Karl Puschmann is an entertainment writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Album review: De La Soul, ...and the Anonymous Nobody

De La Soul release their first album in 12 years, ...and the Anonymous Nobody. Photo  / Supplied for TimeOut
De La Soul release their first album in 12 years, ...and the Anonymous Nobody. Photo / Supplied for TimeOut

Is it possible to be a featured artist on your own album? D.A.I.S.Y. Age survivors De La Soul certainly run the risk of anonymity on this, their eighth full-length album and the record that finally brings their 12-year hiatus to an end.

With an immense roll call of cameo vocalists and guest musicians (11 of the 17 tracks feature outsiders in varying degrees of prominence) it can be easy to forget that you're spinning a De La record. Which, surely, must be their point.

How else to explain the scorching hard rock riffage of Lord Intended, a track that dusts off The Darkness' frontman, Justin Hawkins, and lets him cut loose in all his falsetto screeching glory for almost eight minutes?

Then there's the David Byrne fronted Snoopies, a typically skittering and skittish Afro-funk affair, and the delicate electro of Little Dragon's Drawn, a track that bubbles along for over four minutes before De La show up with a beat, some earworm funk and a rhyme that reflects on lost love and wild times on tour.

That's not to say it's all guitars and sequencers. The record has its share of classic hip-hop headnodders; Pain sees Snoop Dogg in fine elastic form, Memory of... (US) matches Pete Rock's easy listening production with Estelle's melancholic vocals, while Trainwreck dumps the guests altogether giving De La a rare spotlight.

Vocally, it's a weary record and a bit of a downer, as Posdnuos, Dave and Maseo bring middle age to hip-hop with their musings on heartache, surviving life, growing old and, of course, death.

Musically, however, it's ambitious and exciting. The group's always blazed their own trail and, here, they flow effortlessly and masterfully between wildly disparate genres creating a cohesive album that's a total musical trip.

Freed from all commercial concerns thanks to a successful crowd funding campaign, Anonymous Nobody sees De La challenging their own experimentalism and creativity, seeing how far they can push it before it breaks.

The remarkable thing is that it doesn't.

De La Soul
...and the Anonymous Nobody
(A.O.i.)
Verdict: A creatively ambitious and musically sprawling trip.

- NZ Herald

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