Tight beats, clever rhymes and positive energy...
De La Soul has been around since 1989 when they burst onto the scene, all Day-Glo flowers, hippie love messages and left-of-centre beats. Five albums later, with a sixth, ‘Bionix’, on the way, De La Soul have gradually fallen more in line with current hiphop styles, but still maintain a finesse that only a group with their longevity and self-conviction can claim. Since parting ways with Prince Paul who invested ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ with its quirky humour, they now have people like Rockwilder, making beats. De La Soul may be more musically conventional these days, but damn if they still don’t do it better than anyone else.
The crowd, representing a cross section ofDe La‘s broad audience, consists of those who felt them back in the late 80s and stuck with them ever since, those who think ‘3 Feet High And Rising’ was their only album, and the kids who discovered them after Redman appeared on ‘Oooh’. Either way, everyone is up for it, responding with enthusiastically lifted hands to Talib Kweli’s short opening set, assisted by local favouriteXzibit. When De La Soul takes the stage, its non-stop energy for the next hour and a half. They perform with a natural confidence and enthusiasm, working the crowd with some standard where’s the party at? Warm-ups, but mostly letting the music and their rhyming abilities speak for themselves. The classic hits receive the most urgent response from the crowd, especially ‘Buddy’, ‘Me Myself and I’, and ‘Oooh’. But the new material is solid and gets its deserved appreciation. As an added treat, Biz Markie joins them onstage, and woos the crowd with his famously out of tune crooning.
De La Soul‘s is a no-frills performance but a refreshing one at that. There’s none of the sexism, material aggrandisement or indulgent ego stroking of many hiphop acts – just tight beats, clever rhymes and positive energy. Isn’t that what hiphop is supposed to be about?