“Most crews are post-current while we’re forever”
“We go by the name of De La Soul and we’ve been doing this for quite some time,” explains Dave, aka Trugoy, unnecessarily as everyone in the Newport Centre appears familiar with the Long Island trio and their contribution to hip hop.
2016 marks 20 years since De La released ‘Stakes Is High’ – their response to the ghetto fabulous state of hip hop at the time and considered a re-introduction from some of the game’s elder statesmen. “Man every word I say should be a hip hop quotable,” raps Pos during that title track – and the crowd do know every line.
That’s no surprise as most look as if they’ve been with De La Soul for much of their 27-year career and a call and response confirms the majority in the sports hall are 35 and over. Perhaps that’s why rather than cheer and holler on demand to Dave and Pos’ requests to know where the party at, or which side of the hall can make the most noise, they show their appreciation the loudest when De La do what they do best; deliver certified bangers, from the straight up hip hop of ‘Ooooh’ to the Native Tongues anthem ‘Buddy’.
As if proof of their longevity in the game ‘A Roller Skating Jam Named “Saturdays”‘, from their 1991 sophomore effort ‘De La Soul is Dead’, has probably the best response. The Wednesday, August 3 crowd are happy to chant along, with no need for irony, as Maeso, working the decks, introduces the summer time favourite with; “It ain’t Wednesday, it ain’t Thursday…”
A classic from further back, ‘Me Myself and I’ from their seminal 1989 debut, ‘3 Feet High and Rising’, follows. Seen as alternative and slightly off the wall the album appeared to define De La as being apart from their peers, as “hippies”, leading to that unusual second album title 25 years ago.
Over the following years however the leaders of the daisy movement have managed to remain relevant to core hip hop audiences and avoid being pigeon-holed by producing new music and crossing boundaries. Here they also perform 2004’s ‘The Grind Date’ and a track from their new album, ‘And the Anonymous Nobody’, to be released at the end of August. From another call and response it seems a considerable number of those who supported De La’s Kickstarter crowd funding campaign to finance the album are present.
In an hour there is no way for De La to squeeze in all their classics but they return to perform 1993’s ‘Ring, Ring, Ring (Ha, Ha, Hey)’, famous for its chorus about an answer machine, and 2001’s ‘Bionix’ – showcasing the range of their material over a long time frame.
Underlining the quality of the show, a first for promoters Hypernation, was that legendary New York emcee Jeru The Damaja occupied the support slot. He took to the stage with Cardiff’s own hip hop legend, DJ Jaffa, on the decks.Unfortuantely I missed the start of Jeru’s set, and the earlier support slot from Cardiff’s Beatbox Fozzy, but caught the classic ‘Come Clean’ and a good natured and enthusiastic Jeru urging the crowd to: “Make some noise for De La Soul like Michael Jackson went to China for the first time.”
As it was a Wednesday night Jeru had a hard task to warm up the crowd who probably, like me, had rushed from work and many had also travelled from Cardiff. He tried by teasing that people in London had asked why would he go to Newport and urged the crowd to respond to his questions about Newport with “No doubt”. He also worked the venue name into his freestyle stating: “I’m glad they invited me to the centre in Newport.”
If Jeru and De La Soul are wondering if they might be invited back that’s something everyone would like to shout yes to.
Meanwhile Hypernation’s next show is at the Tramshed in Grangetown, Cardiff when another living legend of hip hop, DJ Jazzy Jeff, will take to the decks on Tuesday, October 25.