De La Soul - De La Soul Is Alive
Friday, 14 December 2007
De La have established themselves as live favourites in Australia. Posdnuos, who's just returned from Congo, is open to adventure and fresh experiences. And he loves it when De La don't merely perform to 'the converted' but reach new demographics.
De La Soul emerged from the Long Island of the late '80s. They never aspired to international heights.
“We started off from humble beginnings, just being fans of this music,” Pos says.
All high school friends, Pos (Kelvin Mercer), Trugoy The Dove (David Jolicoeur) and Maseo (Vincent Mason) befriended the eccentric Prince Paul. He became their fourth member.
De La debuted in 1989 with the seminal 3 Feet High And Rising, ushering in a 'boho' hip hop. They planted the seeds for a counterculture to the flourishing gangsta rap together with A Tribe Called Quest and the Native Tongues fold.
But De La Soul had enough of a rebellious spirit to deliver De La Soul Is Dead in 1991. It was pure hip hop iconoclasm as the posse reacted to the mainstream's co-option of their 'DAISY Age' (Da Inner Sound, Y'all).
The group resurfaced from a hiatus with 1996's gloomier Stakes Is High, perceived as their critique of bling-bling and rap's infamous 'shiny suit' era. Yet De La never stay in one place. They experienced a renaissance with the (incomplete) Art Official Intelligence trilogy.
Today De La are wary of relying on their glistening legacy. “Even now we still consider ourselves students of the music,” Pos says earnestly.
De La last ventured forth with The Grind Date, their first album, post-Tommy Boy.
The combo, now with their own AOI imprint, have learnt to adapt to an evolving music industry.
De La are recording the follow-up to The Grind Date. “We're working on it now, actually,” Pos confirms. “We're looking to have it ready early next year to coincide with our 20th anniversary being signed as a group.
“The early material is sounding really good. We're still churning it out and just trying to pick the best songs to make a good project.”
De La are hailed as elder statesmen in hip hop. And primarily because of Stakes Is High, they're expected to be critical of the music. However, Pos isn't entirely into that role. He doesn't believe any hip hop act need be censured. “I don't think there should be some hip hop cop telling someone they can't rhyme.”
But he'd like to hear greater diversity. When Pos was breaking through, Geto Boys co-existed with Public Enemy and LL Cool J. ”We just need a better balance of the music scene.
“I personally feel that it's a problem when you have someone like 50 [Cent]. I mean, he exists and he's a musician and his records should be heard. [But] there needs to be more groups being allowed to be themselves and not necessarily a part of only what goes on, or what's being heard at the present - they can express their feelings in their music in the same way.”
WHO: De La Soul
WHAT: Play Beck's Bar for Sydney Festival
WHEN: Tuesday 8 January