While I feel differently, I would never put up a fight with anyone who claimed De La Soul is the greatest group of all-time. As core members of the legendary and incredibly influential Native Tongues crew in the late 80’s/early 90’s, De La Soul was the pinnacle of creativity and originality. Not only were “3 Feet High & Rising,” “De La Soul Is Dead” and “Buhloone Mindstate” drastically different from anything else in hip-hop at the time; they were drastically different from one another as well. Along with mastermind producer Prince Paul, De La obstinately refused predictability and filled in critics’ and fans’ pigeon holes with an ‘I’m-smarter-than-you’ smirk. If you have to bear witness to De La’s holy trinity, you are missing out on some of the greatest moments this genre has ever offered.
“The Grind Date” is album number seven from the Long Island trio of Posdenous, Dave and Maseo. A lot has changed in the 15 years since De La hit the scene, but the more things change the more they stay the same. De La is still making music with a wit and charm that cannot be duplicated, not even close actually. Look no further than the album’s magnum opus “Rock Co.Kane Flow with MF DOOM. Amongst trading verses with DOOM and Dave over an incredible Jake One beat, Posdenous gets in classic lines like “we De La to the death or at least until we break up,” and “they say the good die young/so I added some bad ass to my flavor to prolong my life over the drum.” It sure doesn’t hurt when these stellar verses are backed by great production. Jake One continues to add to his impressive resume with the understated Common-assisted joint “Days of Our Lives.” The always reliable J. Dilla chimes in for a couple of his vintage beats (“Verbal Clap” and “Much More”), which are perfectly suited for an ’04 De La.
One of De La’s Little Brother’s also gets into the act as 9th Wonder laces a nice number in “Church.” Even Madlib gets into the act and molds his production to De La’s sensibility. The lead single “Shopping Bags” was pretty bad at first but it sure grows on you after multiple listens. Maybe because it is so damn catchy. Production-wise, it is the vastly under-rated Supa Dave West that steals the show producing 5 of the albums 12 songs. The best of the lot is the title track, which also includes yet another classic jab at Tommy Boy; “they say the meek shall inherit the Earth/but don’t forget/the poor are the one’s that inherit the debt/you can bet I gotta things to do than that/I was a dick who got jerked by Tom and his boys.”
“The Grind Date” is full of the things you expect from a De La Soul album; words of wisdom, humor, plenty of clever lines and great production. It also contains some things you may not be used to; multiple references to their legacy, no skits, and a hint of conformity. That isn’t to say they aren’t still making original music because this still doesn’t sound like other albums out there. But they are no longer breaking ground as they once did. That’s ok though, because I’m not expecting that anymore. Not to mention, they are still making great music after all these years. “The Grind Date” is their best work in nearly a decade. De La will never die.