Many of us have been criminally overlooking one of the greatest hip-hop acts of all time
Last year, when De La Soul made its entire catalog available for free in celebration of the 25th anniversary of 3 Feet High and Rising, I jumped at the opportunity to grab the albums I didn’t have.
More recently, though, as I sat around listening to Stakes Is High, a question came to mind.
Why were there albums I didn’t have?
I did get four out of the first five, but after that nothing. I just lost track of what they were doing, but with a little hindsight — and listening to songs made in 1996 that sound as fresh as anything created in 2015 — maybe I shouldn’t have.
And you? Where have you been?
There has to be a reason that it’s been more than a decade since the last official full-on De La release, and I think that’s on us — “us” meaning anyone who’s ever listened to music. It is an encouraging sign that their recent Kickstarter campaign was a smash and that there is an album on the way, but labels should have been clamoring to have this group on their rosters. Rappers should aspire to do what De La’s done. The lyrics, which delve into both serious and lighthearted issues, are always on point; the flows are phenomenal; and the production is flawless. “Digging in the crates” essentially started with them, going past break beats pulled from James Brown records to bringing Steely Dan and Hall and Oates to the forefront on the rap landscape.
Of course, tastes change, but if there’s one thing De La’s been through the course of its career is adaptable.
They went from the neo-hippieness of 3 Feet High to near-abandonment of that with their next release, De La Soul Is Dead.
The third album, Buhloone Mindstate, took things even further, offering clever bits of satire along the way, as evidenced by “Ego Trippin’.”