Emerging in the volatile New York of the late eighties, De La Soul broke hip-hop. Borne of frustration at racial prejudice and overbearing authoritarianism in the ghetto, hip-hop began life as a musical and cultural release for (as Nina Simone sang) the young, gifted and black generation of inner city boroughs. It was brilliantly creative musically, artistically and technologically, but it was angry and it became associated with gangs and violence, setting it apart from the less aggressive funk and soul that preceded.
The trio of Posdnous, Dave and Maseo recognised this and broke hip-hop from its bad reputation and introduced the D.A.I.S.Y Age, reintroducing hope as a concept and smashing the charts with the jazzy hit Me, Myself and I. No wallflowers, De La Soul have never been off the hip-hop radar, and their constant innovation sees them more relevant now than ever, with the group receiving a Grammy nomination for their latest album, the Kickstarter funded And The Anonymous Nobody… (featuring Jill Scott, Usher, Snoop Dogg and David Albarn among others.) With the current political climate in the US, it’s going to be fascinating to see what De La Soul have to say about that when they play Northumbria University on Wednesday 22nd February.