August 2, 2000
Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump
It's a mature victory.
7 / 10
Time passes. A million white-and-yellow flowers bloom and wither. Trugoy The Dove has sat back, taken stock and is now known as Dave.
It's been 11 years, five albums and countless stylistic variations since De La Soul daisy-chained the pop-conscious public to their mellow goodtime blend of psychedelics and hip-hop, and even after all that time, it's a concept so high it's hard to see over the edges.
Like student radicals gradually melting into pinstripes, so Posdnous, Mase and Dave have gradually assimilated their motley-clad trickster pasts into the dark shades of hip-hop consensus, the prism-headed flower children gradually morphing into knowing pragmatists with reality's card in their wallet.
As any jaded parent will try and tell you, that's the globally accepted pattern. From Haight Ashbury freakout to multi-million dollar ice-cream business, from weed-fuelled free-spirit to dot-com entrepreneur, from playful rap visionaries with their feet in the clouds and their heads on the ground to serious-minded music makers. Yes, it seems unfair to rattle on about an album created in such distant times - even the school cheerleader has to get a proper job sometime - but efficient and accomplished though their records have been since, there's always the lurking sense they're not playing to their strengths.
The first in a projected trilogy '...Mosaic Thump' gathers a multitude of guest stars - everyone from the Beastie Boys to Redman to Chaka Khan - to make it clear that a display of diamond-hard skills is concept enough. "I may be old-skool but I'm no old fool", spits Pos over the piano slink of 'View' and on their own terms, each track is a treat - a sensible, lo-cholesterol treat, maybe, but still packed with oddly addictive rhymes and beats. The ludicrous yet wonderful skoolyard lope of 'Squat!' sees Mike D and Ad-Rock getting so self-parodic you can hear the thump of VW badge on chest, while the 'Summer In The City' mutation of 'Thru Ya City' is goodtime cookout music that sizzles like a hot grill. 'All Good?' is illicit-still funk, proving Chaka Khan has not only got the stature of every woman, but their larynxes too. Busta Rhymes growls comically over the subterranean static of 'IC Y'All'. 'My Writes' sees The Likwit Crew freezing out the competition. But it's still the De La show.
They're still carving out their own path, only now it's craftmanship rather than design that dictates their tools. Growing up is so very hard to do, but for De La Soul, it's a mature victory.
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