In the 13 years since ushering in the “D.A.I.S.Y. Age,” De La Soul has done what none of its rap peers could manage: stayed on top while constantly evolving. Each of the group’s previous four albums has been completely different, yet equally brilliant; it has also retained a loyal fan base in a culture notoriously unfriendly to artists who change their style.
Now, nearing the end of a career together, the trio from suburban Long Island has decided to go out with a bang. This first installment of the unprecedented triple-album series has a lengthy list of big-name guests, and while a few of the collaborations sound contrived and too predictable, most work brilliantly. “Oooh” featuring Redman and “My Writes” with the Alkaholiks and Xzibit in particular bring out sides of De La never before heard on record. Always the grumpy old men of hip hop, Dave, Posdnous and Maseo have rediscovered how to have fun on this record, making tracks like “Dance With Me” and “Copa Cabanga” which are dance floor- or SUV-trunk-friendly.
Fans of Stakes is High shouldn’t worry, though, as these Native Tongues have not pulled a Goodie Mob and gone completely bling bling brainless — they still find time to mock shiny-suited MTV rappers, drop knowledge and, with help from Chaka Khan, remind us that “It ain’t all good.” “Mosaic Thump” meshes intelligence and fun with beats that sound futuristic, from the Macintosh startup sound and Net log-in in the introduction.
Fair-weather rap fans who only liked Three Feet High and Rising may not even recognize the three now, but that’s the point. De La’s done it again, reinventing itself with another classic album further cementing its status as hip hop’s greatest group of all.
Luke Forrest writes about music for the Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.