Dilated Peoples have made a mark rocking venues with energetic shows around the time they debuted with The Platform back in 2000. this follow-up to the sophomore release, Expansion Team shows why they've come this far. Neighborhood Watch is their most recognized record to date and it helps fertilize what they planted years earlier with their breakout cut, "This Way." Babu took a break from his busy tour schedule-they were in N.Y. for a show-to answer a few of our questions. Who says Djs only speak with their hands?
2NR: It was Oxnard, California where you got you're start?
DJB: To get the record straight my dad was in the Navy. We traveled around a lot. I was out in Maryland and Jacksonville [Fla.] before by father got stationed out on the West Coast. I was six or seven when we finally ended up in Oxnard. We stayed for about a year before we moved a city over, to Camarillo. I was a Junior or Senior in high school when we started a mobile DJ crew-S.I.K. (Spinners In Control). That was my first introduction to DJing. After clearing out one to many dance floors, I realized that I was probably better off DJing in the bedroom. I was the scratcher in the crew and like I said, I cleared dance floors. I was more into playing music for me rather than catering to the crowd. Around that time I met Kan Kick. He was one of the original members of a crew called Lootpack. Before I knew it I was hanging out in his garage everyday instead of going to Junior College. He's really the one that opened my mind to DJing, digging and production. I started entering DJ battles. I even battled Rhettmattic of the Beat Junkies early on and caught a win. I kept in touch with them. I entered local battles and no one really knew who I was until I ended up in a Rap Sheet battle with Shortcut and Rhettmattic. I ended up losing in a semi-final round to Short but I did enough to finally get invited to a West Coast DMC. That same week I ended up hanging out with D-Styles, whom I just met, when I got the invitation. He offered up a spot at his crib. I jumped on a plane that weekend with Curse and Melo-D, who I had loosely known, and ended up staying at D's house. It was a great weekend.
2NR: It was a future legend weekend!
DJB: Well when we were all hanging out it wasn't about anything. We were pretty much on the dick of Q-Bert, Mix Master Mike, and the X-Men (X-Ecutioners). We were all just ripe and happy to be there. You gotta understand that back then it was hard to find out about a DMC battle-let alone enter one. I mean they'd have an East Coast heat and a West Coast heat. They'd take the top three and they would be your U.S. finalists. It's not like it is now with the regional competitions all over the country-it's madness. Back then I was just happy to be there. I wasn't expecting anything. I was glad to meet DJs that were into it. In the battle I'd go up against DJ Quest, DJ Disk, Shortcut, DJ Rhettmattic, J-Rocc, Melo-D-all these great DJs and somehow I'd pull off second. Shortcut won first. I was second. And Quest and Disk tied and did a tie-breaker round where Disk advanced. All of a sudden I was going to a DMC U.S. Finals. New Year's of '95 Shortcut and I got to New York and got into all these DMC videos. That was my start.
2NR: You were putting out mixtapes at the time. How 'bout now?
DJB: Yeah but I was putting them out back then on more of a local level. I've put out a couple over the past couple years. It's a series called Duck Season. But as soon as I get off this tour I'm looking to put out a street tape-nothing official though. I do it a little more legit now. All the music I put on them are cleared and licensed.
2NR: There's a crackdown on mixtapes now a days.
DJB: They say there is but I'm in New York right now and I've been to store where there's entire sections dedicated to mixtapes. It's outta control. I love the mixtape game but a lot of these tapes aren't mixed anymore. It's cool but to me part of being a DJ is selecting. A lot of it is about exclusives and exclusive dub plates.
2NR: What's a mixtape to you?
DJB: To me it's a blend of music where the DJ is going to take control and to a certain extent turn the music to keep the party going, keep it moving and keep it entertaining for the listener.
2NR: Do you see a difference between West Coast mixtapes and East Coast mixtapes?
DJB: A little bit. On the East I think a little more of the weight is put on exclusivity of songs and freestyles. I love it. I had to pick up some just to keep up. These guys are pickin' up music that isn't even going to come out soon if ever. It's something to get if you want to keep up with what's going on in the streets. The only qualm I have with it is that if you're not mixing and you're not DJing then let's just call it a compilation or something else. I'm nont trying to disrespect anybody. I love Kay Slay and all those others. But I come from a school of hand skills. It's an era where a DJ spoke with their hands versus their mouths. I appreciate a little bit of the hand skills. But you also have to appreciate all the facets of a DJ. You've got to have a good ear. You've got to have good taste. You gotta have timing and you have to have deep crates. I've got skills but I'll be the first one to tell you I'm not nice on the mic, and on a lot of those tapes that's what draws people. The hype-ness of these dudes screaming on the mic like, "Yo! New Shit!" I'm right there. I love it. I wish I could get on the mic and scream and holler to make it sound official like them. A good example to me is Tony Touch. I always liked how he flipped it. He gets busy on the turns and definably nice on the mic, great selection, great taste-all the classic qualities are there.
2NR: Who has the deepest crates? Whose do you envy?
DJB: Man. Um, I could go on forever. I'm constantly working on my collection. From the dudes in my crew like J-Roc, Rhettmatic, Melo-D and dudes I run into like Numark, Cut Chemist and Shadow, Madlib-it's endless. To me if you're a pure digger, an honest digger, you're always gonna have something in your crates that someone may not be hip to. I can on-Evidence, Alchemist...all these guys have illys man. I've given up on trying to have every record. I'm trying to have a nice controlled collection that I'm comfortable with.
2NR: What are your feelings on CDJs and analog?
