Groups have been a major component of hip hop, and De La Soul happens to be one of the most underrated hip hop groups of all time. From their debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising, to their sophomore album, De La Soul Is Dead, this group has released some classic albums. To date, the trio of Posdnous, Maseo, and Dave have been able to sustain a high quality of music, and it’s no wonder they are revered so much. Here is our ranking of all De La Soul albums from the worst to the best.
8. AOI: Bionix (2001)
2001 was a tricky year in hip hop, and many artists, including De La Soul, who were one of the most accomplished hip hop groups, found themselves caught up in the underground/mainstream maze. De La Soul were known for being different, and for them to release such an easily digestible album was a little far fetched. The album’s opening song. “Baby Phat” was an ode to plus size women while “What We Do (For Love” which features Slick Rick was a humorous song about puberty and discovering one’s sexuality. The album had a couple of highlights, especially the first eight songs, after which the album was hit and miss.
7. Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump (2000)
Thanks to songs like, “Oooh” and “All Good?” this album saw the return of De La Soul to chart territory. The Grammy nominated album featured a number of guest appearances from artists such as Redman, Busta Rhymes, Beastie Boys and Chaka Khan who helped keep the album lively and fresh. The album ends on a strong note though with the song ”The Art of Getting Jumped” explaining how to avoid getting beat up while at the club.
6. The Grind Date (2004)
This album was supposed to be the final trilogy for the Art Official Intelligence (AOI), but due to the album’s change of focus, the group decided to release The Grind Date as a stand-alone album. The album featured guest appearances from artists such as Ghostface, Common, Sean Paul and MC Spike Lee. The album received positive reviews from critics and was worthy of being considered among the best hip hop albums of 2004. The album contains catchy beats that complement the lyrics in a great way. The album was produced by a team of talented producers with two unique collaborations with J. Dilla. The album peaked at position 87 on the US Billboard 200.
5. And the Anonymous Nobody… (2016)
When De La Soul announced that they would release another album after a long hiatus, fans were obviously excited to see a comeback of one of hip hop’s most creative groups. In a genre that is arguably driven by young rappers, it’s difficult for seasoned rappers to be churning out hits consistently, but De La Soul proved that they are standard-bearers of modern rap, and they were ageing well. The album received favourable reviews from critics, with Exclaim! Calling it one of the most thrilling album releases of the year. The album featured guest artists such as 2 Chainz, Pete Rock, Snoop Dogg and many more. The track “Pain” sees the group team up with Snoop Dogg in an optimistic anthem that has a great hook and a sly groove. The album debuted at number 12 on the US Billboard 200 and was nominated for the 59th Grammy Awards for Best Rap Album.
4. Stakes Is High (1996)
In terms of subject matter and production, Stakes is High is considered the darkest De La Soul album of all time. Although it received favourable critical reviews, it wasn’t a commercial success. The album saw the group change their sound and style and was their first album that wasn’t produced by Prince Paul since they felt his production didn’t match the album’s mood. The album’s main themes were hip hop commercialisation and gangsta rap criticism. This would lead to conflict with Tupac, who retaliated with the song “Against All Odds”, which is contained in his posthumous album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. The album is also notable for making Mos Def a household name in the rap game.
3. Buhloone Mindstate (1993)
Judging by the lyrics, De La Soul were not in a perfect place when they released this album. With the group being increasingly troubled about their situation with Tommy Boy, and the fact that the Native Tongues was on the verge of collapse, Buhloone Mindstate was not a happy album. Compared to their previous albums, this album was quite short, although it seemed to have more purpose. In a list published by Rolling Stone in 2005, Chris Rock named it the 10th greatest hip hop album of all time.
2. 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
Coming in at number two in our ranking of all De La Soul albums is their debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising, which is widely acknowledged as a classic. At the time of its release, the album was like no other, with the group showing that it was okay to be different in hip hop. What is most impressive about this album is its production which was done by Prince Paul. The album’s title was inspired by one of Johnny Cash’s early songs, while most samples used in the album were from relatively unknown music from the likes of Steely Dan and Liberace. In a review of the album by Q-Magazine, Macy Gray described the album as one of the best in the last 15 years and compared De La Soul to The Beatles.
1. De La Soul is Dead (1991)
Very few artists can claim masterpiece status for their first two albums, and De La Soul are one of those. De La Soul is Dead is the group’s second studio album and one of the first albums to receive a perfect rating by The Source. Although many people cite 3 Feet High and Rising as their best album, I have always considered this album to be their greatest. The album mainly talked about issues such as mortality, rape and the pressure that comes from previous success. The album peaked at number 26 on the US Billboard 200 and ranked #228 on Rolling Stones’ list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.