De La Soul – Paard van Troje, Den Haag – 6/12/2004

"Bullet fucking fingers in the motha’fucking air everyone! We got some REAL hip-hop motha’fuckers in tha’ house tonite!"






"Bullet fucking fingers in the motha’fucking air everyone! We got some REAL hip-hop motha’fuckers in tha’ house tonite!"







DJ Maseo, "What’s up Den Haag, where’s the party at?"




" What’s up ya’all, we got some real hiphop muthafuckas in the house tonite?"


 (More cheering and accompanied head nodding)


"We gonna keep it strictly hiphop tonite!!!! We gonna keep it real tonite!!"


(Even more cheering and a few whoops)


"Awright!!!.. we got some old skool shit for ya tonite, we gonna make hiphop history tonite fo’ya muthas, we got DAY la Soul in the fucking house fo ya’all tonite!!!"


(Frenzied cheering, head nodding and vociferous whooping.)


"Ya’all bought our great new album ‘The Grind Date’ yet?"


(Heh? Much looking downwards, muttering and a smattering of polite nervous applause!)


"That ok, that’s ok, you can buy our great new album,’The Grind Date’ at the back later, or go to the record store tomorrow!!!!"


It was 20:45. The bulky DJ had been on stage for less than two minutes, he had just thanked DJ Special O on the house decks for his warm up and then without flinching launched into the above sales pitch!!! Joe Public hadn’t heard a note! I will readily admit I didn’t know what to expect as I set off to see one of hiphop’s truly legendary acts. I was certainly not expecting the ‘De la Soul Telsell Roadshow!’


De la Soul’s influence on the music world over the last 15 years cannot be underestimated. Their 1989 ‘3 ft High and Rising’ debut is vitally important in the development of hiphop as a world music genre and bringing Afro American culture into European living rooms. With producer Prince Paul the three young men from Long Island NY, elevated swiftly to superstar status and unlike their ground breaking rapping cronies from those pioneer days (NWA, Public Enemy and Naughty by Nature) De la Soul’s relentless dedication to their art form steadfastly maintained their status and credibility at the forefront of the burgeoning hiphop movement all throughout the nineties and into the naughties.


Individually, DJ Maseo’s creative talents on the wheels of steel became world renowned, while emcee’s Posdnuos and Trugoy carried on producing snappy, hip and humorous rhymes keeping the band consistently fresh and relevant (not to mention commercially rewarding) as the hiphop world evolved exponentially around them. Their albums were sporadically released but continued to chart well and spawned several hit singles and videos.


Evolution did inevitably mean change. Prince Paul moved on mid nineties and although some momentum may have been initially been lost, countless successful musical collaborations resulted. (Busta Rhymes, Xzibit, Mike-D, B-Real, Chaka Chan, and most notably 2001’s Grammy nominated hit ‘Oooh’ with Redman.) Trugoy decided he wanted to be called Dave after all! ("It was only ‘yogurt’ backwards anyway") 


Eventually 2002 saw De la Soul’s 12 year, 7 album relationship with legendary hiphop/dance label Tommy Boy Records ended. Their planned trilogy "Art Official Intelligence" didn’t get past ‘AOI 1: Mosaic Thump,’ in 2001 and ‘AOI 2: Bionix,’ their last release on Tommy Boy.


Thus October 2004 marked somewhat of a comeback for De la Soul with the independent release of ‘The Grind Date.’ On the Sanctuary Union label the new record is mainly self produced, aided by MF Doom, and again features guests like SeanPaul, Spike Lee, Common and Ghostface Killah. Taking the independent route obviously means pushing the record through the distribution channels to the fans, and tours shift albums fair enough, but tonight I quickly got the impression that these revered musicians were so desperate for Euros they were prepared to sell their new record out the back of the tour bus around the back!


De La have new MC talent, Butta Verses in tow for this tour and even during his introduction Mase made sure we all knew he guests on track 11 of the "great new album ‘The Grind Date’ (in stores now or on sale at the back") Even when he took his place behind the decks for Verse’s 40 minute opening set, his young pal dutifully kept feeding him lines so that "great new album ‘The Grind Date’ (in stores now or on sale at the back") would get mentioned. (This is the first time I had seen De la Soul so maybe they have always employed this ham fisted manner to move ‘units’, Yanks being known for their ‘total abject shyness’ when it comes to making money!)


When the show did eventually kick off the young rapper acquitted himself admirably, valiantly projecting his voice in an attempt to compensate for Maseo’s decks which, frankly, sounded bloody awful. The bass track simply ground the samples and other beats out of the mix. Butta Verses looks like a young stoned Gregory Hines and his style although definitely old skool does lean more toward the vocal acrobatics of Eminem or even Dizzee Rascal rather than Posdnuos or Dave. His 8 songs had ‘easy to chant-rap along with’ anthemic chorus pieces and his set sounded fresh and modern, and with some good crowd work and decent hands in the air singing, he deserved the vociferous "Hell Yeahs" back from the crowd when he confidently asked if he had done his heroes, De la Soul, justice!

Mase’s decks still sounded out of balance as the support set ended so, in an attempt ‘To get ma shit crystal clear for ya’all’, DJ Maseo took a 10 minute recess as the roadies swung into action. I decided to take a ‘chronic break’ (when in Rome…) and check out the makeup of the audience, who had noticeably warmed to/got pissed during Mr. Verses. From previous experience I knew crowd interaction is integral to a good hiphop gig. (I carefully avoided the merchandise stall, which was no doubt manned by large crack smoking uzi toting homeboys on a sales percentage!!)


