The vocal 2/3rds of De La Soul are back with a new project, 1st Serve. Teaming up with French producers Chokolate & Khalid, the four turn in a concept album following two up and comers from Queens on their own perilous road to success, complete with plenty of bumps along the way. Now, the De La crew has long been known for its skits and conceits, but can they carry a full-fledged concept album without any obvious oversight by one Mr. Prince Paul? The answer here is a resounding yes. While some of the songs might suffer as singles without the full narrative power of the album behind them, 1st Serve certainly has its share of solo bangers, too. And this, kids, is what makes a good concept a great concept album–equal willingness to push the conceit along without sacrificing the need for strong, stand-alone tracks. Whether it’s “Push it Aside, Push It Along” or “We Made It,” one doesn’t have to know the album’s back story to appreciate these beats for the bangers they are. In typical De La fashion, the music is a hip hop melting pot, incorporating disco, pop, R&B and a little bit of the kitchen sink into their all encompassing sound. Sure, i miss Maseo as much as the next guy, but i’m happy to note that reports of their death appear to be greatly exaggerated.