8A spectrum guest stars appear on De La Soul's latest LP, and the Anonymous Nobody…, each from a disparate genre — grimy underground rap courtesy Roc Marciano, mainstream G-funk-inspired hip-hop from Snoop Dogg, New Wave via David Byrne, neo-soul from Jill Scott, alt-rock bestowed by Blur's Damon Albarn and much, much more. That's a testament to the veteran hip-hop trio's popularity and, above all, their influence.
But impressive as that range collaborations might be, some the LP's very best tracks feature founding members Posdnous, Dave and Maseo all on their own. Prime example: "CBGBS," a lean minute-and-a-half-long track with punchy percussion and to-the-point lyricism from the longstanding trio that remind us all why De La are one hip-hop's top acts.
Then there's the latter-side track "Sexy Bitch," which features thwacking percussion and brilliantly succinct one-liners about your heart being left "all tattered up." That's followed by a companion track called "Trainwreck," pinned on a bass line that's tightly looped and well suited to lyrics about a lady who "keeps heads up like nosebleeds." Later on in the record, the trio also spit over a spongy G-funk bass line on "Nosed Up," once again without any featured guests and once again tackling the theme taking pretentious folks down a peg.
And while they exceed expectations on these non-assisted tracks, De La Soul also more than hold their own against their superstar guests. In fact, they bring out the best in those collaborators, such as David Byrne on "Snoopies," on which the legendary Talking Heads frontman sounds as swaggering as Thin White Duke-era Bowie, heartily belting out a decadent chorus over a funky bass line and the De La members' gruff spitting. Equally impressive is De La's work with a more contemporary star, Usher, on "Greyhounds." The R&B star's sentimental singing isn't overwrought, and works as an ideal counterpoint to the darkly toned song's melancholy 808s and forlorn rapping.
These elements and more make and the Anonymous Nobody… one the most thrilling, wide-ranging rap releases the year. It's clear, from the way De La push themselves, to the way they buoy their more famous guest contributors, that the trio continue to defy the album's title — even 25 years into their career, De La Soul are anything but nobodies. (A.O.I. Records)