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DE LA SOUL @ Villa

De La Soul

with Koi Child (DJ Set), Adroc
Friday, November 11, 2016
Villa Nightclub

De La Soul’s love affair with Australia continues, as the legendary New York hip hop trio swung by over the weekend, to grace us once again with their presence. Regular visitors to our shores for the last 25 odd years, the boys certainly don’t mind making the big trip and always make sure they tell us how much they enjoy their visits, and a packed and heaving Villa greeting them, made sure they knew the feeling was mutual.

This tour was particularly special as it was on the back of the release of their new album And The Anonymous Nobody, their first as a group since 2004’s The Grind Date. They used kickstarter to fund the making of the album, and released it through their own, AOI Records, giving them total freedom. And the result is a brilliant record, one of the finest of their career, demonstrating the boys are still at the top of their game. It’s mature, intelligent, funny, poignant, funky as hell, and incredibly diverse in style and sound, featuring a swag of high profile guests and live instrumentation.

So it was rather surprising when they didn’t play anything from it. Perhaps it was due to the afore mentioned guest vocalists who heavily feature throughout most tracks, or the live instrumentation, or the fact that it’s overall a fairly chilled affair. Or maybe it was that they were brought over by Red Bull Music Academy for the Sydney Weekender, and it quickly turned into a national tour. In any case it was more of a Greatest Hits Party Set, and no one was really complaining.

Kicking the night off in fine style was a DJ set from rising stars, Fremantle funk band Koi Child, namely, vocalist Cruz Patterson was behind the decks spinning some classic hip hop joints.

Adroc followed suit, dropping some big bombs that got everyone in the mood, including Jurassic 5’s What’s Golden which went down particularly well. The crowd was still spilling in at this point, slowly filling the sunken Villa dance floor and attacking the bar from all angles.

By the time it hit 11, the club was packed, every vantage point secured. As always, Maseo came out first, getting settled behind the decks, testing the controls, hyping the crowd, before getting on the mic and asking “Are you ready for De La Soul?”. They answered in the affirmative with a deafening cheer.

And then there they were, Pos and Dave, aka Plug One and Plug Two. The Villa stage isn’t the biggest, but from the second the three big boys took it, they made it look small and totally owned it. The veterans know how to rock a party – they been doin’ this for years – and it was a real treat to see them in such an intimate environment.

The busted out Oooh early on – one of their greatest party jams, that featured Redman – and Maseo stepped from behind the desks to add Plug Three in the mix. “Y’all know J Dilla?!” Dave shouted out, by way of introducing Dilla Plugged In ­– an exclusive track they released that features their verses from Plug Tunin’ over the top of a Dilla beat. Following it with another classic Dilla produced number Stakes Is High, from their 1996 album of the same name.

Continuing on the Dilla thread, Pos asked “Who got the new Tribe album today?” – a shout out to another veteran hip hop group who’ve just released a new album, their friend and luminaries, A Tribe Called Quest, who are now sadly missing Phife Dawg.

De La Soul

People up the front were handing records, shoes and other items up to them to sign, and they were more than happy to oblige, as they continued charging through their killer setlist, dropping their classic All Good featuring Chaka Khan, feeding off the crowd’s energy (which they needed having just flown in from the US). “We are De La Soul, and we’ve been doing this a long time. 29 years we’ve been doing this. We do hip hop. That’s what we do… And we’ve been coming to Australia every other year since 1980, and we got the energy in here tonight!”

Taking it back with some more old cuts Ego Trippin’ and Breakadawn, the boys really seemed to be enjoying themselves. Pos and Dave have some of the smoothest flows in the game, almost effortless – and their intelligent, lyrical rapping, with a trademark touch of humour is something a lot of modern rappers could learn from.

They finished on a high, with the massive Rock Co.Kane Flow where – as they often do when performing this track – right where the beat peaks and stops, all three members freeze in their pose and hold it, for a good 30 seconds, as the crowd goes wild. Similar to this Mannequin Challenge craze that’s taking off, except way cooler, and they’ve been doing it for years.

After leaving the stage briefly to thunderous applause, they returned to treat us to a generous encore featuring their section of their massive Grammy winning track with Gorillaz, Feel Good Inc. complete with Maseo doing his crazy laughter thing. And then they took us way back to their first two albums with solid gold classics Me, Myself and I and Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey), which saw Pos jump down into the adoring crowd.

Despite a little bit of disappointment in not getting to hear any of the new material, it was nonetheless a brilliant set and hugely enjoyable night, in the company of true legends.

ALFRED GORMAN

Photos by Alfred Gorman

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