DE LA SOUL | LIVE REVIEW
Tramshed, Cardiff, Sat 4th March
The fathers of alternative rap and the funkiest samplers known to the hip-hop genre performed to a sold-out venue on a night wholly focused on De La Soul’s three decades of recording and performing. The group take a lot of influence from jazz, funk, pop and arguably invented the jazz-rap subgenre; their eclectic sound is what gave birth to their popularity, especially with their hugely influential first album, 3 Feet High And Rising.
The night began with a DJ set from a selector who many may recognise from Cardiffian group Astroid Boys. Delivering an hour of hip-hop classics that even resulted in a circle of b-boying breaking out, if it wasn’t for the lack of baggy jeans in the crowd it would have been fair to assume that Tramshed was a portal back to the 90s. However, the nostalgia didn’t continue throughout the evening: maybe it was naive to assume that De La Soul would perform every track from an album released nearly 30 years ago.
Every artist has a natural evolution, and De La Soul still have retained the unorthodox wit in their lyricism. Yet their delivery has altered in a way that shifts the sound slightly more towards the hardcore end of the rap spectrum. Moreover, the production lacked the elements of jazz and funk that sets De La Soul apart from the rest. Even latest album De La Soul: And The Anonymous Nobody has elements of their original sound. Therefore it seems bizarre that this wasn’t represented in this performance in Cardiff. It is also arguable that since the absence of Prince Paul, who produced their first three albums, their unique sound has been somewhat marred.
Nevertheless, it was astounding to witness a group that has been so influential in hip-hop; moreover the appearance of fellow rap icon Q-Tip, of A Tribe Called Quest, was a welcome surprise. The group have clearly held their charismatic presence when on stage, but seem to have ultimately lost their eclectic sound and aloof delivery that made De La Soul such significant figures in music.
words CAMPBELL PROSSER photos MORGAN DEVINE