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The "D.A.I.S.Y. Age" may be long behind us, but De La Soul's hip hop still smells like roses

Wednesday, May 5 2004
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Shuffling between Ms. Mosley's seventh-grade math class and the school cafeteria with "Potholes in My Lawn" blasting from my cassette Walkman, it would've been nearly impossible for me to imagine De La Soul MCs Posdnous, Trugoy, and Mase as hip hop elder statesmen. But it's been 15 years since the Native Tongue forefathers ushered in the "D.A.I.S.Y. Age" -- a hip hop movement that embraced '60s idealism -- and they"ve now been in the game longer than nearly anyone.

Updating Stetsasonic's jazz-cum-hip hop template with Prince Paul's intricately constructed sampledelia, 1989's Three Feet High and Rising significantly broadened the horizons of hip hop -- and all sample-based music, for that matter; perhaps even more important, the group's quirky sense of humor and pacifist preoccupations made the music safe for the college set. Sure, Prince Paul's musical aesthetic was shattered when the Turtles sued him for copyright violation and forever changed the course of hip hop, and De La's vision of hippies and hip-hoppers congealing never happened (even the group rejected much of the loopy idealism on its classic sophomore LP, De La Soul Is Dead), but for a few wonderful years, this trio was the future.

While no longer on the genre's cutting edge, De La has released a string of consistently satisfying albums throughout the past decade and its live shows still shimmer with a tight, confident energy. Recently, the members teamed up with Sean Paul for last year's infectious "Shoomp"; appeared with Mos Def and Q-Tip on the remix of N.E.R.D.'s "She Wants to Move"; and announced plans to release a live album, Live at Tramps, NYC, on Rhino this month. Be prepared to revisit "yesterday's tomorrow" when De La Soul returns to S.F. next week.

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Sam Chennault

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