September 21, 2021

De La Soul "Buhloone Mind State" (September 21, 1993)

Since 1989's 3 Feet High and Rising, De La Soul has been paying for having been perceived as the Extra Cool Crew. It spoke to a larger audience. For a slew of reasons--but primarily because it had a darling, clean-cut look and melodic, riddle-ridden style--De La Soul crossed over big time, and the music media served it up like freshly shucked oysters, pearly and wet, ready for slurping. De La Soul was stamped "thinking" hip hop we all could get into. The antithesis of Run-D.M.C. and "Hard Times," De La was lauded for its introspection, codes, and between-song skits. It was (an) alternative. And it was clear from just the title of its muggy second album, De La Soul is Dead, that the trio hated it. While Buhloone Mind State is perhaps the least wandering De La Soul album, the songs that run the wildest through the tall cornstalk rules of grammar, poetry, and sense are the ones that give the collection its juice. The taunting "I Am I Be," a more mature sequel to 3 Feet High's "Me Myself and I," slams the record business, black Greek organizations, friendship, and most searingly, that heavy, slippery thing known as "black man's pride." Other songs, especially "Patti Dooke," which has the trio "runnin' through the trenches," stop just short of sagging with the bluesy funk of self-examination. Buhloone Mind State is black male angst in an evasive manifestation. De La is tripping, maybe hurting, even growing, and it's saying so, sort of. These are a bewildering set of songs--mazelike, a job to figure out. The tracks are seldom blunt, but often beautiful. Cont'd below...

And De La Soul wants the world to know there's no gun-toting or testicle gulping included in their angst: "I don't rest in Compton so I don't own a gat," they proclaim in "Patti Dooke," and "I be the in cuz the brother holdin' glocks is out / I be the in cuz the pusher runnin' blocks is out / I be the in cuz the kid smokin' weed shootin' seed which leads to a girl's stomach being 'bout half a ton is out," they explain in "Eye Patch." But it's when Posdnuos spits out that "gangsta shit is outdated / Posdnuous is complicated" that the album find its frozen kernel, the spot around which the rest of the album revolves. De La Soul is still blowing out nonsensical rhyme games you could easily play patty-cake to: "Can the cat's tongue slip / Ya do di dah zip / Take the horse into the Jolly Ranch... the good the bad and Uncle Tom / Beat it kid / Show the sheik / Cuz I found a fool." Prince Paul's production swells and breaks and rolls up on hip hop's rocky shore, foamy and cool, but no matter the craftsmanship of the beats or the rhymestyles, the question must come up: what the f#ck are they talking about? It's frustrating. You curse them for doing that cryptic shit on purpose, and you wish that the brothers would just say what they mean. But then a line slips off one of the boys' tongues that attaches itself to you like a pretty pink starfish: "a Day-glo n!gga gets the red doormat." That line, from the middle of "En Focus," is talking about hip hop and stardom and light-skinnedness and the need we all have for people to look at us and pay attention--all of that, all at the same time.... Like sweet favors, De La Soul grants feelings of inclusion. "Did you get it?" they seem to ask, and if you did, you're in. "Who can be--fresh / Who can be--dope / Who can be--live / Who can be--word / Who can be." If you didn't get it, you can act like you know and they wouldn't care--you could be in, anyway. - Spin Magazine (November, 1993). A real gem of an LP!