Thankfully the many recently acquired young fans (from the ‘Mosaic’ era) were well counterbalanced by many older lads and lasses, whose presence was primarily to pay homage to the ‘3 ft High and Rising’ era and the period a hiphop album first really spoke to them. (In other words I didn’t feel like an old fart!)


So lurking at the back we have plenty of beer sipping middle aged straight white boys and gals, tapping their sensible shoes (as Special O once again spun the ‘crystal clear’ house decks!) patiently waiting for "….Saturdays." The young’uns, overdosing on testosterone in designer label baseball caps down the front looked well up for it, there were a few blokes who could have passed for ‘gangstas’ (loads of bling and hairgel) but when asked "to get their muthafucking bullet fingers in the air" could sensible shoe, beer sipping man deliver?


Mase returned swiftly and although his equipment still wasn’t initially crystal clear he got down to the serious business with brow furrowing intensity. A slow atmospheric start, laying some slower grooves over the rumbling beat, ensured the stage was set for the emcee’s grand entrance. They truly were in tha’ house and duly arrived to much manic scratching from Mase and frenzied acclaim from the audience but it was evident they were also dissatisfied with the sound and the sound tech’s efforts to remedy the situation. All in all it was a strangely muted entrance. The crowd remained patient, in reverence I reckon, and indeed it wasn’t until the third song "Potholes in My Lawn" that Pos’ and Dave stopped glancing back and forth toward the wings, DJ Maseo and their monitors started smiling and really working the crowd.


The fourth song was "Ring Ring."


De la Soul, the audience, the atmosphere instantly energized. Seemingly satisfied with the sound, De la Soul effortlessly rolled back the years and turned in 45 minutes of simply pulsating, pit of the stomach churning, top class music. The dodgy sound and heavy handed marketing were instantly forgotten. Baseball cap and sensible shoes bounced up and down, bullet fingers in the fucking air, as one. The new material, ‘the new shit’ was, without exception heavily introduced, this time without the irritating hard sell, and cleverly woven alongside the old favourites in the set. New single "No", (with Butta Verses) was swiftly followed by "Me, Myself and I". How many times has Posdnuos looked in that mirror?


Once impetus was gained and the audience jumping, they went into old fashioned hiphop crusade mode, their energy apparently diverted to turning the gig into a true event. Magically, the Paard abruptly transformed in to a Hiphop Tabernacle, the stage now their pulpit from which they zealously spread the word. De la Soul have always been much more trickster than gangsta’, always distancing themselves from the flossin’ of hiphop by the bling element and tonight the simple fact this band plainly still have the voice and the message after all this time gave the entire concert a real happening feel. The beats were tight and solid, the energy and larynxs of the voxmen right in your face throughout. The shows best sequence was undoubtedly the sandwich they made from ‘Oooh’, (some new shit) ‘The Grind Date’ and "Ego Trippin." Butta Verses yet again accruing more brownie points as he performed the required fourth man duties. The straight up beats and grooves dovetailing seamlessly with the simple melodies and hooks produced a welcoming ,hard edged but reassuringly steady old skool vibe. "A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays’" did, as expected, receive the wildest reaction, but I do believe all the factions present really enjoyed the new shit also. (I spotted many a beer drenched, stomped upon sensible shoe!)


After the excellent ‘Buddy’ and some light hearted freestyle (trying to fit ‘Den Haag’ into a rhyme) they oddly chose to invite as many "hiphop ladies" as physically possible onto the stage. With so many willing volunteers, this took quite a while. They then did ‘Baby Phat’  followed with what I think was a bizarre mix of "Shopping Bags" as the aforementioned ladies (coincidentally mostly large breasted) gyrated, without any semblance of choreography, around the now very congested boards and Dave sent out a rapping message of love and peace to all women, of all shapes and sizes, of all creeds and beliefs, from all around the world. Ok, ok, you really do love women and you are definitely NOT misogynist.


In making this unnecessary convoluted point they lost their momentum. The show had an oddly muted ending, similar to the start in fact, right down to the return to the hard sell. Starting with inviting everyone back to their hotel room at the Novotel!


This is how the patter went as they left the stage to largely deserved delirious cheering:-


Maseo: "Thank you Den Haag, we luv ya!"


Pos’ and Dave: "Buy our merch!"


Maseo: "A big message of love to you hiphop muthas, Love Den Haag!!!!"

  Pos’ and Dave: "T-shirts and records on sale at the back!"


Maseo: (chant rapping): "Luv Den Haag, Luv Den Haag…….."

  Pos’ and Dave: "Buy our stuff, buy our T-shirts, buy our merch…………"


The crowd cheered themselves hoarse and maybe half of them (the real DJ aficionados) hung around to listen to Maseo play some more records, but I didn’t see any particular crush at the merchandise stand. Try the hard sell next time, lads!


Granted, I don’t doubt for one moment this was De la Soul at their best, having seemingly hit hard times, but their big, bold, brash attitude, their prevailing contrariness to the current style and immense amount of talent (plus fifteen years of experience) guarantees any De la Soul audience an entertaining night. De la Soul do make real Hiphop.


Now, I wonder where I can get a free download of that great new album……..?


Words : Bill McMullan