-De La Soul – and the Anonymous Nobody…
Release Date: 26 August 2016
In 2016, De La Soul has managed to create a sonically advanced and relevant album while still holding true to their 20+ year old rhyme styling and abstract lyrics. They’ve created an album that simultaneously manages to sound modern and retro.
Man, what a good mixture of sounds on this album. De La recruited musicians from different sectors of the music industry from underground spitter Roc Marciano, to mainstream rapper 2 Chainz, to indie pop’s Little Dragon, to hard rock ‘s Justin Hawkins (of the band The Darkness).
Speaking of Justin Hawkins, the last 2:30 of “Lord Intended“…good gawd. Justin Hawkins lets loose a freestyle guitar riff for the ages guided by clashing cymbals and the rhythm of chaotic kick drums. It’s one of the more surprising moments on the album; you almost forget for a second that you’re listening to a De La Soul album.
De La manages to blend their style with an amalgamation of different singers and musical instruments while still sounding comfortable, which is an extremely difficult task. For example, on “Snoopies” featuring art-punk singer David Byrne. The song begins with a typical De La Soul groovy bassline; the drums kick in under Byrne’s vocals providing a great amalgamation of sounds. Then, about a minute in, the beat switches and Dave (of De La Soul) delivers a sweet 16 over a separate drum set. It’s moments on the album like this that makes the listener appreciate De La Soul’s versatility. Not to mention David Byrne sounds great over those drums.
“Memory of … US” featuring Estelle and Pete Rock is another mash of different genres that blends perfectly. The song is aesthetically beautiful and Estelle sounds angelic over the subdued drums kicks and light chimes. You are quickly reminded why Pete Rock is such a heralded producer in Hip-Hop history.
“Here In After” is another aesthetically beautiful track and left-field collaboration as De La vibes with downtempo, indietronica group Little Dragon. I love how the song progresses from Little Dragon’s airy, reverb-y ballad into De La Soul’s drums and Pos’s introspective verse. Pos explains,
“You can lose the love of your life to a lifetime of love on tour/
I didn’t mean to be a whore but my hormones/
Had me like a fiend screamin’ “What you got for me?”/
Two words (I’m mortal)“/
Another surprising collaboration is on “Whoodeeni” featuring trap rapper 2 Chainz. De La is tasked with stepping up their energy and charisma when rhyming next to the T’d up, super-charismatic 2 Chainz, as he boasts, “When I’m in the booth I’m MJ with his tongue out/ When I’m in the booth I’m Kanye with a gun out/“.
De La’s lyrical style is borderline abstract on this album, they have a way of saying things without explicitly saying what they mean. For instance, on “Property of Spitkicker.com” Pos says “Last long three-man act to wake up your thermostat” which is essentially his way of saying “We are a hot 3 man group” (De La Soul is made of 3 musicians).
Or on “Trainwreck“, where Dave raps
“She move forward like proceed/
Keep heads up like nosebleed/“
Which is basically him describing people looking at an attractive woman. And lyrically, there are moments where Dave and Pos create and build up a rhyme scheme and then abruptly abandon it a bar later. This may confuse new listeners.
The stretch from tracks 9-11 is very creative. I like how the dark storytelling on “Greyhound (feat Usher)” blends into the “Sexy Bitch” interlude by way of the Greyhound engine motor, which then leads into “Trainwreck” by way of the old man’s lecture that begins at the end of”Sexy Bitch” and ends at the beginning of”Trainwreck“. All three tracks feel connected, but the theme manages to not overtake the overall feel of the album. It’s just one moment in an album full of different stories. I love how Dave’s almost gasping-sounding voice and flow sounds over the James Brown “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Monster” sample on “Trainwreck“.
and the Anonymous Nobody is an album that gets better as it goes along and it’s not without De La Soul’s signature humor. The “You Go Dave” skit is reminiscent of the hilarious skits on the group’s 1991 classic De La Soul is Dead. The 67 yearold lecturing man at the end of “Sexy Bitch” and at the beginning of “Trainwreck” serves as an extension of De La’s playful humor, as he preaches to a young boy,
Old man: In my days you gotta be versatile, you know
Young man: Versatile, huh? So what do you suggest I do next time, old man?
Old man: Don’t even look, don’t waste your time, baby
My take on todays women, you’ve got so many different flavors, you’ve got so many different types…Knowing how to cook a good twenty-two pound ham
Nothing like a tall six-foot-five woman for a short man like me
To fill up a good waterbed
I’m only sixty-seven!
I still got lot more time to find the right one!
Maintaining the humor between those two tracks, Pos raps
“She had me at Star-bucks/
I wanna GRIND on that coffee-bean/“
Overall, and the Anonymous Nobody… is an ambitious yet well executed album. It takes queues from rock, indie, gospel, and more and combines them in a way not seen in other contemporary albums today. The musical experimentation and ambition on this album is reminiscent of The Roots’ How I Got Over and …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin albums where ?uestlove manages to accomplish a very musically ambitious Hip-Hop album with a variety of sounds, direction, and instruments.
Ironic how the original teachers of Hip-Hop are still the teachers.
RATING: Great album, great execution. Recommended to listeners of all genres.