When I reviewed De La Soul’s gratifyingly strong new album, and the Anonymous Nobody, I wrote about my own journey with the group, from initial hesitance to cheerful embrace, a trajectory that spanned from their debut to their sophomore effort. As I noted, 3 Feet High and Rising was one of those records that completely flummoxed me during my college radio years. It got rave reviews and was clearly sparking with creativity, but it also provoked heightened ambivalence in me when I tried to figure out how it might fit onto our station’s airwaves, especially since the playlists were typically shaped by a content conservatism that suited the Central Wisconsin audience within range of our signal. Now it seems quaint that De La Soul’s music might be confusing or somehow threatening to the listenership, but then I swear the reluctance made sense.
As a measure of how quickly our pop culture could shift, it was a completely different situation two years later. De La Soul is Dead, the group’s second album, went straight into Heavy Rotation. Though the tight tracking between songs and the presence of problematic content on the album’s plentiful comedic skits proved somewhat treacherous, I remember the album doing fairly well for us. And I definitely know that I all but wore out “A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays,'” which was also the release’s first single.
“A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays'” was the skeleton key that unlocked all of De La Soul for me. The swirls of styles and sounds that made up their music that were initially intimidating, suddenly all made sense on “‘Saturdays.'” It was a dazzling form of freedom, a transformation of bygone tone, archeologically dusted off and shaped into something new. Even now, when I hear the horns from “Grease” burst in, it’s like a beam of revelatory light from the heavens above.
Listen or download –> De La Soul, “A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays'”
(Disclaimer: The De La Soul catalog is kind of a mess, in terms of its commercial availability. I’m not entirely sure if De La Soul is Dead is available as a physical object that can be procured from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a transaction that properly compensates both the proprietor of said store and the original artist. I know the copyright concerns related to digital release are such a tangle that the group felt okay to dump the bulk of their discography onto the internet for free download a while back. I’m assuming it’s okay, then, for me to share one humble file here, especially if I couple with a genuine urging to buy the new album. So, you know, buy the new album. For real. It’s good. Though posting this seems fairer than fair, I know the rules. I will gladly and promptly remove this file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any entity or individual with due authority to make such a request.)