A decade has passed in the album-making careers of this trio, hip-hop’s most innovative and highly creative bunch. As the many influences and short-term trends invade and fade out of the rap industry time and time again, De La Soul on Art Official Intelligence, their fifth album to date, carefully embarrass what most emcees tried, will attempt and continue to fail at: 1. Opening the listener’s minds; 2. Supplying a plethora of variety in dance-ready grooves; and 3. Building a new outlook on hip-hop, trend-setting and making history in shaping this artform.
The song opening the album is “U Can Do (Life),” with a simplistic R&B chorus sung by Supa Dav West. Formatted as such, that vintage hip-hoppers may bypass, it’s still a subtle groove liable to rope in the more masses than the ones now attracted to De La Soul in 2000 due to their sizzling new single and video, “Oooh” featuring Redman. It’s proof on this ever-changing and fickle market, that even the most spineless music listeners and radio program directors can ignore the overt glitz and glamour, and hug this underground classic like their lost love. Now with a strong buzz created by “Oooh,” hopefully we are slowly moving away from the artists fakin’ the funk, thus re-marrying authentic hip-hop efforts, minus the clownish step-and-fetch antics of entertaining the average. In fact, their recipe (yet to make public) for getting the party swinging is also prevalent on hot tunes like “Thru Ya City” featuring D.V. Alias Khrist. With such an easy-going, sing-a-long chorus and hippie-sounding melody taken from Lovin’ Spoonful’s mid-60′s pop smash, “Summer in the City,” even your Project bricks can appear Legoland-like and a dream to live in.
Whether it’s simplistic B-Boy and B-Girl jams like “View,” destined to sneak into the underground limelight, or “Copa (Cabanga)” grabbing you and your mate to do the cha-cha-cha, the chemistry within all their is geared for the dance floor with excellent results. Enter their Chocolate City when Chaka Khan hangs out in the studio with Posdnuos, Dave and Maseo on a song called “All Good?,” easily fitting for a movie sequel to flicks like Best Man or Soul Food. Reversing the demographic, this time collaborating with Mike D and Adrock from Beastie Boys, a sure shot amongst flip-flop wearing dames and their purchasing-power counterparts is exemplified on “Squat” a cut for wildin’ up in the concert.
There’s such a multi-dimensional focus on this CD within each lesson learnt from the fifteen plus tracks, and splicing it altogether is the three-part “Ghost Weed” skit, which is classic in nature. This running joke that sprinkles the album, shows a new alternative for emcees who need to get weededed to rhyme or for those that hire ghost writers, as Pharaohe Monch, Phife Dawg, and Black Thought show you how it’s done. They balance this humor with their intellect, zeroing in more serious issues like anti-gun messages or simply getting robbed outside the club on “You Don’t Wanna B.D.S.” and “The Art Of Getting Jumped”, respectively.
The R&B vocals attached to a good four tracks may turn some longtime followers away, and the over-extended guest list keeps this mosaic from ever achieving a natural direction, at times feeling like this album is all over the place. But even the hardcore driven “My Writes” featuring the Likwit Crew and other chill-out speaker funk jewels like “Declaration” and “With Me” set De La’s fifth sail for a successful journey against time, sometimes the roughest factor in determining how this trio will arrive at their final destination.
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