Album Reviews: The Grind Date by De La SoulAfter nearly 15 years of critical and popular ups and downs, De La Soul has settled into the role of spokesmen for the recovery of hip-hop’s golden age. What marks hip-hop’s golden age is up for debate, but many point toward the period in the mid- to late-‘80s as hip-hop’s prime creative era. This is a time that just predated De La’s debut (and, curiously, the group’s apex in the minds of many critics) Three Feet High and Rising, an album that drastically broke tradition with, and humorously mocked, the state of hip-hop at the time.
Since then, De La Soul has attempted to distance itself from the "Daisy Age" heralded on that first album, so it's not surprising that the group's latest disc attempts to return to the roots of classic rap, which was able to comfortably blend politics, social consciousness and a feel-good party atmosphere. Not a lot of new creative ground is broken here, but maybe staying relevant and fighting the good fight is the best two MCs and a DJ, all well into their mid-30s, can hope for in the current state of hip-hop, which is still very much a young man’s game.
That being said, The Grind Date offers a full plate of dance-floor friendly tunes that immediately remind the listener that insightful, intelligent lyricism need not necessarily be divorced from having a good time. The social consciousness at play on this record is seemingly at odds with the feel-good vibe of it all, but De La Soul has always mastered the art of speaking to both the mind and the ass. This isn’t exactly earth shattering, but it carries on in the fine return to form suggested by the group’s previous album, AOI: Bionix. - Cory O'Malley
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