August 8, 2009

De La Soul - Buhloone Mindstate (September 24, 1993)



De La Soul's third album, Buhloone Mindstate, saw its release in 1993, two years after the trio (well, quartet, if you count producer Prince Paul) attempted to dispel their image as hip hop hippies, which manifested itself in the audience reaction to their classic debut, 3 Feet High & Rising. They were categorized as such primarily because they didn't rhyme about killing anybody: De La Soul were obsessed with women, sex, having fun, and, um, personal hygiene, and their musical backing (with input from both Paul and the group itself) was borderline goofy, and I mean that in the best way possible. De La Soul Is Dead saw the group take a turn down a darker alley, but even with a bleaker outlook, they still ended up with "A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays", which just fucking rocks. So, in an effort to escape this classification, De La Soul naturally turned to jazz.

Buhloone Mindstate revisits Posdnuos, Trugoy the Dove, and Maseo as they navigate through hip hop with an eye on remembering their roots even though their record label, Tommy Boy, was doing their part to turn them into stars. At this point, De La Soul was, for lack of a better way to put it, popular: they hadn't sold billions of records, but as the recipients of both critical and commercial acclaim, they had to accept that anything they did would garner attention of some sort.

Buhloone Mindstate was their attempt to deviate from the norm and to make the music they wanted to make. In doing so, they eschewed hip hop convention and created an album that is their most inaccessible to date. While, yes, there are actual rap songs on this disc, its musical peers aren't other rappers: this can only be described as an experimental jazz project, as it doesn't even sound like fellow Native Tongues founders A Tribe Called Quest's foray into jazz, The Low End Theory. To aid and abet, they enlisted the likes of jazz veterans Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, and Pee Wee Ellis for musical backing on a few of the songs, and they ran amok with their ideas and crazy concepts for the rest. De La Soul also avoided including eight billion skits, which already makes this disc appear to be much more compact than its predecessors.

With their conscious effort to create something that is outright difficult to listen to, creepy-ass artwork, and much darker dedications in the liner notes (Pos asks someone named McRae, "If you read my thoughts, would I still be a monster?", and Prince Paul takes time out to thank everyone who ever screwed him over for turning him into a "gravedigga!"; 6 Feet Deep, his fuck you to the record industry alongside the other Gravediggaz (The Rza, Frukwan, and Poetic) would see release the following year), De La Soul and Prince Paul earned some of the best reviews of their careers, mainly from critics who go out of their way to praise uniqueness in a sea of bland, regardless of the actual quality of the information received. Buhloone Mindstate ended up being the last album that De La and Paul Huston would collaborate on together, although they still enjoy a fine working relationship, as both Pos and Dave continue to pop up on Prince Paul's multiple side projects.

Fun fact: in 1992, around the time Buhloone Mindstate was being recorded, Tommy Boy was having a company-wide issue with bootlegging, so in an effort to trick the label reps, De La Soul and Prince Paul set off to record a fake album for the label to "enjoy" while they created the real thing in secret. They only ended up recording two "fake" tracks, one of which ended up on Prince Paul's Hip Hop Gold Dust compilation album a few years back, and the label ended up loving those songs, which completely defeated the purpose, so the four men scrapped that idea and just went to work.

1. INTRO
Clearly they're not talking about balloons.

2. EYE PATCH
This track is really difficult to get into. The guitar sample is not appealing, and it sounds as if Dave and Posdnuos just stopped caring after recording De La Soul Is Dead. You almost welcome the brief interlude that interrupts the song toward the end (especially since it recalls the crew's debut album).

3. EN FOCUS (FEAT DRES & SHORTIE NO MASS)
The beat picks up the energy a bit, but I still can't remember any redeeming qualities of this song.

4. PATTI DOOKE (FEAT MACEO PARKER, FRED WESLEY, PEE WEE ELLIS, MELVIN PARKER, RODNEY JONES, LARRY GOLDINGS, FRANK WES, & GURU)
This is a bit better. Hated the hook, but at least you'll actually pay attention to this ultimately nonthreatening diatribe against sucker emcees (with a subliminal thread decrying the idea of artists selling out). The Run DMC vocal sample is also appreciated. Having Guru appear at the end, saying “Peace to my man Premier”, makes me wish that Gangstarr would just get back together already, though.

