De La Soul is the rap equivalent of Alec Baldwin, an act that was very successful in the nineties and probably the most popular of their fellow Native Tongues brothers (it is admittedly a matter of choice between De La and Tribe, but for the sake of the analogy, I'll give the nod to De La), but when the new millennium rolled around they seemed washed up.
But like Baldwin on 30 Rock, De La has reinvented themselves over the course of the past decade. Just when fans were about to dismiss them as De La Were, Posdnuos, Trugoy, and Maseo dropped their critically acclaimed album, The Grind Date in 2004. While not the most commercially successful (see 30 Rock's reviews vs. actual ratings) the album was sonically distinct from anything the group had put out before and I still hold it to be the most underrated album of the 2000's.
Like Baldwin, De La has only ventured outside the confines of The Grind Date/30 Rock to do bit parts (with the exception of the quietly released First Serve, but that wasn't a proper De La album). Their guest feature on the Gorillaz' "Feel Good Inc." is akin to Baldwin's supporting role in The Departed (that Boston accent--"Patriot Act. Patriot Act. I love it I love it, I love it!"), a small bit appearance that completely made the movie/song and proved their continued relevance in their respective fields.
When De La Soul choose to make music, they continue to shine nearly twenty-five years after their debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising. Look no further than this latest release, "Get Away," the first in a monthly series of songs (that De La plans to release without a upcoming album at this point). It's a low-key song that samples Wu-Tang's "Forever" and, while it doesn't match The Grind Date (its much more low-key), its still a great example of the group's quality.
As a millennial, I didn't experience De La or Baldwin in their prime and prefer their more recent material. A lot of my peers may unfairly pass them off as old men (see this well-written article on hip hop's age gap by Egotripland), but it would seem that both are getting better with age and I only wish that De La would make more music together. Enjoy.
Peace, Love, & De La Forever,
Native Tongues Noah
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