De La Soul’s crowdfunded album ‘The anonymous nobody’ review

Posted on 19 October 2016
By Ollie Rankine
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For an artist as revered as influential rap group De La Soul, it’s certainly uncommon to use a crowdfunding site as means to get new material out in the open.

Although the New York trio ‘s back catalogue continues to place the group at the heart of modern hip-hop, legal disagreements with record companies over copyright issues concerning a heavy use of sampling has rewarded De La Soul with very little financial recognition for their work.

To make matters worse, whilst Warner Music persists on denying De La Soul with the necessary licencing agreements, much of their previous work remains excluded from digital outlets making a further issue of their music’s exposure.

Now twelve years since the group’s last instalment as a complete unit, De La Soul’s long awaited comeback album has been entirely funded through global crowdfunding site, Kickstarter. Surpassing their goal of raising $110,000 in just 10 hours, De La Soul’s new album, And The Anonymous Nobody managed to generate a mammoth budget of over $600,000 – more money than they’ve ever had to make a record.

Despite age having revealed itself as an enemy to a number of hip-hop’s long affiliated characters, De La Soul look to prove their endurance behind an album featuring only original material.

Most of the music heard on And The Anonymous Nobody comes from the 200 hours of sporadic recording sessions held with ten-piece funk and soul band, The Rhythm Roots Allstars.

Right from the triumphant fanfare welcome that opens ‘Royalty Capes’, De La Soul’s old school spitting reveals a broody persona and reminds us of their jazz infused roots. However by no means does the album confine itself to that.

Delving into a mishmash of different genres, And The Anonymous Nobody rarely stays within the same tune. At 17 tracks long, De La Soul have jammed the album with as many collaborators as humanly possible providing undeniable versatility but bearing limited results.

Whilst the addition of Snoop Dog on ‘Pain’ proves to oil the cogs of a well-functioning pop song, tracks like ‘Lord Intended’ are betrayed by wailing guitars and a vocal from Justin Hawkins that sounds more out of place every time you listen to it.

Occasionally the trio sound unintentionally cornered by the weight of material brought in by featuring artists. ‘Drawn’ suffers from the elongated vocals of Swedish singer-songwriter Yukimi Nagano, only allowing De La Soul’s Posdnous under a minute at the mic. But And The Anonymous Nobody makes up for its blunders through its exceptional quality of production.

Bringing out the best possible in each beat layering melody, orchestral tracks like ‘Memory of… (US)’ almost shimmer on the surface as its carried by the irresistibly smooth flow of the beat.

What’s also refreshing is De La Soul’s inclusion of humorous self-depreciative material within their lyrics. During ‘Property of’, Dave refers to the group’s old age whilst rapping, “Two ticks away from aww shit/‘Cause I’m an old fart/Go campaign Daisy Age/Dave Fresh like a pound of sage.” Fearlessly addressing the elephant in the room, De La Soul remove any pretence of slacking and also pull the listener in on the joke whilst doing so.

Whilst at times And The Anonymous Nobody sounds a little overcrowded, there’s certainly some enduring material here. Although their departure from sampling has caused a definite shift within their writing process and style, De La Soul continue to push the boundaries of what many might have previously believed to be their threshold.

Despite the defects, De La Soul resume service meddling with genre interpolation and remind fans that the end is yet to be in sight.