As groups like Organized Konfusion
[click to read],
Brand Nubian [click to read] and A
Tribe Called Quest

[click to read]
motion to reunite and make new music, Hip Hop must remember that De La
has never broken up – even hinted to it, never pursued solo
interests and never damaged the brand that has worked for them for 20
years. Hip Hop’s hippies no more, the three gentlemen from Long Island
made it cool to be conscious, just as much as they influenced inside
slang, mosaic sampling and in doing so, released three truly classic
albums, with four more year-end-toppers to boot. Forever independent,
De La Soul teamed with Nike to release Are You In?, the latest in a
series of workout-minded original bodies of work, sold digitally to
promote the Oregon-based athletic brand, and their various De La
collaborations. As expected, the release is up-tempo, and the beats
tailor towards Freestyle and Electronic more than Jazz or Soul. Like
that or not, the lyrics remain razor sharp, and this digital-only
release is more worth of CD distribution than most of what’s been sold

For the group that released the first
“three-sided single,” it’s not totally out of the norm that this
44-minute mix has no tracklisting. A non-stop mix, Are You In? does
progress thematically, as a workout tape, with an opener, the Raheem
-assisted “Good Morning,” to the constant “pick up the pace”
ad-libs from the guys through, clear to the bouncy “Victory Lap.” The
latter track begins with guitar chops, and Miami Bass percussion,
driven by Rap-referencing tracks that touch on everything from Tupac
and Biggie to Run-DMC. Pos powerfully says, “We ain’t the newest/Far
from the latest/Never ever get called the greatest/Yet we the
” The words say a lot about De La‘s self-awareness, and the
group’s ability to revert back to the days of making crystal clear
sense on sillier, party beats. Another record, “Shout,” is reminiscent
of Talib Kweli and Jean Grae‘s “Say Something,” for it’s prodding of
confrontation. The quirky beat sounds as if it was crafted in Madlib‘s
kitchen, for it’s quick fades and obscure, isolated samples. Here, De
makes the records they’ve pushed to the front-line in the last
decade, more aggressive, not asking for respect, but rather assuming

With the purpose of running and athletics in mind, De La
takes tempos akin to their Native Tongue brethren The Jungle
‘ seminal first two albums. While the samples aren’t as overt,
Pos and Trugoy classically reference cadences and bars from everybody
from N.W.A.’s [click to read] “100 Miles And Runnin'” to Ultramagnetic MC‘s [click to read] “Ease
Back,” to Stetsasonic‘s “Go Stetsa”, as they cut through their fluid
lectures, interpolating lyrics similar to how Maseo and Prince Paul
once sampled beats. The Pop vocals and recurring use of guitar may
challenge the more Soulful workings that De La unveiled with The Grind
[click to read] and AOI releases.
Production outfit Flosstradamus isn’t Prince Paul, or Maseo, or J
, but the Chicago-based deejay duo sprinkles in some polished,
2010 club hipsterism that pushes Amityville’s greatest nicely against
the Kid Cudi, Cool Kids and Wale [click to read] audiences, never losing an ounce of
wisdom or seasoned style.

Like 2006’s The Mission: Impossible
mixtape, De La Soul doesn’t present this as an album, nor do fans
want them to. As a retail mixtape, this work may hint at De La‘s latest
progressions, going into their third decade, but it’s also to be
assumed that Flosstradamus won’t be fully at the helm for the next
studio album. Regardless, Nike makes Hip Hop more fun than most labels
this year, as this work meets the quality standard that’s been going on
since the D.A.I.S.Y. Age. Leave your rollerskates at home for this one,
and put on your Air Maxes, however, it’s still a damn good jam.