De La Soul’s 9th album was funded by the people, literally in the form of kickstarter in which they raised over 100K in less than a day cementing themselves as true Hip Hop royalty. Let’s take a moment to really think about that, 100K in a day? cash money? in 2016 when the RIAA had to change the rules to count streams as sales because rappers couldn’t move units? Yet here’s a group (another anomaly) who debuted in 1989 and is still active today (a practical aberration) that somehow was able to raise one hundred grand cash money for music that wasn’t even available yet to be heard. That’s a notable feat for anyone and even more impressive for a group in their circumstances, and therefore by most accounts the new album was surprisingly anticipated albeit in strictly underground circles.
Thus without further ado the album was released this summer under the cryptic title ‘and the Anonymous Nobody… ‘ to mostly universal critical acclaim, and here it is critiqued track by track below to mostly (not completely) similar conclusions.
Genesis ft Jill Scott-
"They said that there ain't much left to love, well, there's always something to love if you're familiar enough to recognize it" nice thoughts of perspective from a wonderful artist in Ms. Scott, as this one serves it’s purpose strictly as an intro and nothing more.
"Us three be the omega like fish oil" this one is decent, nice horns in the instrumental and better than average raps, the concept is there and if you’re a fan of De La you’ll probably like this one. If you're not... this one probably won't win you over.
Pain ft Snoop Dogg -
"Pain will make you better, tell me how you feel, look over your shoulder, time will make it real" This one gooooooeeeeeessssss in it's good for the soul, true grown folks 1,2 step music, all within an uplifting message... and you can't beat it... De La delivered in 2016... and it's a beautiful thing.
Property of Spitkicker.com ft Roc Marciano -
“Psychedelic, if ***** like it I can sell it, but I don't fuck with that sweet shit, I'm diabetic” That bar is fire but after an undeniable banger this is 5 minutes and 33 seconds of… idk… cool raps I suppose but there’s nothing memorable about it that would make you want to play it more than twice.
Memory of… (US) ft Pete Rock -
"Cause it's so easy to fall back to the memory of, and it's easy to recall the good and fall into place, but you're not easy to love" Estelle bodied this... and the subject matter allows De La to reminisce and do what they do best... produce beautiful music and this is one is as good representation of that as any.
"I rev it like Run, the squint in the sun, I bet you bottom dollar I get louder than a bomb" the first of 3 interludes this one definitely has energy and really nothing more. [separate note: artists need to really do better with these skits/interludes that as of late have struggled to behold any significance to their albums whatsoever - see: Frank Ocean’s Blonde for a further example]
Lord Intended ft Justin Hawkins -
"Her ass, she got it from her momma, tits from the doctor, fingers fiddelin' the puss, she looks like an Octa" this one has a crazy guitar riff and a dynamite instrumental, and the raps are kinda dope as well… then it rather peculiarly shifts halfway through to a pretty damn good rock & roll record, and I’m actually not mad at this one at all… in fact the guitar solo at the end by the frontman of a British rock band named The Darkness is definitely one of the most memorable moments on the album altogether.
Snoopies ft David Byrne -
"In a hundred years from now, we will not recognize this place, the dollar store is filled with love, the parking lot is full of grace" this is one confusing record that combines a few different genres in one… and in this case it really doesn’t work… swing and a miss from a hip hop standpoint… job well done from an alternative rock standpoint - and shoutout to the Talking Heads off the rip.
Greyhounds ft Usher -
"I don't need to check your baggage, I don't need to know your name, all I need to know is, by the time you arrive, you'll forever be changed" This very unique collaboration really works... and while De La's verses aren't necessarily anything to really write home about... Usher's hook and bridge certainly is... he BODIED this... worth the play for Usher alone.
Sexy Bitch -
"Damsel in distress she's not, she lay a muzzle on a jigzaw puzzle, meaning she's a straight shooter, shoot it straight in your vein" the 2nd interlude has some potential and it leads nicely into the next record… but still… I’m not excited…
"She move forward like proceed, keep heads up like nosebleed" decent instrumental and concept but the raps… nah… no reason to press rewind on this.
Drawn ft Little Dragon-
"The words I wished I'd said, shadow you're drawn and you got your ways, shadow you're painted red" Little Dragon is a Swedish band known for Electronic music, but their vocalist Yukimi Nagano is a beautiful soul singer who puts forth a very eclectic, abstract concept record that Posdnuos strictly compliments while letting Nagano's talent shine and stand out for likely an entire new audience.
Whoodeeni ft 2 Chainz -
"Plug signs on the jackets, give props, yo, like a Prop Joe package" kudos for a unique instrumental but this one is legitimately hard to listen to… and I don’t enjoy criticizing the legends like that… but it is what it is… and this ain’t it…
Nosed Up -
"Roll up the papers and pass, while you turn your nose from the smell, like Stanley on Fridays, saying we should stay off the grass, as if the lines you sniff is more healthy, delusions of prestige is not where the health be" this one is decent Hip Hop even if the message is more enjoyable than the music… which altogether is actually pretty decent in itself… so yea this one is kinda flames in it’s old head throwback kinda way.
You Go Dave (A Goldblatt Presentation) ft David Goldblatt-
"Have no fear, De La Soul is here" the 3rd interlude… yea… skip…
Here in After ft Damon Albarn -
"Took a long time cryin', cryin' ain't a crime, I got my mom, she passed away, my daddy ain't alive, before they murdered Fudge I prayed for more time" Heartfelt lyrics but this one starts out as a pop rock instrumental with an infectious melody and then transitions into something more psychedelic; which should be no surprise considering it's Gorillaz influence … overall it’s definitely enjoyable to listen to in spite of how the contributions from De La really are an afterthought…
"It's the years that we own and we earned them, see the bridges we built now are burned down, even though a few friends just returned them" a nice outro (“that’s also an intro”) nothing more, nothing less.
In the end this was a pleasant surprise from a trio that nobody expected anything from 30 years since their foundation, considering almost all their peers have hung up their mics and certainly none of them are putting out this level of quality (or any for that matter). Yet as was always the case in De La’s music, the bright moments aren’t necessarily thanks to any particular lyrical dexterity or effortless delivery, but instead their overall ear for good music - in which the production is stellar (as well as a vast deviation from the norm) and their song making ability is always apparent and single handedly their best quality. On this album it’s really no different, with records like Pain, Memory Of…, Greyhound, and Drawn being some of the best Hip Hop to be released this year, despite some glaring misfires that perhaps can be attributed to trying to do too much. Nonetheless while this could never match the impact of their earlier work, and is honestly well short of their most overlooked album The Grind Date released a decade earlier, this still is a nice contribution to their catalogue and the genre of Hip Hop is better for it.