Release Date: Apr 3, 2012
Record label: Duck Down Music
Genre(s): Rap, Alternative Rap, East Coast Rap, Golden Age
Two accomplished New York rappers in their forties portray two newbie New York rappers in their twenties – that's the simplest way to explain this typically complex album from two members of De La Soul. Their tale starts in the late Nineties as the pair hang in a basement and dream of rap careers, while one guy's mom heckles them. A live band revives the exuberant feel of Seventies funk – scratchy guitars and surging bass – as the story grows and sours: The fictional MCs get signed, have a hit, bicker and break up –it’s Behind the Music, but funnier.
The Hip Hop concept album is something that’s been attempted to varying degrees of success: for every brilliant Prince of Thieves and Deltron 3030, there’s a T.I. vs. T.I.P. But, having authored one of Hip Hop’s great concept LPs, De La Soul is Dead, one expects De La Soul’s Plug 1 (Posdnous) and Plug 2 (Dave) to fall into the former category with First Serve.
Featuring Plug 1 (Dave) and Plug 2 (Posdnous) from the legendary De La Soul, along with French producers Chokolate and Khalid, First Serve is a project presenting a concept album about a fictional hip-hop crew and their journey to fame, so proceed accordingly, in the same way you approached those early Prince Paul solo albums. First Serve, the album, is somewhere between the De La producer's fascinating but flawed Psychoanalysis and his entirely purposeful movie-on-wax, A Prince Among Thieves. The big difference here is that Paul invited guests to deliver his vision while the Plugs and company do it on their own, acting like a daisy age Pink Floyd with a love of funk, disco, and the old boom-bap while creating something as story driven as The Wall.
It's safe to say that De La Soul have nothing left to prove in their career. Let's just all agree on that. That being said, the group hasn't released an official LP since 2004's The Grind Date, despite staying active with remixes, guest spots and dropping a 44-minute track for Nike. There has even been talk that they are collaborating with Prince Paul again.
First Serve carries plenty of trademark De La Soul elements. It’s a thorough concept record fueled by skits, the story of Jacob “Pop” Life (Posdnous) and Dean “D” Witter (Trugoy) emerging from Dean’s alcoholic mom’s basement to rap superstardom, culminating with a show in Paris. Without spoiling too much it’s sort of a G-rated version of Prince Paul’s 1999 opus A Prince Among Thieves, detailing the rise of a hip-hop group without the depressing ending.
De La Soul is back… well, sort of. Please pay attention, because this may get confusing. Plug 2/Dave and Plug 1/Pos of De La Soul have created First Serve, for which they take on the personas of aspiring rappers Deen Whitter and Jacob “Pop Life” Barrow. The production and beats come to us from French Producers 2 & 4 (aka Chokolate & Kahlid).
A somewhat flawed but nonetheless enjoyable concept piece from a pair of De La souls. Paul Lester 2012 The first thing you have to do before you even get to the music on this album is work your way through the maze of aliases. First Serve is a project brought to you by Kelvin Mercer and David Jude Jolicoeur, two-thirds of rap legends De La Soul who normally operate as, respectively and variously, Posdnous/Plug One and Trugoy the Dove/Dave/Plug Two.
As tenured members of the hip-hop movement, Plug 1 and Plug 2 ostensibly live in that "nothing to prove" territory. The criminally underrated Plug One (Posdnous) and the terminally abstract Plug Two (Dave) are not content to rest on any laurels however. This side-project goes conceptual (without Plug Three, "Maseo," no less), with the duo navigating a fictional scenario involving a pair of fresh-faced types (Jacob "Pop Life" Barrow and Deen Whitter) signed to "Goon Time Records," trying to break in as hip-hop artists in the modern day.
Why didn't the world pay more attention to the new De La Soul? Because this isn't a De La Soul album at all. Released in April, First Serve is the conceptual work of De La Soul rappers Dave Jolicoeur and Kelvin "Posdnuos" Mercer (no sign of DJ Maseo), a rags-to-riches story that tracks the rise of old friends Deen Whitter and Jacob "Pop Life" Barrow. Spanning 16 tracks, the album comes drenched in De La Soul classicism ("Pushin' Aside, Pushin' Along"), with beats seemingly culled from Prince Paul's closet collection.
What constitutes a ‘conscious emcee’? A penchant for social change? Culturally-delicate commentary? Or, hell, even just the self-imposed obligation to avoid naughty words? Whatever your definition, it most likely traces back to the friendliest hip-hop crew from New York’s Long Island peninsula, De La Soul. Ever since the days of ‘3 Feet High and Rising’, Tommy Boy Records and those hi-top fades, Posdnous (aka Plug One), Trugoy (aka Plug Two, aka Dave) and Maseo (aka Plug Three - by default) have sprinkled an underlying tone of quirky comedy beneath their sermons of peace and positivity. And if De La don’t evoke a second glance from you already, their latest conceptual caper certainly will.