Ever since the release of 3 Feet High and Rising in 1989, audiences and critics have wanted De La Soul to sing the same old song, judging every record on whether it rekindles the D.A.I.S.Y. age vibe. What they missed over the past two decades was a string of albums that, like the group's debut, sounded like nothing before or since.
In a way, De La has always been smarter than everyone else. They've suffered commercially and critically while everyone caught up, bit hard and recycled their ideas into more palatable packages. Such was the case with The Grind Date, released in 2004.
Overall, it wasn't strong from start to finish. The record was a plan B enacted when De La was unable to release the third Art Official Intelligence record through Tommy Boy, the trio's longtime label. (Posdnous references the bitter fall-out several times throughout.)
But it was clean, sunny, stark. It was clever, inventive, without a clear touchstone. In the title track is everything great and groundbreaking about the group: subtly boom-bap beats, crucial self-awareness and wordplay that combines battle-rap stream-of-conscious with unmatched sit-down composition skills.