Work It Out

Fifteen years down the line, De La Soul is still shining, still grinding

"I think people are starting to let their guards down and try new things," he added. "We don't have to be so tough. We don't have to be so rugged."

By now, the scene had shifted from the Hotel Nash, where Jolicoeur, Mercer, and their entourage had paused for a short rest, to the Delano Hotel, where everyone was enjoying a late afternoon meal. The hotel's sunny décor seemed to underscore Jolicoeur's and Mercer's contention that De La Soul's music is for the general public as well as their longtime hip-hop fans, some of whom have charged that the group has lost the freewheeling, eccentric touch of Three Feet High and Rising. For sure, Grind Date isn't as experimental as that classic debut. The ensuing fifteen years have brought considerable changes in all three members' lives. Each has a family now, and they've seen hip-hop music become a multi-billion dollar business.

For better or worse, De La Soul's recent output is the reflection of grown men, not talented teenagers. Grind Date is polished and sophisticated enough to be appreciated on its own terms, easily bumping from the bass bounce of "Verbal Clap" to "He Comes," a fleet-footed duet with Ghostface Killah. There's even a surprisingly unpredictable track, "Rock Co. Kane Flow," that finds Jolicoeur and Mercer trading stop-start verses with cutting-edge rap mathematician MF Doom. But Grind Dateis not Three Feet High and Rising or even Buhloone Mindstate. In reality, who would want it to be?

Post-golden age De La Soul and Beastie Boys: MCA (left), DJ Maseo, Posdnous, Mike D, King Ad-Rock, and Trugoy the Dove
Johnna Lister Pierre-Antoine
Post-golden age De La Soul and Beastie Boys: MCA (left), DJ Maseo, Posdnous, Mike D, King Ad-Rock, and Trugoy the Dove

"In '88, we weren't conscious of what was going on. We were knuckleheads, we was young kids pulling jokes on each other," said Jolicoeur of those wonder years. "But in time, you've seen De La grow up. That's how it should be."

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