5. I BE BLOWIN' (FEAT MACEO PARKER)
A jazzy instrumental track. Hearing the horn (provided by Maceo Parker) unencumbered is a bit off-putting, but after a full minute, other instruments are introduced into the fold, and the listening experience is improved greatly. Listen to this shit on your way to work and tell me it doesn't set up the right mood for the day. You may find it weird that nobody bothers to rhyme (nay, appear) on here, though, but all will be explained later.

6. LONG ISLAND WILDIN' (FEAT SDP & TAKAGI KAN)
Goofy as fuck. Japanese rappers SDP And Takagi Kan spit a couple of quick verses, seemingly for no other reason except that Prince Paul and De La Soul asked them to. This is the type of excursion that critics find appealing and regular listeners skip after the one listen. Do with that comment what you will.

7. EGO TRIPPIN' (PART TWO)
Actually really good. (Don't bother looking for De La Soul's first chapter in the series, though: this song is meant as a companion piece to an older song by the Ultramagnetic MC's.) This starts off as an ode to hip hop cliches, but it quickly morphs into straight spitting (and some ridiculous, but catchy, shouting on the hook). The video for this song started a beef between 2Pac and De La Soul, thanks to a scene that takes place around a pool (see above, “hip hop cliches”), which looked similar to Pac's own video for “I Get Around”, which takes place in and around a pool. The Beastie Boys reference at the end of the track is as good a conclusion as any: by the way, it's good to hear that MCA is recovering nicely.

8. PAUL'S REVENGE
I don't think I've ever heard Prince Paul angry before I copped Buhloone Mindstate. You see, he was pissed off at The Source long before the Eminem and Ray Benzino beef. Having this as a skit on a De La Soul album is kind of ridiculous, though, and that isn't meant to be a compliment.

9. 3 DAYS LATER
I liked the drums, but I still couldn't get into this track.

10. AREA
Pretty good, even though it pales in comparison to the crew's best songs from the first two albums. The beat deftly enters your subconscious, and “We whupped that ass!” may become your newest catchphrase. As one of the few straight-up rap songs on here, the extra effort is much appreciated.

11. I AM I BE (FEAT MACEO PARKER, FRED WESLEY, PEE WEE ELLIS, BUSTA RHYMES, MAY MAY ALI, CHIP FU, & DRES)
Starts off sounding like one of those horrible independent films in which people describe themselves instead of actively engaging in conversation (or, at least, it sounds like one of those old fragrance ads of yore), but then Pos takes over the same music that appeared on “I Be Blowin'” and rips shit up. Dave does the same, turning this into the best song on Buhloone Mindstate by far. The guitar added to the music is a nice touch. Pos also attempts to completely abandon the D.A.I.S.Y. Age theme from De La's first two albums, and it must be noted that he does so almost entirely successfully.

12. IN THE WOODS (FEAT SHORTIE NO MASS)
The Shorty No Mas ad libs throughoutare annoying as shit, but she sounds alright when she finally gets a chance to spit her own verse. I find it interesting that none of the De La members interrupt her flow, though. Hmmm. Anyway, while I loved the beat (Prince Paul and De La are typically nice with theirs, although a lot of Buhloone Mindstate feels like a misstep), I found the song to be not very interesting.

13. BREAKADAWN
This isn't bad, but it is kind of boring. (Yeah, I said it.) Lyrically, everyone is on point (and the chanting that was swiped by Will Smith for his “Gettin' Jiggy Wit It” was unexpected), but this will put you to sleep faster than taking eight Ambien with a bottle of Jack. Which, by the way, HHID doesn't endorse.

14. DAVE HAS A PROBLEM...SERIOUSLY
If this skit were part of an installation in a museum specializing in modern and contemporary works, the artist would say that this symbolizes the loneliness that artists can feel within the music industry confines, even when they are pretending to have a good time (as evidenced by the dope breakbeat). As a part of an album, though, it's very divisive, and I fall into the faction that calls this some straight-up bullshit. And yes, I realize I just dissed a Prince Paul-produced skit.

