The year was 1996 and I was in my mid-twenties and was on my way back to school to earn my degree from Georgia Tech. It was also the year that De La Soul released “Stakes Is High,” their fourth album. “Stakes Is High” was released in the Summer ’96, specifically July. Some believe that this album was overshadowed by “It Was Written,” the Sophomore album from Nas, and the debut album from Jay Z titled “Reasonable Doubt.”
I was a De La Soul fan because they kept their rhymes true to who they were as individuals. Their music was something you could can learn from, and it also evoked positive emotions. In this current day, we all could use more positive energy. Speaking of positive emotions, the group recently gained a victory that did not appear to be possible, De La Soul won their battle with Tommy Boy Records for their music catalog. Tommy Boy Records refused to allow the group ownership of art they created, to share with the world. During this battle, the group received help from numerous people including their brothers, Talib Kweli, and Common to name a few.
De La Soul was known for incorporating themes into the content of their albums. Yet another reason I like the group. “Stakes Is High” has a running theme, which in this case is the group’s concern for the state of rap, as well as the current state of hip-hop culture and how it is regarded in general.
Stakes Is High is De La Soul’s fourth full-length album, released on July 2, 1996. The album marked the first release where the group did not collaborate with Prince Paul. The lion share of “Stakes Is High” was produced by the group themselves with additional tracks provided by Jay Dee, DJ Ogee, Spearhead X and Skeff Anslem. The album did not receive much commercial success, which may play a large part in why I like it. I’ve never been a commercial type of guy.
Stakes Is High covered many topics, including the state of hip-hop, the commercialization of the hip-hop culture, and criticism towards gangsta rap. Hitting on these topics sealed the deal for a lack of commercial success for this album. Fast forward to today, and the gangsta rap continues to thrive.
Listening to this album again conjured up some many good memories of my time in Atlanta; just as the city began to grow into what it is now. My favorite song on the album would have to be “Itzsoweezee (HOT).” The lyric content is always on point from De La Soul and this track was no different. The production on this track add to the ambiance. They topped it off with a video for the song that reminded me of my high school days. To top it off, “Stakes Is High“ also helped introduce Mos Def to a wider audience, on the cut “Big Brother Beat.”
After the battle for their catalog, I hope the good times continue for De La Soul.