The ultimate trio of the most pseudonymed act in hip hop today just blew through DC to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their seminal debut, Three Feet High and Rising. I didn’t realize this when I bought the ticket, I simply have loved their music since I first heard the trippy “Me, Myself and I” and knew I had to go. In today’s era of everything from hardcore gangsta to underground acts like The Living Legends, this might not sound like that big a deal, but De La truly was one of the first rap acts that went against the conventional sound of the day. Sure, they were sampling bands like Parliament/Funkadelic, but here were three kids preaching peace and potholes over the Turtles and a French language instructional loop. They eschewed gold medallions for black leather necklaces. Oh yeah, and they were instrumental in the Native Tongues, which you might have heard of, seeing as it helped launch a little band called A Tribe Called Quest. And while this is all excellent, it still came as a shock to me when I realized I first caught De La live when they were originally promoting 3 Feet. While one might go to shows to feel nostalgic, one does not go simply to feel old.
Fortunately, this issue quickly dissipated once DLS took the stage and fucking rocked the place out. The show opened when P.A. Pasemaster Mase (aka Maseo aka Plug Three aka Baby Huey) took the stage and introduced the crowd to his latest protegee, Billy Ray. While it may have taken two of his four or so songs to get the crowd on his side, I’d say he did eventually win them over. Of course, then Posdnuos (Mercenary aka Plug Wonder Why aka Plug One and Trugoy the Dove aka Dave aka Plug Two (see what I mean?) took the stage and the crowd went wild. Backed by the Rhythm Roots All-Stars, this honestly was the best damn hip hop show I’ve seen in quite a while. The boys were loose, funky and obviously having a blast. While the show ran heavily on Three Feet tracks (Eye Know, Jenifa Taught Me, Buddy, and others), they also dropped knowledge from Buhloone Mindstate (I Am I Be), The Grind Date (Rock Co.Kane Flow) and Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump (Oooh). While the lyrics remained largely the same as the originals, I was impressed that certain lines had been altered and updated to reflect the times. While the RRAS were great, it wasn’t until the final encore when each member was introduced and given a solo that the crowd found out just how scary talented those cats are. (Note to self: See them again. Quickly and often). Also during the encore, Plug Two gave a little history of hip-hop lesson and the band launched into some Run DMC to the room’s delight. Plug One also received a little ribbing and a lot of love as the band had two attractive young ladies bring out two birthday cakes to celebrate the MC’s 40th birthday.
Perhaps the most “interesting” thing of all I noticed during the concert was the fact that it was the most diverse crowd I’ve seen at any show at the 9:30 Club (or maybe anywhere). You had some middle aged Old Skoolers getting funky alongside of white suburban teenagers, with pretty much any and every shade of the spectrum in between bobbing their heads along to the rhymes. This is not only testament to the band’s wide ranging fan base, but also a sign that if you’re a great band that can rock the mic, people will clamor to hear you play.
Clearly, De La Soul is not dead.
mp3: I Am I Be
mp3: Rock Co.Kane Flow