De La Soul returns with ambitious, dull album

De La Soul – …and the Anonymous Nobody

A dozen years between albums is an eternity even if an act’s work was available for streaming or download. But since the release of The Grind Date, De La Soul has existed as history, a signpost of what hip-hop might have sounded like as well as cautionary tale. Fulsome about employing guests, generous to a fault, And the Anonymous Nobody sounds better than it is. Other than a track with a mournful Usher hook called “Greyhounds” and the Damon Albarn collaboration “Here in After,” the guests bring lyrics and attitude that are as inapposite to De La as rabbits at a gun show. While David Byrne’s awful vocal in “Snoopies” is at least predictable, I suspect I’ll be wondering why The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins got roped into the gross would-be cock rock of “Lord Intended” for as long as it takes another Kickstarter campaign to fund the next record (maybe they thought paying for guests was cheaper than clearing samples).

As for the main act, they project a disappointing lassitude, as if the effort of pulling this shit together exhausted them. Not even the presence of a live band excites them; not even the presence of Pete Rock excites them. Posdnous still has his jagged, did-he-really-say-that rhymes, and when he, Dave and Maseo get it together, as they do in “Royalty Capes,” they still boast a literacy and syllables-to-beats ratio unmatched only by their fleetfootedness: “Us three be the omega like fish oil/This royal right be own no rentals/Owners of the cape express/He went from the mind you ate off the plate of fundamentals.” And I haven’t even mentioned the mariachi horn fanfare, the confidence with they claim, “We are an army of stars unleashed.” The army of stars stays the hell away on “Nosed Up,” a velvet gloved dis of coked out record execs who heap scorn on De La’s weed habits.

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