“There is nothing as mysterious as a fact clearly described,” said photographer Garry Winogrand in describing his professional raison d’etre. I imagine that New York rap heroes De La Soul see their recording career in much the same light. Having been infamously shut out of any revenue from their groundbreaking early catalog due to sampling clearance issues (I defy you to find a digital copy of 3 Feet High And Rising anywhere), the Long Island trio has—on its first release in more than a decade, and eighth in almost 30 years together—stitched together 17 tracks from the piece-parts of more than 200 hours’ worth of live recording. And it’s a triumph of truth and consequences; the musical equivalent of a fly fisherman publishing a bicycling quarterly. You’re the acknowledged masters of today’s shopping-spree sampling mentality (you quite literally can’t get to Chance, Frank Ocean or FlyLo without carving a path through De La’s insanely eclectic first four records), and then you go all Miles Davis-organic on us?
Belie’dat: This is a mature work by grown-ass men who know their way around a hook or two (the sublime “Royalty Capes,” the achingly beautiful blaxploitation strings that frame “Memory Of…” and the deliciously downbeat “Greyhounds”) and a dis rhyme deftly dropped (“Sexy Bitch”; “Trainwreck,” which is just as cutting as it sounds). They’ve learned how to share the spotlight, too; Snoop collabo “Pain” gives LBC’s finest just enough breathing room to drop gems like “Used to gang bang, used to love the clashes/Now cash is the only motivation/But not for me, G, I’m into public relations.” If Pos, Dave and Maseo were always “me, myself and I” (three parts of the same sentient being), today there’s room enough for all y’all to take a turn behind the wheel. But it’s still their classic car to drive