On the next track, “Long Island Is Wildin’,” two unknown Japanese rappers handle the mic, in Japanese. It’s both New York and worldwide at once. “In the Woods” says, “Fuck being hard. Posdnuos is complicated.”
The back half of the album represents the comedown, best typified in the Michael Jackson- sampling “Breakadawn.” You can find the emotional heart in “I Am I Be,” though. The opposite of the “I’m from the streets” ethos is vulnerability. This group doesn’t talk about how financially solvent they are. They talk about being late on their rent. They talk about letting their parents down and missing them. They talk about letting their friends down. They talk about not judging others who have made different choices. And when Dave says, “I’m the greatest MC in the world,” it’s ironic, it’s self-deprecating. But if all this gets a little heavy, the album ends with one last guest spot, kindred jester Biz Markee.
So whatever happened to De La Soul? Good thing for us, they’re still touring, and they’re still releasing albums that are true to their own spirit, despite where the winds might blow. I’ve been privileged to see them perform three times: once on the release of the projected three-part Art Official Intelligence (where’s that part three?), once headlining the new music showcase Pitchfork Festival (with an appearance by Prince Paul!), and once at Chicago’s Riot Fest, where
a tightly-packed crowd showed their appreciation, but Pos couldn’t help but focus on that one guy who would not be moved. There’s a distinction—De La stopped short of delivering the hits that the audience so anticipated but insisted on connecting with them instead.