Two thirds of US hip hop pioneers De La Soul, proponents of a jazz-flavoured sound a world away from gangsta rap, are back, with an album born of a chance encounter with a pair of French producers.
The album and the new duo share a name, First Serve, and see De La Soul’s Pos – aka Kelvin Mercer – and Dave – aka David Jude Jolicoeur – working with French producers Chokolate and Khalid to perform in the alter egos of young rappers hitting the big time.
The collaboration emerged from an unplanned meeting on the streets of Paris.
“We had a great show here. We were chilling and freestyling on the streets of Paris with some hip hop dudes when they came up with their offer,” Pos said.
“They were looking very good. Nice suits on. I was like – they got to be rich, let’s go in the studio and make money!”
The producer pair tell the story of their meeting with the De La Soul stars with the same tongue-in-cheek delight.
“We were sitting outside a cafe, downing espressos like all Parisians do when we saw them on the street,” said Khalid.
“We were looking for talent to produce. Seeing as they were small-time and didn’t have much of a career, we wanted to give them a helping hand,” joked Chokolate, who created the Jesgrew label with his partner for the release.
Formed by Pos, Dave and partner Maseo – aka Vincent Mason – in Long Island in 1987, De La Soul played a major role in hip hop history, known for quirky lyrics, wide-ranging sampling and contribution to the creation of “alternative hip hop.”
The group’s 1989 debut 3 Feet High And Rising shook up the hip hop establishment with its word play, humour and jazz, funk and soul samples.
The album also introduced De La Soul’s concept of the D.A.I.S.Y. Age – an acronym standing for Da Inner Sound, Y’all – a credo of upbeat positivity rather than the aggression that marked most other rap at the time.
Hit releases like Me, Myself & I, Saturdays and Ring, Ring, Ring saw the group win audiences outside of traditional rap fans.
After a dry patch, De La Soul returned in 2005 to work with UK artists Gorillaz on the single Feel Good Inc and gained a taste for collaborations.
For First Serve, to be released today, Pos and Dave created two alter egos, dubbed Deen and Jacob, and the album chronicles their rise from Queens, their fall into decadence and eventual redemption.