De La Soul 

The Grind Date

Dependable, consistent, and still dope after all these years, De La Soul has outlasted fickle music trends (including some the three helped start themselves) and countless newer and younger rap groups, while resisting the gentle tug of gravity at their throwback jerseys. So how have Posdnuos, Dave (aka Trugoy), and Maseo changed in the sixteen years (gasp) since they were Three Feet High and Rising? Lyrically, they're as clever as ever, and with production by J-Dilla, Madlib, 9th Wonder, and Supa Dave West, they're musically au courant to boot.

To start with, "It's Like That" is catchier than influenza, yet it suggests a mature perspective lost on all the Lil' Scrappys-come-lately these days. Further evidence of De La's apparent immortality is all over The Grind Date, which offers several high points, among them "Verbal Clap," a retro head-nodder with a crunchy krush-groove; "Rock.Co.Kane Flow," which pairs the Plugs with the dastardly MF Doom; and "Come on Down," which answers the question "What's Flavor Flav up to these days?" About the only letdown is "Church," which never really soars into the Upper Room, despite an intro from Spike Lee and a gospel chorus. But any questions about De La's continuing role in hip-hop are answered on the album's opening track, "The Future," which neatly synchronizes yesterday, today, and tomorrow through the magic of overlapping vocal loops, before segueing into a more conventional beats-and-rhymes structure. Some mastered the art of cash/But not the part that last, disappear after doing two albums,De La notes. That's word to Chi-Ali.

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