Not Pushin’ Daisies Yet

De La Soul began their show at the Hammerstein Ballroom by dating themselves. Posdonous and Trugoy bisected the audience and asked the crowd to cheer for the title of possessor of "the real hip-hop." It's an old-school crowd technique that immediately places De La within the company of elder statesmen. But unlike some of their other contemporaries, say KRS-ONE, De La have aged the same way they've done everything for the past decade and a half—gracefully.

Storming the gates: Erase Errata's Jaffe
photo: Cary Conover
Storming the gates: Erase Errata's Jaffe

Not that their popular influence isn't on the wane. Last year the group was unloaded by Tommy Boy and then Elektra and has now signed to indie label Sequence. But the trio is only three years removed from their last hit and their last decent album. And instead of departing with angry shots at the industry, when De La were booted from the mainstream, they went self-reflective. "It's easy to point the finger, man," Posdnous told a Toronto weekly. "A lot of times you gotta look at yourself in the mirror and realize if you're not on top of your game, you'll find yourself in situations you don't want to be in." Thursday, De La Soul closed for a stable of young pitchers featured by Diesel's U-Music Talent Search. By the time Mase started cuing up his records, the crowd had halved. If this decline in star power got De La down, they didn't show it. What they did offer was a breezy 30-minute set—a primer in De La history—that flexed with the range of everything from "Potholes in My Lawn" to "Through Ya City" and "Oooh." But mostly they served a reminder that rap was once something more than mean music, and that if De La Soul were to die, it would be with dignity. —Ta-Nehisi Coates

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