Artist: De La SoulTitle: The Impossible Mission, Pt. 1Rating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Paine
Two years after the critically acclaimed, but commercial snoozed, The Grind Date, De La Soul has been laying low. They grabbed a Grammy with The Gorillaz for “Feel Good Inc,” but have apparently defected from Sanctuary Records as “Live @ The Dugout ’87” reveals. Now grassroots, AOI Presents…The Impossible Mission TV Series, Pt. 1 (Red Lion) breaks many of the rules for a studio album, as De La shows what they’re up to, drop 15 year-old unreleased cuts, and deliver some colorful cover songs.
De La Soul addresses the death of longtime collaborator J Dilla on “Relax” a ‘what-if’ reworking of Slum Village’s “Do You.” Claiming they wanted the beat, the joint shows De La at their funkiest-telling the ladies how to recline their minds and spread ’em. “The Corner” puts De La over Common’s ’05 classic, where the trio brings a sense of Long Island pennilessness to the Chicago anthem. The highlights of the album are three segments called “What the F**k,” all featuring leftovers from Three Feet High & Rising, De La Soul is Dead, and Buhloone Mindstate, respectively. The earliest, “De La Slow” revives the 1989 spirit and appeases any fan.
The three leftovers all feature stellar Prince Paul production. “De La Soul Poster,” a holdout from their second album, shows Paul mixing Sam & Dave into Al Green, a reminder of the early ’90s 45 funk movement. For the contemporary efforts, Supa Dave West shines. “Respect” is a beautiful vocal sample-based composition, on the quality level of any De La album. While West keeps up, Geology and Oh No offer their best efforts, but still don’t penetrate nearly as well.
The three plugs have never made a disappointing studio album. Although this is their first attempt at the DIY movement, the quality is still very much alive. It’s fun to see De La break a few rules, as well as narrating their path to becoming Hip-Hops most functional family.