Albums Of The Week

Hip-hop's trailblazers

American group De La Soul's (from left) Dave, Posdnous and Maseo.
American group De La Soul's (from left) Dave, Posdnous and Maseo.PHOTO: WWW.WEAREDELASOUL.COM

The genre's veterans De La Soul prove they still have the chops, while rising star Vince Staples goes bold and brash in his EP

Veterans De La Soul, an American hip-hop group that formed in Long Island, New York, close to three decades ago, have always set themselves apart with their adventurous sound and quirky lyrics.

With their first album in a dozen years And The Anonymous Nobody..., the Grammy-winning trio of Posdnous, Dave and Maseo prove that they still have the chops.

The title of the distinctive full- length release likely alludes to the group's hardcore following - the loyal masses who helped to fund the album via crowd-funding platform Kickstarter (the group asked for US$110,000 - about S$149,620 - and received six times that amount).

The multi-faceted album is an intoxicating collection of styles, buoyed by guest appearances from across the musical spectrum, from R&B star Usher and Californian rap veteran Snoop Dogg to art-rock pioneer David Byrne of Talking Heads and Damon Albarn from Britpop stalwarts Blur.

  • HIP-HOP

  • AND THE ANONYMOUS NOBODY...

    De La Soul

    A.O.I./Kobalt

    4.5/5 stars

"Us three be the omega like fish oil," Posdnuos raps over a smooth and fluid beat on Royalty Capes, as jazzy saxophones and dramatic horns loop in the background.

  • HIP-HOP

  • PRIMA DONNA (EP)

    Vince Staples

    ARTium/Def Jam

    3.5/5 stars

The Snoop Dogg-guest starring Pain rolls along with an irresistible G-funk-like groove, while the seven-minute-long Lord Intended swaggers with creeping psychedelic rock rhythm complete with falsettos from Justin Hawkins of British glam-metal revivalists The Darkness.

Snoopies, featuring Byrne, is a delectable slice of kooky, new wave pop while Whodeeni brings the listener back to modern times with its electronica slant and guest verse from contemporary rapper 2 Chainz.

On the other side of the United States, Long Beach, Californian rapper Vince Staples' new EP, Prima Donna, affirms his reputation as one of hip-hop's sharpest rising talents. The 23-year-old paints a vivid portrayal of his quick rise up the rap ladder and the perils that come with it.

The lyrics can be bleak and laced with dark humour as Staples grapples with issues such as suicide, broken relationships and keeping runaway egos in check.

The production is bold and intriguing and two works, War Ready and Big Time, feature tracks by Mercury Prize-winning British singer-songwriter-producer James Blake.

Intent on blazing his own trail, Staples is even brash enough to take shots at hip-hop veterans in Pimp Hand, a blistering track in which he criticises old hands for trying to tell young upstarts such as himself how contemporary hip- hop should be like.

Its short runtime notwithstanding, Prima Donna is a dense and gripping piece of work.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline 'Hip-hop's trailblazers'. Print Edition | Subscribe