Review Summary: And excuse me y'all while I fill my potholes
Pegged as little more than quirky, hip-hop hippies in the early nineties, De La Soul--then three dudes from Long Island enjoying their much deserved fifteen minutes--had a lot to live up to with their sophomore release. Besides the absurd expectations from both critics and fans, which is understandable considering their last record was 3 Feet High and Rising
, De La was in the middle of a falling out of sorts. Not with each other, nor really with their jobs, but more so with their current place in music. Never envisioning themselves as a pigeon-holed, one-trick cash grab for a record company, it became very apparent to the group that De La Soul was becoming as much of a lifestyle choice as a group of three high-school friends making music together.
In introducing their "D.A.I.S.Y. Age" concept (an acronym standing for "da inner sound, y'all"), De La laid the foundation for both their most divisive trait and their greatest asset. D.A.I.S.Y. and its peace and love ideals caused a great rift in the world of hip-hop; and for all the critical praise that was lopped onto De La Soul, no one seemed to be able to get over that there was, in fact, more to them than their hazy musings and friendly disposition. Yes “Me, Myself and I” was a great song but there was never going to be another. De La fancied themselves a constantly evolving entity, and when told there was no where else for them to go, or at least anywhere better, the hippies
abandoned their peace; De La Soul was dead.
If the broken flower pot (look daisies!) on the cover isn’t enough visual representation of De La’s then current view of their “social movement,” De La Soul Is Dead
doesn’t waste too much time getting the point across. The album is rife with blatant strikes at the current money grubbing, violence pimping, stupidity praising hip-hop landscape and while things may not have changed too much since the album’s release, De La Soul Is Dead
find its legs within its ability to still be viable. Skits concerning the disgusting irony of Vanilla Ice, the degradation of rap into “club music” offering little more than a snappy beat or the exasperated thug persona--still ring true today, in a hip-hop world where we’ve seen De La’s fears
come into full fruition. They take aim at record execs, blasé fans just searching for guns and ho’s and those quick to dismiss them as pushovers. While still straying from the violence of their peers De La put up one hell of a fight. Here’s the daisy/Watching it die, see?
Dove states on album banger “Pass The Plugs,” in almost a final attempt at getting the point firmly across. Though it’s almost more fitting to view De La Soul Is Dead
as less of a dying daisy and more an evolution to a vibrant rose.
Often mashed up with A Tribe Called Quest as the forefathers of jazz rap
, De La Soul Is Dead
continued to cement that position. The album is decidedly harsher then their debut and while they flex their confrontational muscles more with the rhyming, the album’s instrumentals are still lush, laid back jams; who seem to promote the nodding of your head more than the shaking of your ass. Prince Paul is a master behind the boards, providing track after track of killer beats. His blend of upbeat soul and new wave pomp added into the mix with De La’s heavy jazz lean is always infectious and equally as jarring. Still sample heavy, and still full of great one liners and turns of phrase (More brothers come about/try to scheme slick/But the native tongue’s thick
) De La Soul Is Dead
finds the group, arguably at their peak.
They play to their frustrations, but the album is over all a light-hearted affair musically. Still quirky and fun, but offering more in in the way of substance than club rap, De La stripped themselves of their assumed persona but still kept their sound intact. It’s twenty-seven songs and nearly 80 minutes fly by without a hitch, providing track after track of rewarding, conscious hip-hop that does not try too hard harping on it‘s own message. In an attempt to give their critics the finger and blindside their fans De La Soul did what all great musicians should do in their situation--make your stand, but don’t forget about the tunes. Albeit slow in its accession to cult
status; De La Soul Is Dead
stands as a constant reminder that sometimes you can have your cake, eat it, and then go back up for seconds.