Look up the video for “Buddy,” the third single from De La Soul’s 1989 debut album 3 Feet High and Rising, and you’ll see a kind of alternate reality — hip-hop as it might have been. It’s not just the dated fashions, although those are pretty funny. It’s the whole package: the performers, the performance, the other people in the video (mostly other members of the Native Tongues posse), the music. The rappers don’t look like tattooed ex-cons; they look like college students with peace signs hanging around their necks. They’re talking about sex, but they’re so gentle and relaxed about it that the baby and little girl dancing along with the rest of the people in the video don’t seem out of place. At one point, the boys turn over the microphone to a woman (Monie Love) to take a verse. Then there’s the music. Posdnuos, Trugoy the Dove, and Pasemaster Mase rap over oddball samples, meshed together to create a laid-back, psychedelic groove. The album version of the song was even more laid-back, odd, and psychedelic.
For a short time, De La Soul was the most-talked-about act in hip-hop. Then gangsta rap took over. But De La Soul has continued performing, and they received a Grammy in 2006 for their collaboration with Gorillaz on the single “Feel Good Inc.” Maybe the time is right for them at last. Today, harder-edged hip-hop has run out of steam and is looking for something different. Eminem’s rapping about his recovery from addiction and Dr. Dre’s talking about making a concept album inspired by astronomy. Something tells me it will sound like “Buddy.”
- Saturday, August 28, 2010, 8 p.m.
- House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Avenue, San Diego