A fair warning/disclaimer before you start reading this review. As a backer of the
Kickstarter campaign that ultimately
led to this album's creation and release, I'm objectively biased to want this album
to be good. Some of you will be aware that didn't stop me from dissecting
"Meow the Jewels," another album
I backed that was ultimately released, but in that case the internet all had a
collective laugh at backing a ridiculous campaign, and the actual quality of the
end product was the punchline whether good or bad (it was a little of both).
In this case the stakes are much much higher.
An unprecedented SEVEN of De La Soul's albums have been deemed worthy of
inclusion in The Nines, meaning we the staff have held them up as albums you should consider absolutely
essential as a hip-hop head. For De La to have an unsuccessful album after their
loyal fans enthusiastically funded their campaign in 24 hours would not only be
a blemish to that sterling reputation but a middle finger to everyone who patiently
waited, waited, and WAITED SOME MORE to receiver the album as a backer reward.
The reason people invested with such fervor wasn't just because De La Soul are nice
guys and we wish them well (they are and we do), it was because of that expectation
of excellence going in. Pos, Dove/Dave and Maseo are known for doing hip-hop right,
and if they couldn't do it right on a crowdfunded album on their own terms with
no corporate label constraints, then everybody put down their money for NOTHING.
That's heavy right? I wouldn't want that kind of pressure on me but De La
embraced the grind and got to work.
The end result sure looks promising from the moment you hit play, with over an
hour of music and 18 tracks to look forward to, the kind of full length project
all those backers have demanded. It doesn't hurt that R&B soul queen and
hip-hop darling Jill Scott narrates the intro. "Have you cried for ANYTHING
lately? And I don't mean for your friends or your bills or yourselves -- I mean
for THIS! When do you think it's time to love something the most child?
When it's successful? And done made everything for us huh? Tch! That ain't the
time at all." Purposefully or accidentally she seems to be addressing both the
skeptics who thought De La wouldn't deliver and the skeptics who think that
hip-hop CAN'T deliver music with meaning and feeling in 2016. Her lecture
essentially suggests that when the chips are down in hip-hop, don't fold your
hand, double down and go in deeper. If you're a backer though you already know.
If you didn't expect De La to drop a single with Snoop Dogg to support the album
and bridge the gap from Kickstarter to the mainstream, then you missed De La putting
their chips in and doubling down on their end product too. A guest appearance from
Calvin Broadus probably didn't come cheap, but the lackadaisical Lion fits so naturally
into the jazzy Soul groove that it's a wonder nobody thought of doing it before. All
of the collaboration choices for the other cameos are equally well met. The
soulful croon of Usher Raymond on "Greyhounds," the playfully minimalistic electronic
sounds of Little Dragon on "Drawn," a familiar feeling renunion with Damon Albarn
on "Here in After" and so on. The only thing that really caught me by surprise was
2 CHAIIIIINZ appearing on "Whoodeeni." Make no mistake about it --
we haven't been very kind in our
reviews of Mr. Epps. Somehow though collaborating with hip-hop legends seems to
have brought out his best - I actually found his verse thoughtful and the snaps
amusing. He goes deeper than I ever would have expected from the jump.
My homey from N.O. - find his crib with a roof on the side
FEMA ask him for an address but ain't no mailbox
Nuttin left to do out here but to sell rocks
Now they got cell phones inside of the cell blocks
And my cousin on parole cause he sold Glocks
My cousin that sold stock
Told you we had mo' soul than James Brown, wearin a gold watch
that obviously don't work
Used to go home and rob niggaz for homework, see if the chrome work
Might call your girl to see if my phone work!"
I'm not saying Chainz suddenly leapt into "Hip-Hop Quotable" territory but I will
give him a harder look on the next album he drops. Of course his cameo doesn't hold
a candle to Estelle and Pete Rock on "Memory Of (Us)" but the mere fact I found it
worth mentioning should indicate it would hold your attention. Actually though
there's not a moment on "and the Anonymous Nobody" that didn't though, even when
tracks like "Lord Intended" delve into some experimental areas. I don't know
The Darkness at all, but it seems like De La met their led singer Justin Hawkins
halfway by making the track as crunchy as a Run-D.M.C. x Aerosmith collaboration,
which Dave enthusiastically declares is "The hardest rock s--t you gon' here!"
The reason I say "experimental" is that the song really could have ended at 3:15
but it continues on into a piano medley with a Prince falsetto and Hawkins
wailing "F--K EVERYONE, BURN EVERYTHING" and a GOSPEL CHOIR accompanying
and singing the same. It's ballsy as hell.
So you wanted the answer to the question -- was "and the Anonymous Nobody" worth
the long wait for its release? I've admitted my bias up front and despite that if
I knocked a single point off this album I'd be doing De La Soul a disservice.
Despite the fact that they could have played it conservative and given fans the
"classic De La" by doing collaborations with Redman, Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes and MF
DOOM, and they would have been clapped on the back and congratulated for it they
took RISKS. The only difference between the Kickstarter version and the
commercial one is a bonus track called "Unfold," but it's a weird experimental
ditty itself which plays out like De La are the stars of a spaghetti Western.
I wish there was a mini movie to go along with it -- and if that's the only
complaint I have about "and the Anonymous Nobody" then there's nothing to
complain about at all.
Music Vibes: 10 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 10 of 10TOTAL Vibes: 10 of 10