The UK hip-hop fraternity on both sides of the Atlantic may have long shifted its attentions to the darker, sharper beats of today’s real and imaginary ‘thug-lifers’, but De La Soul still command ’nuff respect to fill out Kentish Town’s elegantly decorated Forum twice in a matter of weeks.
The decidedly youthful audience must be 90% Caucasian, with the profile heavy on the graduates, but if the assembled had merely gathered to witness the dying embers of an oldies act, it was an illusion they were to be gratefully relieved of, as soon as DJ Pasemaster Mase took his prodigious dimensions to the stage.
Its been 14 years since this correspondent saw the threesome long-since labelled ‘the Daisy-Agers’ in person. In that time, the group (DJ Mase, Posdunos and, er, Dave), have added a slickness and confidence that was lacking in the supposed golden age of Three Feet High And Risin’.
Together with their Native Tongues good-buddies A Tribe Called Quest and the Jungle Brothers, De La Soul were centrists of the block-party spirit that had been hip-hop’s original inspiration. But it wasn’t just hippy-wistfulness – by the time De La Soul hit their litigious second album, they were already exploring such radio unfriendly subjects as drug dependency (My Brother’s A Basehead) and child abuse (Milliepulledagunonsanta) – neither of which get an airing tonight.
It’s ultimately irrelevant though – there’s enough material in the De La Soul back catalogue to leave the audience begging for more from a frenetic 90 minute show. There’s also enough to convince even a casual observer why hip-hop has flourished in the era of the sound-bite – the recognition-factor of Buddy and Ring! Ring! Ring! results in just two of the evening’s chant-along hooks of ‘Hold Up! Wait a Minute!’ and ‘I’ll Get Back To You’.
Yet there’s no chance that De La Soul are here to make up the retro numbers. With a recent compilation that does little justice to the back catalogue, De la Soul live prove to be an ongoing concern, with equal parts given to the likes of Ego Trippin’ and I.C. Y’All jostling comfortably for space amongst the breathless segue of breaks ‘n’ rhymes and the bonhomie of the presentation.
Throughout, the sheer confidence of Posdunos and the smiley-faced delight of DJ Mase are an infectious fait accompli to an audience already determined to enjoy the show. The band end the show by inviting all the women to join them on stage (and afterwards) with a number, we are told, is "for the ladies". However, even this blatant example of groupie-gathering , enough to make Bill Wyman blush, isn’t enough to dismantle the geniality that these hip-hop legends have established.