DJB: I actually love the CDJs. I love the flux of technology these days and I think it's incredible. I know there're people that say stuff like the shit don't skip, it's not that hard, it's nothing like what DJs in the past had to go through-to me it's just another way to touch sound. What dawned on me was I was talking to my cousin and kids get computers before they even get sound systems or CD players. It's really an MP3-iPod type of world. I don't knock it but I used to go into record stores without a listening center or the internet. And I'd buy music on the strength of liking the group or how dope the cover looked or if someone I trusted said something dope about the album. Now kids don't even have to buy it. They could just download it and put it on their MP3 player. The point is that a lot of these kids have that same passion and love of the music. Just because it's not on wax doesn't mean the passion isn't there. The technology is going to open up a whole new generation of DJs with different tools but we're all trying to do the same thing. I'm still very much about vinyl. I can go on and on about how priceless it is and how people should keep it alive. But there's a lot of convenience to CDJs. Everyone knows how it sucks to fucking carry two or three crates with you. Now all you have to do is carry around a book of CDs.
2NR: How did the name Dilated Peoples come about?
DJB: Rakaa had a publishing company called Expanding Pupils. Rakaa and Evidence had just gotten out of a record contract and were resurfacing. Alchemist, who was around before me and is an invisible member of the group, flipped the publishing group name into what it is now.
2NR: As an example, we see Xzibit in the video. Some people may not know or understand the relationships-explain the lineage of the group.
DJB: I hope I don't forget anyone. Between Ev, Rak and me, we're all individuals but we're all just blue-collar cats. What made our group strong is our connections with other people. Dilated has been loosely affiliated with Likwit Crew-it's not official. Defari is our ace-our dog. Xzibit is Likwit. Phil da Agony and that Strongarm Steady crew are cats from around the way people we're fans of and build with. Ev and Rak have a strong tie to the whole Soul Assassins family, not only through Alchemist but also through DJ Lethal of House of Pain. At one time they were signed to DJ Lethals publishing company. A lot of what we do is built around Cypress Hill-two emcees and a DJ; a West Coast group with a non-characteristic West Coast sound-so there's a tie there. Of course Lootpack (Madlib, Wildchild, DJ Romes); I've known them since the OX days and obviously they're Likwit. We've worked together and done shows together. Beyond that, what's interesting about us is that we can float between the two worlds where you'll see us hang out with guys like Xzibit but you could also catch us with Aceyalone. I think it's because we all came from that golden era of hip hop. The "Yo! MTV Raps" music era. We respect our fan base and respect the culture but as much as we "try to keep," we also want to sell a million records.
2NR: A lot of times you'll perform in a club where the sound system isn't really set up for live performances. You guys have great stage presence. You have a show.
DJB: Even before the first album, when I wasn't officially in the group and I just did studio sessions and some shows, we had one 12. That record had three songs on it: "Third Degree," "Global Dynamics" and "Confidence." It was one group song, one Evidence song and a Rakaa Song. The first song featured Defari. We'd literally have a 15-minute show. Now if we had to we could rock for an hour and 40. Rakaa is the most comfortable on stage, Ev is the studio cat, and I-through battles-cross the two. Rakaa always stressed the importance of being dope live. And he's right because I remember catching a hip hop show for a group that I liked but seeing them live it was just shitty. When we started we didn't have anything but the show, no videos, no faces-we want to give a show to the people. Before our record deal we were able to tour ourselves internationally and sell tens of thousands of 12s literally out of the trunk of our car. A live show definitely helped us get to new places.
2NR: Being in this for so long what have you learned about the industry?
DJB: It's a cutthroat business. And it's hard. People think that when you sign a deal and are on that level that the road is paved with gold. When I signed I just thought of it as another doorway; the start of a whole other chapter. It's hard because you got this big machine that invests money into your group and your vision and the bottom line is that there are expectations. You are in a business agreement and they want to see their money back. At the end of the day, they could love your music and they could see you destroy shows, but they will look at the numbers... the zeros and plaques. We've got all the key things in place-the tour manger, accountants, lawyers, and management-but it just as important as ever to be on top of your shit.
2NR: Has Rakaa gotten you guys into the Jujitsu stuff?
DJB: Ev just picked it up. He's been doing it for the past six months. My son and me are scheduled for our first session when we get back. I've been getting shit from Gracie for it for the longest. That's like extended family too, so whenever I see those guys they're like, "Babs, when are you comin down? You're disrespecting the family." They've been offering free sessions forever. They've even invited me to some of the private matches. They kind of hold us down like low-key security.
In the spirit of Rakim what's your favorite dish?
Anything? There's nothing like my wife's chicken Adobo.
A shot of Henny.
The perfect way to roll a blunt?
To me I prefer the old school Philly. I like to break up the buddha and split it. Take the outer layer off-some guys like that outer layer-I'll keep it just in case it's dry or cracks or something. In a perfect world it's a moist Philly. Anyway I crack it and make a cone. I put a little europeean twist in there and add a little cardboard filter. That's my style. I'm actually a world-class roller. I may not be the fastest but when you see a blunt that I've rolled most people will say it's a damn nice blunt. Yeah, so I take pride in that. I've been to Amsterdam five or six times and just got to go twice last winter.
The Optimal DJ Setup?
A pair of 1200s a Rane TTM56 or an Mpath...the Junkies are sponsored by them now. I'm kind of over Vestax. In the club scene Rane is the standard. They've always had high quality shit. Solid and they don't wear out. Anyway, I'm very fond of this Pioneer Echo Box, A Boss 303 sampler.
How Many Years Djing?
Started in 1991. What is that? Thirteen years?
Herbie Hancock's Rockit.
A while ago (I think it was the Vibe show), I saw the Junkies on TV-would that your first national performance?
It was Me, Rhett, Melo and J-Rocc. It would be my first live TV performance that's for sure.