Twenty nine years into a career that has redefined the contours of hip-hop, the Daisy Age heroes of rap’s golden period, De La Soul, are back for a sold-out show in London at a chokingly full Roundhouse, with a Kickstarter-funded, guest-heavy album (‘and the Anonymous Nobody…) to promote and an adoring fan base to navigate.
Replacing the unwell Maseo on turntable duties with DJ Strike, veteran rappers Kelvin ‘Posdnuos’ Mercer and ‘Dave’ Jolicoeur put on a triumphant spectacle by anchoring evergreen staples from their repertoire to stand-outs from their latest, warmly received opus, bolstered by a pin-sharp nine-piece funk ensemble that judiciously raids the soul revue textbook.
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The Long Island MCs have long been a by-word for restless, shape-shifting creativity as well as humorous skits and pristine production, and tonight’s uplifting, sumptuous set reflects the outfit’s exuberant eclecticism: goofy rhymes, snapping beats and a breathless chemistry pepper the sassy strut and gospel funk grooves of a meticulously drilled live band that features horns, guitars, keyboards and drums worthy of JB. Each member is given an opportunity to showcase their talent, from the keyboardist’s serene segues into ‘Everybody Loves The Sunshine’ through to the drummer’s pounding appropriation of ‘Paid In Full’.
Both rappers come swaggering onto the stage, inspiring head nods of appreciation, and the room explodes with vitality. Raucous treatments of vintage hits such as ‘Me, Myself & I’, ‘Eye Know’, ‘Pass The Plugs’ and ‘Stakes Is High’ are juxtaposed with new favourites such as the gently funky ‘Trainwreck’ and the brassy, slinky ‘Royalty Capes’. The sultry-voiced Estelle is enlisted for a haunting rendition of ‘In Memory Of…’, while an ebullient Damon Albarn pops up for high fives and a euphoric version of the Gorillaz hit ‘Feel Good Inc’.
A churlish soul might point to a little too much padding of the “throw your hands in the air” variety and an overdose of crowd-dividing showmanship, yet the night is characterised by a carefree effervescence and some joyful interplay between the veteran Native Tongues posse and a refreshingly age-diverse audience. There’s sadly no ‘Three Is The Magic Number’ this time, but the infectious vigour and controlled flow of party jams like ‘A Roller Skatin’ Jam Named “Saturdays”‘ and a jubilant ‘Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)’ send the devotees home aglow.