March 16, 2004

De La Soul is not dead
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Hip-hop pioneer De La Soul brought its left-of-center flow to the Middle East on Feb. 28 to support Music for America, a partisan, political nonprofit organization working toward getting one million new young voters to participate in the 2004 elections by promoting concerts around the country.

For years, De La Soul has being trying to shake its "hippy-hop" image earned after its classic debut Three Feet High and Rising, but De La Soul members Pos, Trugoy, and Maceo have resisted the temptation to exaggerate their gangster image to compensate for their undeserved flower child reputation. Onstage, De La Soul came off as it does on its albums: friendly, smart, fun, and easy-going.

Opening for De La was 4th Pyramid, who is promoting his single on the new compilation from underground hip-hop super-label Def Jux, where he recently signed. 4th Pyramid, an emcee from Toronto, caught the attention of the underground with an instrumental album he produced when he was just 16 years old.

In an interview with The Heights, 4th Pyramid said, "This whole thing is huge, but look, I'm still out here all on my own. I mean, I ain't got no tour manager, no DJ with me on the road. Right now, I'm a one-man wrecking crew, a one-man army. But just wait for [Def Jux] to roll through when we're on tour."

Also opening was Zonk, a trip-hop band from the Bay Area in California. They won a download contest with Music for America, which awarded Zonk with the chance to open for De La Soul. The band was filled with vibrant energy and played an excited set of diverse music, with lead singer Nic McFiendish bouncing across the stage with the microphone stand straddled between her legs the entire time.

The highlight of Zonk's performance was when two emcees, Bolo of Pawray and Mic Kaos, came up to give the band some hip-hop flavor. Like De La Soul in the '80s, Zonk's most enjoyable quality was that it seemed like they were having a good time along with the crowd on stage.

Once De La Soul arrived, the crowd exploded, but not in the raucous way one expects from a hip-hop crowd. Of course, De La Soul doesn't attract the typical hip-hop crowd and, as expected, the Middle East seemed to be filled with people drinking who probably used legal id. to get a wristband.

Despite recently releasing two great albums in the Art Official Intelligence trilogy, most of De La Soul's fans were initially attracted to its groundbreaking earlier work. As a result, the crowd reacted the most to classics such as "Me, Myself and I" and "Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays.'" During our interview, De La Soul frontman Posdnous said that a new album is finally set to come out later this year. "We had a lot of trouble with our last record company, who weren't going to release part three, but now we're pretty much ready to put it out there. We also have another album coming out after that, but it doesn't even have a name yet."

Unfortunately, De La Soul stuck to its popular old stuff and didn't bless the crowd with any tastes of the new album.

During an intermission, a video played with a brief segment put together by the concert organizers. They tried to convince the crowd to vote by reminding everyone how close the result of the presidential contest was in 2000. After the show, they handed out packets filled with 10 mail-in voter registration forms and information about such issues that are important to young voters, such as reproductive rights and education funding.

After the show, De La Soul stuck around to talk to fans, which mostly consisted of women who were invited on stage by Pos and Trugoy (who now just goes by Dave) for their closing ode to meaty girls, "Baby Phat." The show was entertaining and proved that De La Soul still has quite a bit of soul left in it and that it's not yet time to retire De La's number into the hip-hop Hall of Fame.

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