De La Soul Make a Strong Return With ‘And the Anonymous Nobody’
Some artists like to think of themselves as pioneers and out-of-the-box thinkers who are ahead of the curve without living up to the title. Fortunately, the trio of Dave, Posdnous and DJ Maseo, better known as De La Soul, don't have to worry about that.
Ever since the rappers from Long Island first touched down with their quirky, flower-power hippie style blended with conscious bars, they've been remarkably consistent. They single-handedly made sampling a thing. So much so, that their first album, Three Feet High and Rising, in 1989, cannot be streamed through any conventional streaming service due to the overwhelming and costly amount of necessary clearances. However, what they lack in a modern day Drake-esque level of commercial success, they make up for with a catalog of innovative, uncompromising hip-hop that has made their fan base next-level loyal.
After much internal debate, the trio decided to end a decade of on-wax silence last year, and turn to Kickstarter to both gauge interest in a new project and raise some capital to release an album independently. What resulted was an unprecedented $600,000 take in less than a week. The reward for the rabid response from longtime fans and the egregious show of financial support has finally materialized in the long-awaited eighth full-length album by the group, and the Anonymous Nobody... The 18-song project is everything fans could have hoped for -- a real album for the people.
The album has stacks of chunky bass, dirty funk loops, rock, new-age and everything in between. In case you missed the details of the project's mantra, they solely sample their records this time around -- songs will touch on their past hits at points. For example, the jamming "Pain," featuring the marijuana mayor, Snoop Dogg, stirs up memories of their classic "A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturday." Also, "Drawn," featuring the Swedish electronic band Little Dragon, instantly calls to mind "4 More" featuring Zhané.
There's a great supporting cast on the record. In a weird way, it's eclectic, surprising and safe at the same time; although, that may only be due to how well the guests seem to adapt to the records and mesh with Plug 1 and 2's bars, which seem to have aged like fine wine. The philanthropic businessman, 2 Chainz, drops the best bar for bar verse heard in some time on the head nodding "Whoodeeni." Damon Albarn of Gorillaz and Blur fame appears on "Here and After," one of the album's cooler moments. Other must-listens are "Snoopies," featuring Talking Heads front man David Byrne, and the Estelle and Chocolate Boy Wonder-assisted "Memory of...(Us)."
Although they haven't released an official album since 2004's The Grind Date, it's unfair to say De La Soul weren't active for the past 12 years. They were festival mainstays performing for excited fans who had come into their own along with the group through the early 1990s. They didn't feel pressure to make new material, and the Anonymous Nobody... is organic in the best way possible. It came about from both sheer crowd-sourced demand and the trio's undying love of the art itself. Nothing here is rushed, forced or out of place. The album doesn't try to fit into any box for the purpose of selling records. Hell, the records were pre-sold, so stakes weren't that high. But they still put together one of their strongest efforts yet.
It's a refreshing listen, ripe with equal amounts growth and consistency. On "Royalty Capes," they spit, "News from the East, sire. Them East Coast Kings are still finding ways to stay on." No truer words have been spoken. Behold the most successful Kickstarter album of all-time.
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