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Artist: De La Soul
Album: Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump
Label: Tommy Boy
Production: Supa Dav West, Jay Dee, Rockwilder, Artist
Guests: Tash, J-Ro, Busta Rhymes, Beastie Boys, Chaka Khan, Freddie Foxx, others
Stats: 2000; 17 tracks
Reviewed by: Mass Dosage

De La are back with album number 5, having consistently upped the stakes in the Hip-Hop game with each of their previous releases (we'll overlook "Buhloone Mind State" for argument's sake). "Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump" is part 1 in a series of 3 which they intend to release over the next couple of years. If this first release is anything to go by, the next 2 volumes in the series are going to be worth checking for. "Mosaic Thump" has all that one would expect from a De La Soul release - clever lyrics, bobbing beats, hilarious skits, dope production, party tracks and metered criticism of the current state of Hip-Hop.

What the the talented trio do differently this time around is collaborate with a lot of other artists. While this is a very fashionable practise in today's Hip-Hop world, one gets the feeling that De La Soul are not doing it to be trendy or to boost sales, but are instead doing it because they want to. Maseo, Dave and Posdnuous have more than enough skills to handle things by themselves - a fact that has been proven over and over again on their past releases. They choose to team up with others for the right reasons - to collaborate with other creative minds, meld their talents and come up with music that is greater than the sum of its parts. So who are these featured artists? It's none less than a Hip-Hop dream team consisting of the likes of Redman, Xzibit, Tash and J-Ro from the Alkoholiks, Freddie Foxxx, Mike D and Ad Rock from the Beastie Boys, Busta Rhymes and others. Black Thought, Paroahe Monche and Phife also appear in small roles on the albums' very amusing "Ghost Weed" skits where the dank smoker is suddenly able to rhyme like the aforementioned rap stars, much to the dismay and disbelief of the other fictional cipher members. Chaka Khan also drops some guest vocals on "All good?" and comes off sounding lovely, while De La prove that their versatility extends well beyond working with MC's that break coastal boundaries. The production style adapts itself seamlessly to suit the guest vocalists on each track, without losing the De La sound, whether it be a FlipMode-styled teeth-gritting bassline courtesy of Rockwilder ("I.C Y'all" featuring Busta Rhymes) or monkeys wilding out Redman style on the album's first single "Ooooh".

"Mosaic Thump" starts off with a bang as the first series of tracks are all seriously dope (check "U can do (life)", "My Writes", "View and "Set the mood"). Unfortunately this impetus is lost a little towards the end with tracks like "Copa (cabanga)" and "Foolin'" which aren't bad, but which don't compare to the energy and fullness of the earlier tracks. The excitement level picks up again on the last 2 joints but the momentary slump is noticeable.

Lyrically, De La don't get too topical on your ass, but slip in their feelings about what's good and what's not, when and where they see fit. They generally do this in the form of sharp, witty oneliners that get the point across by being clever, not by being preachy. They are at that level where they don't have to prove themselves to anyone and instead sound mature and comfortable as they rhyme. Indeed, this is a mature album on the whole and it is evident that they have mastered the secret of updating their style to suit the times, without compromising their music or losing their fanbase. This album should keep their original fans happy and win them some new ones, quite a feat for a crew who've been around for well over a decade.

On "Mosaic Thump" De La Soul stay true to themselves as a group and deliver the solid Hip-Hop music we have come to expect from them. They have also firmly put themselves in line for the title as the greatest Hip-Hop group of all time, as they are still together after 5 albums and are still releasing fresh, innovative music which should appeal to new Hip-Hop fans while still pleasing those of us who have been following their career since 3 Feet High and Rising. [9/10]

[An edited version of this review was also published in SL magazine]

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