De La Soul, the Daisy Aged collective of your favourite rapper’s, favourite rapper’s favourite rappers. Plugs One Two and Three have been (let’s be honest) in varying levels of Hip hops collective subconscious for a long time but here is the contradiction. I cannot help but think that for a clique as well respected as Trugoy, Maseo and Posdnuos, their back catalogue is a little light. Yet when I see the sales numbers of their albums I can understand why. But then again, this is a group that is way beyond being judged merely on units shipped.
By coming together in 1987 and (aided by Prince Paul) releasing arguably the most influentially structured Hip Hop album of all time, De La’s hall of fame plinth has a permanent home…But not in our minds. Of course when the Hip Hop greatest lists get rolled out The Plugs are there, or there abouts, yet theirs is not the albums of yesteryear that we regularly revisit. Be honest, how regularly do you find yourself reminiscing to The Chronic, or Illmatic, Or The Low End Theory, or Straight outta Compton, or Me Against The World? Does the same apply to Buhloone Mind State, or De La Soul is Dead, or even the seminal 3 Feet High and Rising? The ironic contradiction of which is thus; Of all the Native Tongue’s De La Soul are the only part of the collective where I cannot recollect (although admittedly my memory isn’t brilliant) any major internal wrangling at all.
This collective apathy however, does not make their achievements any less relevant. It doesn’t make their helping to cultivate the Hip Hop landscape any less historic. It doesn’t make the significance of their releases any less credible. Anyone with even a modicum of knowledge of the Hip Hop family tree knows that to be the case. So why the distinct lack of vociferous appreciation? Why are the trio not basking in a glow that A Tribe Called Quest frequently enjoy? Am I to believe they seek this cultural anonymity? Recognised by the deeper traveller yet somewhat ignored by a wider audience?
An argument could be made for being the closest to the Everyman MC(s) that we are ever likely to see. They don’t pretend to be something they’re not, which we all know is a trait of many of our current school of pretenders. They never carried that air of spiritual superiority that is in evidence with some of our most treasured conscious(?) MCs. I cannot remember them ever coming across on a song as experts on a particular subject, but rather as men who have an opinion on their topic of choice. And herein may lie the answer.
How many of us really remember the straight arrows? Those who excel at their chosen profession and simply don’t deviate from that path when the time comes. Those who only use controversial subject matter (a Gun, or a ‘Bitch’, or a crack pipe, or a war, or a pulpit) as a means to convey a viewpoint. Those who don’t carry their legendary status around like a narcissistic badge of honour. Those who simply don’t make waves.
De La Soul fit that bill. But can you believe they have done so for 25 years? It’s just a shame that their anniversary tour isn’t coming to London (Leamington Spa? Really!?!) so that I can big up their evenly played out longevity from the middle of a daisy chained feel good mosh pit. “Threeeee, is the magic number….”