STILL REVOLUTIONARY: De La Soul Expands On Hip-Hop As They Started – On Their Own Terms


(AllHipHop Features) The term “groundbreaking” is often thrown around in music critiques. It is a phrase, however, that was accurately used to describe De La Soul when their debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising was released in 1989. As gangster rap was taking streets and stereos by storm, the Long Island trio held out a daisy, a universal sign of peace, and ushered in a new era and sound that would influence hip-hop forever.

Groundbreaking is also appropriate to use in describing De La Soul’s ninth studio album, and the Anonymous Nobody.

An ultra-private event for just over 20 tastemakers was held at the Sonos store in trendy SoHo, New York City. The high-end speaker retailer was a perfect place to preview the album where the instrumental version wafted from overhead speakers and the full version played in soundproof private rooms. At one point, Pharoahe Monch and Consequence could be found in one of the rooms enjoying the album. After about an hour, emcee-kings Dave and Posdnuos took questions about the creation of and the Anonymous Nobody, the Kickstarter campaign that brought it to life and the many guest appearances that did and did not make the album. Laughingly, they told the crowd that country legend, Willie Nelson turned them down.

Each of the tracks are original creations (a major deviation from a group whose debut featured well over 50 samples) with 25 musicians contributing. The sampled sound that made De La Soul so magical so many years ago, is now an expensive source of pain as their former label, Warner Brothers, won’t make their early material available for download or streaming. Instead, and the Anonymous Nobody was produced entirely by the group using material gathered from more than 200 hours of recordings of live instrumentation by the Rhythm Roots Allstars.

The origin of and the Anonymous Nobody, crowdfunded through Kickstarter, is central to the album’s development. With a goal of raising $110,000, the group raised six times that amount supported by over 11,000 fans. The successful fundraising allowed for more collaboration, thus giving us all an instant vintage album with powerhouse appearances from Usher, Jill Scott, Little Dragon, Roc Marciano, Estelle and Pete Rock, Justin Hawkins, Snoop Dogg, Damon Albarn, legendary rocker David Byrne, and 2 Chainz.

For a group that is so central to the story of hip-hop purism and its “greatest era,” the idea of De La Soul doing a record with 2 Chainz is a major story. “Artists are always down to get together. Artists are willing to do art with another artist.” Posdnuos states, “It’s almost like we’ve lost the idea that this is an art form.”

And, Dave said and the Anonymous Nobody reiterated that point, “If you really love hip-hop then let it be what it is. Don’t have this mentality of what cannot happen. Aerosmith and Run-DMC was not supposed to do ‘Walk this Way.’ We have to take this mentality away from these purists, and I hate to say backpackers, who feel like it’s their way and their way only.”

Collaborations have always been important to De La Soul and present on every project. On and the Anonymous Nobody, the idea of very different artists coming together to collaborate and create art is front and center resulting in a beautiful, ethereal album. The album is innovative without being pushy. It is decidedly mature.

Dave said it best when describing his friend and collaborator J. Dilla, “You see it on so many shirts, ‘J. Dilla Changed My Life.’ But, he really did. J. Dilla changed the life of Hip-Hop. He is a person who changed the sound of Hip-Hop. That’s a big statement. We have to continue talking about him, and what he’s done and what he could have done. Dilla would also be the person to say we have to grow, we have to change.”

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