The Long Island-based group caused quite a stir in the hip-hop community last year when it announced that its fifth album would be a three-disc affair. Now scaled down to the standard single-album format, "Art Official Intelligence" (due in stores Tuesday) may surprise longtime De La Soul fans for other reasons.
Through their first four albums and in appearances with other artists, the three--Posdnuos, Trugoy (Dave) and Maseo--have been one of hip-hop's most innovative crews. But most of the songs on the new album are devoid of the out-there, experimental lyrics of their 1989 landmark "3 Feet High and Rising," or the biting, insightful commentary on the music industry of 1991's "De La Soul Is Dead" and 1996's "Stakes Is High."
Instead, the 17 cuts are more or less straight-up hip-hop songs. They're often enjoyable, such as the dance-club-friendly "Copa (Cabanga)," the old-school-flavored "Squat!" (with Mike D and Ad Rock of the Beastie Boys) and the catchy "Oooh" single with Redman.
But De La Soul's music has always been more than enjoyable--it's been lasting. For the first time in its career, De La Soul has made just another hip-hop album rather than a hip-hop event.