De La Soul was the best of a flowering of hip hop groups about 25 years ago who broke the hard street mold of lots of rap back then. Others I liked a lot were the Jungle Brothers and Monie Love. DLS were from the Long Island suburbs and their music, designed by another Long Islander named Prince Paul, is usually affable and often funny, sometime surreal and not all that aggressive. But it crackles and pops atop a big resounding beat, sometimes with some sharp social observation, while you sway and smile. Their tunes have the scratchy feel of an oldie, mashed up and filtered through time and polished with a modern attitude, filtered by a sense of humor even when angry.
This tune is a good one for Valentine’s Day, a love song built on a Stevie Wonder song, with some sharp spoken word to round it out. Hmmm, maybe not so good for Valentine’s Day after all.
I bring De La Soul up today because as a promotion for something new that’ve got coming up they’re giving away mp3s of all their music. That seems like a funny way to do business, but a visit to YouTube shows all their albums online already. You can sign up for the promo (you have to share an email address) at wearedelasoul.com. UPDATE: I always wondered why I couldn’t stream Three Feet High at Google Music or Mog, and it seems the answer is that because of the way the rights were cleared neither label nor band had the rights to release the music digitally. That seems about to change, as well as the band having new music coming shortly. Now you know.
Which is the best De La Soul album? People I’ve been reading today seem to favor Buhloone Mindstate, but by that time my attention had flagged a little. Both 3 Feet High and Rising and De La Soul Is Dead caught me at a really good moment, so I think it’s probably best to start at the beginning, if you’re going to wade in.
Then tread water.