first_img“Your music means everything to you. Are you concerned about the status of your playlist and precious collection? We feel you, and we’re here to help. Have no fear, De La Soul is here…”On August 26th, quintessential Long Island hip-hop trio De La Soul released and the Anonymous Nobody, their first full album in twelve long years. The album’s cover art depicts an angry mob closing in, with a man running away, screaming that “nobody can control them,” while one man stands bravely in their path, proclaiming “I am nobody.” The defiant hero in this clever cartoon is a powerful symbol of the group’s collaborative vision for this release, and the scores of “anonymous nobodies” that made it possible. The album was the culmination of a project first introduced to fans last year, when De La launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new release. The campaign quickly met its $110,000 goal and went on to pull in over $600,000 in total. With the overwhelming support of their fans–as well as over 200 hours of recorded original jam sessions with various artists to sample from–Dave, Maseo, and Posdnuos were free from the bonds of labels and other stakeholders, free to create whatever they wanted.De La Soul Discusses First Album In 11 Years, ‘and the Anonymous Nobody’The resulting project, and the Anonymous Nobody, is a sprawlingly diverse set of songs that takes full advantage of the creative freedom afforded to them by their DIY, collaborative approach with fans and artists alike. After the opening mission statement of “Genesis”–a poem delivered by Jill Scott–“Royalty Capes” kicks things off in earnest with a trumpet salute fit for a king, before dropping into De La’s signature spaced-out flow over sorrowful strings and bass drum rolls. “Pain” is classic De La Soul, its upbeat, funky flow lending itself perfectly to a featured verse from Snoop Dogg.The robotic overdubs and computerized ad-libs of “Property of” give the tune a metallic timbre, laid over a simple snare beat with ethereal tones floating across the mix. “Memory of…(US)” is a beautiful lament floated by Pete Rock‘s legendary production and Estelle‘s wistful vocals.“Lord Intended”, by far the longest song on the record, is a rap-punk hybrid the likes of Jay Z‘s “D.O.A.” or “99 Problems”. While the song’s “fuck everyone, burn everything” refrain may seem a little forced, it’s hard to hate anything that features Justin Hawkins, singer and guitarist for well-loved but long-defunct English rockers The Darkness.Even in the 8 seconds of “Snoopies” before he starts to sing, you can tell that this track has Talking Heads visionary David Byrne’s hands all over it. As the drums and bass hit, the De La portion of the collab becomes clear, building to a peak before stripping down and moving on to a chugging old school groove for the verse. The track alternates between these two musical themes throughout—the verses: card-carrying De La Soul, the choruses: weird, peppy Byrne. It plays more like a mash-up of two songs than a single cohesive collab, but somehow it works—better than it seemingly should.Perhaps the most radio-friendly track on the album, “Greyhounds” is a soft-spoken story of escaping the doldrums on a bus to the greener pastures of NYC’s grey concrete. While Usher‘s hook doesn’t add much substance, the bus-station sound effects at the end evoke a surprisingly sincere emotional response.Our heroine from “Greyhounds” steps off the bus with her pumps clicking on the sidewalk for “Sexy Bitch”, a quick number whose bouncing bassline reminds of classics like “Itsoweezee (Hot)”.  The quick skit features some sagely advice from an old-timer to a desperate youngin’ – “Don’t’ even look, don’t waste your time, baby.” “Trainwreck”, which follows, expounds on the advice to steer clear of trouble with fast women (“Don’t turn your back, when she’s on that track”).“Drawn” (which features Little Dragon) heavily features the whooshing synth swells that are common in much of today’s dance floor fare, but the vocals on the intro inevitably entrance you (“Wont you stay, babe”). The song gets tripped-out quickly, reaching toward different textured frequencies while remaining anchored by the always-on-point backing drums. The only real verse on the song doesn’t start until nearly 5 minutes in, but Posdnuos uses the short stretch impressively, with one of the albums most elegant turns of phrase about the artist-fan relationship and its effect on the music’s longevity: “Two words, ‘I’m mortal. But the fans lift ’em both together and remove the apostrophe.”“Whoodeeni” is the album’s token banger–complete with a Daft Punk-style robotic hook, but features a surprisingly substantive verse from 2 Chainz.“Nosed Up”, one of the album’s standout tracks, boasts the funkiest bass line on a release rich in dope bass lines, and includes a swinging doo-wop style outro.On “Here In After”, the stylistic influence of collaborator Damon Albarn (Gorillaz, Blur) is clearly apparent. Indie-pop De La Soul may not be what you’re used to, but by this point in the album, after listening to them traverse countless genres, it doesn’t seem all that shocking. Instead, it offers a positive message, a triumphant victory lap on the journey that was and the Anonymous Nobody– (“Cus we’re still here now.”)One of things that makes this album work so well is how sincere each collaboration is. Every pairing—and they are, undeniably, a varied bunch—effortlessly showcases the mutual artistic respect between De La Soul and the featured artist in question. Each one is a gourmet, well-seasoned combination of De La’s tried-and-true laid back groove and the collaborating artist’s individual style, making for a diverse and attention-grabbing album. Even in 2016, nearly 30 years after the release of their acclaimed debut 3 Feet High And Rising, the trio has succeeded in making a unique, modern-feeling record that, with their faithfully infectious flow, has the feel of classic De La Soul.“Exodus” rounds out a stellar album with an appropriately emotional send-off, that kind of track that gives you tingles, makes you think happy, makes you wax poetic about life, makes you appreciate the role you play in this world, however small.  (“Saviors, heroes? Nah. Just common contributors hopin’ that what we created inspires you to selflessly challenge and contribute. Sincerely, anonymously, nobody.”). It makes you feel grateful. And with a stellar new De La Soul album that feels both happily nostalgic and effortlessly current, we have a lot to be grateful for.last_img