Favorite Album Wrestle-Off #2

De La Soul Is Dead vs. Buhloone Mind State All told, De La Soul is probably my favorite hip-hop group. I think I am more in awe of Public Enemy and I intellectually understand that OutKast has put together a longer uninterrupted string of excellent albums, but De La is just my favorite. Period. One of the things that I believe makes Tupac the figure he is today is that his words resonated with a lot of people. For me, De La Soul has that exact same resonance. I'm quick to talk about how we often times feel like we "know" celebrities because they come into our homes via some mass medium like the television or the radio, and I'm also quick to admit that I do it too. But in this case, the rhymes Posdnuos and Dave (nee Trugoy) write, generally speak exactly to where I am or where I have been. Not to mention the fact that the production on their first three albums was eclectic and quirky and funny in and of itself before a word was laid on top of it. As I mentioned a long time ago, I got into De La late. I wasn't really feeling them on their debut, Three Feet High and Rising. I have since grown to appreciate that album, but it's doesn't contend for being my favorite by a long shot. Stakes Is High, the first De La album that I bought, was in its own way almost as revolutionary for me as hearing Rebel Without A Pause. When I bought that CD, the first thing I did was put the title song on a 15 minute cassette tape so I could listen to it over and over again in my walkman. I think I listened to that song 20 times a day for the first 6 weeks I had it. Stakes Is High wasn't just a song, it was my manifesto. Until I went to the used CD store and ran up on Buhloone Mind State. Shortly thereafter, I bought De La Soul Is Dead. Since then, De La is on instant buy with me. If they put out a record, I'm putting out money. No pre-listens necessary. Of their first four albums, all of which I would give Classic status, I think De La Soul Is Dead and Buhloone Mind State are superior. I'm having a hard time breaking these two down, because even though they're by the same group,they're two very different albums. De La Soul Is Dead I have heard some people opine that De La Soul Is Dead is the most perfect album ever recorded. I don't know if I'd go that far with it, but it's definitely up there. The album's title and cover art represent a separation from the image that De La had as a result of the songs and imagery from 3 Feet. On 3 Feet High, they constantly referenced DAISY (DA Inner Soul Y'all) and their videos showed peace signs, causing many to label them as "hippies." De La Soul Is Dead sought to extricate them from that box. And it did, costing them sales, but creating a much more enjoyable product for me. I think my favorite thing about De La Soul Is Dead is the production. Prince Paul pulled out samples from everywhere. On Peas Porridge Hot, the guys are rapping over a Brother Bones tap dancing track, with their delivery matched to that style. Peas is a song that to me, even someone who doesn't like sampling in concept would have to admit is creative. Anybody who can wrap a rap around a tap track can't be all that wack. Most of the other samples on the record are more "pedestrian," meaning that they're not entirely unlike something that could be heard on any Native Tongues track, but they're still well done and creatively employed. To get a taste of the wide variety of sources, go to thebreaks.com and look up De La Soul. Chances are, no matter what your musical background is, you'll see some records on there you currently like, or would like. The best find for me from De La Soul is Dead was Serge Gainsbourg's "En Melody". That was my first record in French. Most of the songs on De La Soul Is Dead are pure fun. There's A Roller Skating Jam Called Saturdays, one of my favorite jams, Bitties In the B.K. Lounge, My Brother's A Basehead, and Afro Connections at a Hi 5 (In the Eyes Of A Hoodlum), an early critique of the gangsta/ playa lifestyle, written as a heavily coded satire. But then on one track, the album just gets dark. Millie Pulled a Pistol On Santa, a song about child abuse, is haunting. Millie is easily one of my top 5 De La tracks. I don't know, maybe I'm just not listening to the right people, but is anybody making songs like these any more? At any rate, where DLSID loses points with me is in its length. After the two skits that follow Millie, there's only one song I really listen to, which is Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey). If it stopped at Millie, or even Who Do You Worship, it would be a perfect album. Buhloone Mindstate While I liked Stakes Is High a lot, this is the album that ended its reign at the top of my playlist back in '96. First off, the intro has an unvarnished sample of Deep Gully. That's points right there. Buhloone Mindstate is just a different album. It's as different from DLSID as DLSID was from 3 Feet High. Utilizing the same formula of complex, playful rhymes with dense, creative samples, in one sense it's just like its predecessors, but it's not. Of the 15 songs on Buhloone Mindstate, there are probably fewer songs that I like as much as I like within the first 15 of DLSID, but Buhloone has the advantage of having songs that I am just much more passionate about. First is Patti Dooke, which is about the pressure to cross over and sacrifice artistic integrity in order to gain in sales. The song itself is dope, but then it's built on an organ sample, which earns extra points from me, being the sucker for a Hammond B3 that I am. Another song I really like is In The Woods, which has a nice, thumping beat and features this female MC named Shortie No Mas. I don't know what happened to her, but she was nice. I definitely wish her discography was healthier. She had the goods. The song that tilts the scale in favor of Buhloone Mind State, however, is I Am, I Be. This is the song that snatched the belt from Stakes Is High as my personal anthem. First of all, over a sample of Lou Rawls' recording of "You Have Made Me Very Happy," they have Maceo playing. That's right, Maceo Parker! That alone is grounds for top 10 status. But then, over a track that seems made specifically for introspection, Pos and Dave drop sober, almost melancholy lines, reflecting on their lives. Check Pos:
This is not a bunch of Bradys but a bunch of black man's pride Yet I can safely say I've never played a sister by touching where her private parts reside I've always walked the right side of the road If I wasn't making song I wouldn't be a thug selling drugs But a man with a plan and if I was a rug cleaner betcha Pos'd have the cleanest rugs I am
When I heard that, I almost had to throw the headphones off my ears. Those words could've been coming out of my mouth, but they were coming into my ears. Then came Plug 2, sealing the deal.
I keep the walking on the right side but I won't judge the next who handles walking on the wrong Cuz that's how he wants to be I'm different, see I wanna be like the name of this song, I Am
Game over. So in a contest of strong albums, Buhloone Mind State win on condensed potency. I would have no problem with a decision that goes the other way, but this is just how I see it. The list so far: Songs In The Key Of Life - Stevie Wonder Mama's Gun - Erykah Badu It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back - Public Enemy Love Alive - Walter Hawkins Buhloone Mindstae - De La Soul