UnSpotified: We Revisit De La Soul’s Unstreamed Masterpiece, Buhloone Mindstate

By: Daniel Franklin

My experience with Buhloone Mindstate begins in the cutout bin. De La Soul’s third classic album is not the debut that all other releases are measured against still (3 Feet High and Rising). It’s not the defiant follow-up that shed the “daisy” image which appealed to so many (De La Soul is Dead).

So, I had lost track of De La Soul a bit by 1993.  Fair or not, as a result of their relationship through the Native Tongues and being the progenetors of jazzy and eclectic beats and samples, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest’s career will always be compared to one another.  By 1993, however, it seemed that Tribe had attracted much of both critical and listener focus by this point. Even Tribe’s success was a bit anomalous, as all attention was shifting from the boom bap of the East to the clack-clack of the West.

The first time I heard Buhloone Mindstate was while I was roaming the aisles of a Chicago record store.  The beats and rhymes playing over the store’s stereo system caught my attention. I couldn’t quite place them, but my fellow CD enthusiast was promptly able to identify Pos, Dave, and Mase. Yeah, so I might have never heard my favorite De La Soul album, but on this day, I took it up to the counter.

Despite having a very consistent career, De La has been at its best when produced by Prince Paul. He is something of a fourth member on the first three albums. He jokes with the other three throughout 3 Feet High and Rising. I’ve always been a bit unclear on where a producer ends and where a DJ begins in rap, which is certainly true for me with regard to Prince Paul and Mase. Sampling Hall and Oates, Steely Dan, and The Turtles don’t supply the sort of cred that so many James Brown records did, but it does mark a group as unique.

This group doesn’t talk about how financially solvent they are. They talk about being late on their rent.

De La Soul have always been nerds. Hip Hop was oddly more tolerant of the different when the “Me Myself and I” video announced the band’s arrival. The band’s image mixed the Afrocentric with hippy with low-fi. And there was always humor. Its listeners often didn’t get what they were laughing at. We didn’t know who they were talking about. But we talked about the Native Tongues as though we did. We could tell something was up with De La Soul Is Dead, though. I’m not aware of De La ever receiving anything less than respect in the rap community. In fact, KRS-One once cited them as the best rap group. But KRS-One also famously bum-rushed PM Dawn, no doubt De La acolytes, for their R&B tendencies. Hip Hop’s most amiable souls have more than once felt called to assume a tough pose.

The climate was changing. Buhloone Mindstate doesn’t show De La struggling to adapt to the advent of gangsta rap, though. Their major dictate is “it might blow up, but it won’t go pop.”

One guest spot from Gang Starr’s Guru explores this adherence to authenticity. But where authenticity for so many others would come to equal how street one is, here it manifests itself in allowing almost five minutes for jazz and funk legend Maceo Parker to solo, with no lyrics.

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.

Awesome Totally Awesome - Freaks & Weirdos Boutique
ATA - DTK

Awesome Dropping

Awesome Totally Awesome - Lollapalooza

College Sophomore Looks Forward to Getting Really Bonzooed at Lollapalooza after Flunking out of College

Repeat college sophomore, Jesse Hammerstein, stated in a Facebook post Wednesday that he’s looking forward to “getting really f*d up this year at Lollapalooza after finishing my summer classes and graduating from my sophomore year at college #oxysbro #success.”
Awesome Totally Awesome Sad Songs

Five of the Saddest Songs Ever Written

Elton John famously sang that "Sad songs say so much" and it's true, even though that song is too chipper sounding to make this list.
Awesome Totally Awesome The 10 presents 80s sitcoms

The 10: Favorite 80's Sitcoms

I was thinking about all the nights I spent watching television when I was younger, and all the memories I have of all of the 80's sitcoms. I decided to do a list of my 10 favorite shows from that time period. Most of them still hold up today.

Awesome Features

Awesome Totally Awesome - Ignoring Help

Why Are We Ignoring a Blatant Cry For Help?

We want to believe that we are morally “good”, but when the shit actually hits the metaphorical—or literal—fan, sometimes we fail.
Awesome Totally Awesome - Castlevania Photo:@zerobriantees

Netflix Castlevania Season 2 Review: Pulls You in By The Neck and Doesn't Let Go

As soon as I heard Adi Shankar was creating an animated series based on the beloved Castlevania franchise, I was tuned in and ready to go.
Awesome Totally Awesome - Bifocal Media

Brands We Like. Bifocal Media: The Kings of Punk Rock T-Shirts

Our objective from the start was to create t-shirts for people who might not typically wear band shirts. I’d like to think we produce high quality, unique, collaborative shirts with a cool backstory. Limiting production to small numbers assures that you’re not going to see 10 other people wearing the same shirt.

Awesome Trending

How Jane's Addiction's Nothing's Shocking Almost Did Not Get Recorded

One of the most significant albums of the 1980s, Jane's Addiction's seminal Nothing's Shocking, almost didn't get recorded. While the album turned out to be so influential to alternative music and the beginnings of grunge, the band that went into LA's Eldorado Studio to record it nearly broke up during production.
Awesome Totally Awesome - J.I.D.

J.I.D. – Don’t Underestimate What This Young Rapper Brings to the Table

Without pressing play, you may assume that J.I.D. is another one of the mumble rappers we don’t need more of.
Awesome Totally Awesome Elon Musk

Elon Musk’s Next Collaboration Is a Trip

ATA has since discovered that Musk is working closely with DTK (Drink the Koolaid) Labs on a new LSD that he claims will initiate a new industrial revolution.