15. STONE AGE (FEAT BIZ MARKIE)
Meh.

FINAL THOUGHTS: If it weren't for a handful of really good rap tracks, I would call Buhloone Mindstate an anti-hip hop album. As it stands, De La Soul turned in an album that was as far removed from 3 Feet High & Rising that you could get without simply switching genres. Even with Prince Paul with the assist, a lot of Buhloone Mindstate is inaccessible to the average listener, even while under the influence of the most uncontrolled of substances. It certainly doesn't help that your enjoyment of at least a small portion of this is dependent on the listener being familiar with De La Soul's other work, but then again, who the fuck would buy Buhloone Mindstate without also owning the rest of the crew's catalog? I'm all for exploring new territory in my hip hop, but this experiment didn't work, and it damn sure doesn't hold up today. Other than the tracks listed below, this one veers off into shark-infested waters relatively quickly, and you won't be inclined to follow them this time.

BUY OR BURN? Burn this if you must. Its limited appeal and small number of actual good songs seals its fate. This is for De La Soul completists only. Sorry, but it is what it is. You can speak your mind in the comments below.

BEST TRACKS: “I Am I Be”; “Ego Trippin' (Part Two)”; “Area”

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Read up on the De La Soul catalog by clicking here.

18 comments:

  1. fuck de la soul

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  2. jah know...what a relief...always figured i was the only one who did'n give an ambidextrously-busted nutt about "Breakadawn"...never really got into this album when it came out...loved "egotrip" but that was prettymuch it, until a few years ago i was going through the discog and tried it again....still an acquired taste

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  3. yeah, max is right on this one, this is big ass disapointment, but hey "breakadawn" is a classic though

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  4. If you like pulp rap with literal, force-fed lyrics like Max and the three idiots above then you should stay away from this hip hop classic.

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  5. Bam, i know u like this album but this CD is one of the worst de la CDs ever, "breakadawn" is a true classic, im srry u think this is a classic but is not, its shit

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  6. hahahahahaha @ bam
    butthurt homo hop fan

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  7. It should be noted, by someone, that this is an incredible album and pretty much a defining moment for many De La Soul fans.
    Although I agree with a lot of Max's reviews, I could not dissagree more strongly with this one if I tried.
    But hey, this is not an overly accessible album that you can ease into on a lazy afternoon whilst munching on corn chips, but it certainly deserves more praise than the latest Killa Priest longplayer.
    But, wow, "Breakadawn" is boring?!
    FYI - Rolling Stone gave "Midnight Marauders" two stars upon it's initial release. True story. And bad reviews do happen to good albums.

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  8. Anonymous if you really think this album is shit then just give up on hip hop.

    @protoman
    I hope you enjoy listening to your generic homo thug rappers talk about their "homies over hoes" ideals.

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  9. bam, calm down ok, thr problem with you is that you think every hip hop album that came in the 90s is classics and that we have to like it, dont get me wrong yeah the 90s is where true rap is at, u love this album but we dont , its our opinion not yours, respect it, if u have a problem with that, then your not a true hip hop fan

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  10. Grow up Max. If you don't like this it's a poor reflection on you, not Buhloone. Mature, witty lyrics over fresh jazzy music. Anyone who says otherwise is a kiddy fiddler.

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  11. i love this album

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  12. this album pretty much bored me, i prefer there first two CDs and Stakes is High

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  13. This is a dope album...I couldn't disagree more with this review.
    De La's first four albums are all classics in thier own right.

    Protoman is a fuckin moron - "homo hop"?
    Why is something homo because your too stupid to understand it?
    It seems a lot more homo to me the way dudes be ridin Paul Wall's dick
    and forever swinging from Wayne's nuts. Get Nelly's spurm out of your ears
    and listen to it again, you might like it.

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  14. You're wrong. This album is amazing. If you don't get it, listen again.

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  15. Again disagree, Max! Though I got my hands upon De La's discography not so long ago, must say u pretty underrating this one. I listened to it the whole last night and wanted more with every listening. Yep, this staff is unususal for hip-hop, BUT IF YOUR MUSICAL TASTE AIN'T ECLECTIC SHIT IS TOO ADVANCED FOR YOU, get it?

    kormega

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  16. Amazing album, Max, you ARE right about "I Am I Be"...pity you're wrong about the album on the whole!

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