Friday, July 17, 2009
Manchester International Festival: De La Soul
The 20th anniversary of 3 Feet High and Rising? That can't be right. Man, this album was the soundtrack to my college years, along with the followup De La Soul is Dead. So this makes me, let's see ... yep. Offically old. Shit. How did that happen?
3 Feet High didn't really sound much like the hip hop we knew before it came out, but pretty much everything that came after sounded at least a little bit like it. It was that influential. It was also pretty important for me personally, because this music was the gateway drug that eventually got me hooked on the deep funk source tracks that they were sampling. If you really, really like Me Myself and I, you'll love the song's venerable direct ancestor, (Not Just) Knee Deep, recorded by Funkadelic in 1979. From Parliament/Funkadelic and their whole crazy conflagration of splitoff projects it's a short hop to Bootsy Collins, James Brown and The JBs, Issac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, The Meters and the rest of the soul/funk explosion. So I owe De La Soul a lot.
What I miss about this music is its friendliness, the De Las willingness to be silly and lyrically real on top of actually making good music. There are people making great hip hop today that does all of these things but you mostly do not hear them on the radio.
So you can imagine how excited I was when I heard De La Soul would be coming to Manchester for the festival. And they put on a wonderful show. Believe it or not I had never been to the Ritz before. It's definitely seen better days but I was pretty happy with the venue, which was the perfect place for a gig like this.
The De Las and Prince Paul gave us a gig that was a seamless good time. Sure, they might be a bit older (and, in some cases, living very much larger) but there was no doubt that these guys still have it. Sometimes performing as a full band, and other times stripping it back to how it was in the very beginning, three men and a machine, they played the hits (A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays, Me Myself and I etc), but also revisited some less well-loved tracks from their back catalogue that actually held up extremely well.
The night had a wonderful vibe. The band seemed to be having a great time and the crowd sure was - everyone was dancing. I've never encountered a friendlier audience in Manchester. For me it was a great close to what has been a really fantastic festival. Roll on 2011.