Apart from their far-reaching influence and status as two of the most respected groups in Hip-Hop, Mobb Deep and De La Soul stand at opposite ends of the spectrum. Mobb Deep, self-proclaimed “official Queensbridge murderers,” represent the hard-hitting, ominous, street-fueled Hip-Hop that rose to popularity in the 90’s after N.W.A’s landmark Straight Outta Compton (1988). De La Soul stands in stark contrast as part of the Native Tongues Posse alongside A Tribe Called Quest, and helped establish jazz rap, afrocentric lyrics, and a playful positive style with their debut album 3 Feet High and Rising (1989).
Two decades deep, the influence of both groups on the sonic landscape of Hip-Hop is remarkable. De La Soul is celebrating 25 years since their debut and Mobb Deep just released a two-part 19-year anniversary album The Infamous Mobb Deep on April 1. In an unforgiving genre where skill is paramount and average careers last a few years, the groups’ longevity is an accomplishment few have matched.
To put it best, “ain’t no such things as halfway crooks,” and neither the Mobb nor De La Soul are the least bit “shook.” Perhaps the largest factor in their continued success is their determination to stay true to themselves and their audience, following Hip-Hop’s central tenets — represent, recognize, and come correct.
Long live the D.A.I.S.Y. age
De La Soul’s resurgence has been truly impressive. Prohibited from selling their early albums via digital means, such as iTunes or Amazon Music, because of legal issues surrounding the unauthorized use of samples, their un-commercialized music served as a perfect example of the pure soul of Hip-Hop. They made music for the joy it gave them and their audience. They have quietly been working on clearing up their legal issues, and to thank fans for continued support and patience, they made their entire discography available for free download on Valentine’s Day, 2014.
Announcing multiple projects in the works including a new studio album, they released Smell the Da.I.S.Y., a collection of De La Soul tracks to J Dilla production on March 26th. The title is a play on their trademark D.A.I.S.Y. Age call, and the project is prefaced by an audio letter speaking to Dilla’s influence on their music and Hip-Hop at large.
The group has reinvigorated their sound while contributing to the legacy of a fallen friend. Be on the lookout for their future efforts as, “The will of God was to give the man wings to ascend and make music and blend with the king of kings.”
He’s just a crook son, he ain’t a Shook One
Originally choosing the moniker Poetical Prophets, Havoc and Prodigy met while attending the High School of Art and Design in New York City and are responsible for landmark albums The Infamous (1995) and Hell on Earth (1996), including memorable tracks “Survival of the Fittest” and “Shook Ones part 2”. They claim Queensbridge, the birthplace of Hip-Hop (there was contention about where Hip-Hop started, the Bronx or the Bridge, as noted in the battles between Boogie Down Production and Marley Marl, MC Shan. The conflict has since been settled, with the Bronx recognized as the place of Hip-Hop’s genesis) as their home, and they helped put and keep the Bridge on top as Brooklyn, Marcy, and Staten Island claimed their places thanks to artists such as Notorious BIG, Jay Z, and the Wu Tang Clan.
As storytellers, they wove scenes of life on rough streets, with tales of loyalty, the contradictions surrounding violence and substances, and the ever-present criminal justice system. Havoc’s unrivaled skills for flipping rare samples, giving their music a dark, brooding feel, further unified their sound and image.
Full of their signature style, their commemoration album The Infamous Mobb Deep consists of new music with longtime collaborators such as Nas, as well as special unreleased versions of music from sessions during the recording of the original The Infamous. Responsible for the resurgence of the east coast during the west’s rise to popularity, Mobb Deep stand as the model for hardcore Hip-Hop, authentic and dark without losing sight of the music.
Editor’s Note: “Word is Born” is a column about hip-hop, its influences, and its history. Nate also hosts “Word is Born” on Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to midnight at WMBR 88.1 First on Your FM Dial.