While the rest of the nation was swaying to the blunted g-funk of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, the trio that comprises L.A.’s Dilated Peoples was keeping their ears to the street and their fingers nimbly diggin’ in the record crates. MCs Raaka-Iriscience and Evidence along with DJ Babu produced and wrote tracks for such up-and-coming artists as Rasco and Funkdoobiest during the West Coast rap revolution, patiently biding their time until the world was ready for them to ascend from their underground stronghold.

The group’s 2000 release, The Platform, scored both on the charts and with critics, placing the trio in the company of fellow left coasters like Jurassic 5 and Blackalicious and opening the doors for them to go off the hook with their sophomore disc.

To say that the beats on Expansion Team are head-bobbin’ is an understatement. In addition to Babu’s already thick repertoire of thumping rhythms, the fellows have recruited New York legends like Gangstarr, The Beatnuts and the ubiquitous Alchemist to provide the “bassis” for several tracks. Toss in cameos by Tha Liks’ Tash and J-Ro, The Roots’ Black Thought and ?uestlove, Da Beatminerz and more and you’ve got possibly the best hip-hop album of the year.

“Heavy Rotation” utilizes organ accents and that old-school funk bass to provide the battleground for Iriscience and Evidence to parry lyrics with Tha Liks in what could be considered a musical version of Thunderbox. “Dilated Junkies,” “Hardhitters” and “Pay Attention” were populating mix CDs on New York street corners before the album was ever released, but without a doubt the gem on this bling-bling bracelet is “Worst Comes To Worst,” flaunting soaring strings and a Mobb Deep chorus. While these players aren’t changing the game, they’re definitely the best “Expansion Team” in the league.