

We were supporting each others’ projects, featured on on each others’ projects. I produced a single on Rakaa’s project, Babu had mad tracks on it. There’s been no breakup, or ill will, or anything. It’s been nothing but supporting each other in what we wanted to do.

To make a new album and record it— it’s a dangerous thing for artists who take a big break for a long time and come back out. In my experience, it’s usually for an ulterior motive. Someone’s broke, or they need to make a payment on something, or they need an advance or whatever. They end up making a pretty regular record and ruin the discography. It was very important that if we were to make a record, we’d have to want to make it, not have to make it.

MA: What was the biggest challenge in coming back together as a group? Were there ego issues or anything?

Evidence: I don’t think ego. Maybe ideology…

DJ Babu: Just growth. Obviously lives change when that much time passes. We all grew up. It’s so crazy how fast time passes. I think the hard part was just getting to know each other again and have a cool energy, a good vibe, and make good music. I think the angst might have just been us being hard on each other. Trying to get a better take out of someone, or trying to come up with better ideas or beats.

Maybe now, looking back, it was the pressure of coming back after all this time and wanting the best for each other on our album. No one wanted to put out a wack album. That was the bottom line.

Evidence: People gotta remember we put out albums, not singles, from 2000 to 2006. Now it’s 2006 to 2014, so we’ve been ‘separate’ for longer than we were a group.

MA: What’s the significance of the Directors Of Photography title?

Evidence: Directors Of Photography, DP– Dilated Peoples. Even on 20/20, our last album, it was the girl holding the cracked lense with our logo forming. We’ve always been about the vision, and how we see the world and each other.

Then social media came in with Instagram, Tumblr, and all that stuff; Babu and I were making good noise on that real early. When he started, Americans weren’t even on it. It was just Japanese and Turkish people. We were like, “We’re going to be the first rappers to have photos on Instagram.” Our album cover’s going to be shot on an iPhone. Since then it’s happened so many times, but we were really early on the idea. We just kept building our names as photographers. Some people don’t even know we do music. They just follow us because they like the pictures.

MA: Did you feel like you had to update your sound with this album?

Evidence: Well, we’ve been really prolific as solo artists and have had moderate to good success with that. For Dilated Peoples, I had to take a step out of my shoes and go, “If I really liked a group, would I just follow them into everything they do? If I liked Rage Against The Machine, would I go buy Tom Morello’s solo album?” So I said let’s pretend I don’t. That means we stopped in 2006. If that’s the case, then do we consciously try to make something that sounds like 2007 so that we can continue the lineage, or do we just hop over all those years and go to now music?

Obviously, we’re not going to make trap or put a bunch of high hats in there. Will we be mad if someone calls us throwback? If somebody calls us that, we have to wear it. Then he’s like [DJ Babu] “Let’s not just make a throwback record, let’s stick to our ideology and try to push a little bit.” I never found the answer, but through the evolution of that dilemma, I feel like we landed right in the middle somewhere.

MA: What were the differences working with Rhymesayers instead of Capitol Records?

DJ Babu: It’s just complete freedom. Everyone there is practical, and we’ve known them for a long time. They’ve been nothing but awesome. At the time when we said we’re doing this album, our managers started getting different offers from different situations. We saw some other decent offers that were really appealing, but Rhymesayers made the most sense. They wanted us to do us.

Evidence: We came up under Capitol, and they didn’t necessarily get what we were trying to do. I’m not going to say it was all bad; there was a lot of good things that happened, but a major label would like you to go platinum. We didn’t necessarily fit that mold. We had to stand our ground a lot.

Sometimes artists consider the label the enemy, like the police or something. They’re like the man, always trying to hold you down or kill your dreams. But with Rhymesayers, it’s like a family and a crew, so it’s a different dynamic.

MA: You guys have been doing international tours the last few years as opposed to touring in the States. Is there a reason for that?

Evidence: I think go where the people want you more. We get everything; we’re just spoiled. We’re really campaign-driven. If Dilated isn’t actually putting out an album right now, or doing something to prove, it’s hard to live off your last campaign [in America]. Whereas, the rest of the world doesn’t seem to be concerned as much with American politics— sound scan spins, ad placement, social media numbers. You’re known for doing a good show. If they like you, they continue to fuck with you.

It seems like, as Dilated Peoples, when we go to do press in Europe, there will be not a single fucking interview that goes, “Where have you guys been in eight years?” They followed everything a lot more.

MA: Do you think they have a better knowledge of hip hop in general overseas?

DJ Babu: Maybe a little bit of it has to do with us being an import to them.

Evidence: Well, you have to talk about the style of music we make. Boom-bap hip hop and golden era hip hop, I don’t like to be thrown in a box, but if you’re going to throw us in one, we’d land in there somewhere. That sound didn’t get played out.

MA: I know you two handled the production on the album. Evidence, what’s your favorite Babu beat?

Evidence: We have a posse cut that’s an iTunes bonus featuring Fashawn, Rapsody, Domo Genesis, Vinny Paz, and Action Bronson. That beat is retarded.

MA: How about you Babu?

DJ Babu: I like the first one, “Directors.” That kind of set the tone for the album. When we first got up to try and start doing the record, that was the one keeper. That was our starting point.

Dilated Peoples’ new album Directors Of Photography is avaiable on iTunes now.

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