Does anyone need odds and sods collections? Once the Greatest Hits has been re-jigged and repackaged, what is there left for the record company to do when its bled dry the creative energies of its artist, the poor lambs?
Well you may find self-styled De La Mix-Tape (Remixes, Rarities And Classics) an honourable exception. Rather than a hastily put-together doggy bag of scraps, Tommy Boy have spread the searchlight far and wide to bring a new glow to the fading glory of De La Soul‘s back catalogue.
Collaboration has long been part of the Hip-Hop fraternity’s code of conduct right back since everyone from Fresh Prince And Jazzy Jeff to Boogie Down Productions began name-checking each other on album credits. A few homicides down the way since may have dispelled the idea of a United States of Hip-Hop, but some of the best moments on Remixes… are where the hefty trio are willing to spread a little De La magic amongst the Rap community.
For instance Big Brother Beat features the first official appearance on record of one of modern Rap’s favourite sons Mos Def, way, way before he got his hands on Ms. Fat Booty. I.C.Y’All features the frantic rhyme-style of Busta Rhymes, and yes, he might not be too long before he starts rapping at the opening of an envelope, but luckily this is when back when he was still enjoyably barmy.
For those who know little about Plugs One, Two and Three since the high watermark of 1989’s 3 Feet High And Risin’, there’s enough here for that hole in your education. The Badmarsh & Shri remix of Me, Myself And I has been rescued from Tommy Boy Greatest Beats collections, and lyrics aside, the rhythm track is unrecognisable from its P-Funk original, mixed with sounds both digital and profound Exotica.
The follow-up album was a notorious victim of its predecessors success. It was 3 Feet… that alerted The Man to all the moolah that existed by taking Hip-Hop sample-lifters to the cleaners. Therefore rather than a supreme example of Rap’s funky and funny magpie tendencies, De La Soul Is Dead became mired in litigation before release, with the effect that the record sounded like an opportunity missed. It’s refreshing then, that the versions of Oodles of O’s and Ring! Ring! Ring! ( here titled Piles And Piles Of Demo Tapes) have stacks of tracks laid on stacks of tracks for your listening pleasure.
Since then, De La Soul had to fight hard to be heard against the roar of Gangsta Rap. They even found their hippy-hop schtick lifted lock, stock, and barrel to popular effect by Arrested Development. Listening to many of the tracks from the late ’90s now, the immediate impression is how close the laconic style they adopted echoes the early releases of James Lavelle’s Mo’ Wax label and Stealth-era Ninja Tune to exceptional effect.
From this period, the looped vibes of Trouble In The Water from Japanese DJ Honda‘s own album Hill is would be the worth the price of the CD alone, were it not competing for that honour with the Old Skool sound of More Than U Know. Taken from producer Prince Paul‘s own record A Prince Amongst Thieves, More Than U Know, a rap about crack addiction, is a perfect example of De La Soul’s unmatched ability to make play illuminate tragedy.
Odds And Sods? Perhaps.
Worthy of your attention? Definitely.