Wednesday, July 26, 2023

De La Soul - Stakes Is High 2xLP


Chrysalis / AOI Records (2023, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

Of the De La Soul records I have written about thus far, Stakes Is High is the one that I really knew nothing about.  While I'm familiar with the phrase 'stakes is high' as part of the vernacular, I never had listened to this record prior to purchasing this reissue.  I wasn't even sure I was going to buy it as it came out in 1996, which is typically a few years removed from any hip hop I've historically cared about.  I've gotten more open minded about hip hop that came out after 1994 in recent years, but I'm still often trepidatious about release post-Golden Era.

Now that I've spent a little time with Stakes Is High, I could make the argument that it's the best De La Soul record.  It doesn't necessarily have the best songs, the highs aren't as high, but as a consistent record, it's pretty aces.  A big help is the fact that it's not bogged down with a bunch of crummy skits, you can actually listen to this as a record without getting interrupted by nonsense that ceases to be even remotely funny after about the third listen.  

On Stakes Is High De La just brings great beats and great rhymes.  No Gimmick.  This was the first album they recorded without Prince Paul helping out with production, but that doesn't hurt the beats at all.  Even though this is a '96 release, the feel is absolutely of the era I always gravitate towards.  I was pretty sure I was only going to buy the first three De La Soul reissues, but I took a chance on this, their fourth, and I'm really glad I did.  Does that mean I should give their next record, Art Official Intelligence a try?  I'm not sure, but I'm considering it.

De La Soul - Stakes Is High:

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