Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 4 -- "Tracks like the loopy 'Snoopies' and old-school throwdown 'Whoodeeni' are glorious bug-outs....Their greatest strength has always been not caring what hip-hop is supposed to sound like."
Spin - "De La Soul have delivered one of their most ambitious and consistently rewarding albums....It's an LP that reaffirms De La Soul as standard-bearers for Gen-X rap artistry."
Clash (magazine) - "De La's expansive, maverick tendencies have frequently led them to places that less ambitious hip-hop crews usually shy away from....De La Soul commendably remain one of hip-hop's great independently-minded outlier acts."
Recording information: Vox Recording Studios; ZAC Studios.
Illustrator: Pablo Stanley.
After releasing The Grind Date in 2004, the venerable hip-hop pioneers De La Soul were quiet on the album front until 2016's And the Anonymous Nobody. They were pretty busy otherwise though, working with the Gorillaz, making mixtapes, touring, and attempting to release their back catalog for free, much to Warner Bros. dismay. Dave and Posdnuos even made an album together, 2012's De La Soul's Plug 1 & Plug 2 Presents... By 2015, the trio were ready to make another record, this time without record label politics or samples. After a successful Kickstarter campaign raised some funds, they gathered up a group of friends and musicians from their live band, then began recording beats and jams, almost 200 hours' worth. They then took the best bits, constructed a batch of songs, and started working on a guest list. Though Willie Nelson and Axl Rose turned them down, old pal Damon Albarn and an impressive array of people like Usher, Jill Scott, Snoop Dogg, 2Chainz, and David Byrne did sign on. Working with live musicians and guests inspired the group to take their sound to new places along with their laid-back golden age rap style. "Lord Intended," which features vocals by Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins, swerves into hard-rocking, guitar soloing territory, the Damon Albarn feature "Here in After" is jangling indie rock, and "Unfold" dips into Wild West cowboy balladry. The best of the left-field collabos is the Afrofunk-sampling, David Byrne-sung "Snoopies," which sounds like a Talking Heads song and a classic De La song jammed together. Where the album really shines is when the band loses any experimental pretense and just drops some solid hip-hop. Tracks like "Pain" and "Trainwreck" are funky and loose, "Royalty Capes" is tough and tight, "Whoodeeni" is lots of fun, and "Memory Of..." is a sweet, nostalgic, and sad ballad with classic Pete Rock production and lovely vocals by Estelle. In a better world, it would be a radio hit. On these tracks, Dave and Pos drop memorable lines and nimbly thread their raps through the live instrumentation like the seasoned pros they are, sounding like they haven't aged much at all since Three Feet High, though their lyrical concerns are definitely more grown up at this point. ~ Tim Sendra