Take A 25-Year Ego-Trip Back To One Of De La Soul’s Best Videos
De La Soul’s third album celebrates 25 years of being on planet earth today (September 21). Of all the LPs from the Plugs, it can sometimes seem easy to lose Buhloone Mindstate in the lights of a discography as consistent and far-reaching as any in the Rap genre. Many Heads are partial to the two releases that came before it, the LP after, and the AOI series. Recently, fans have been enjoying the ongoing rollout surrounding De La’s 2016 Grammy-nominated …And The Anonymous Nobody LP. However, back in 1993, the group alongside mentor/producer Prince Paul gave the public a body of work that has aged with grace in a way that truly is “somethin’ like a phenomenon.” The moment showed Hip-Hop in a tug-of-war, and let many know that De La Soul is forever fighting the good fight.
The commentary De La made on “Ego Trippin’ (Part II)”—a song synonymous with its video—is still relevant 25 years later. In honor of the birthday, Tommy Boy Records has uploaded the visual that is among the crew’s most memorable during the ’90s. After grabbing attention with some rhythmic screaming, Dave kicks, “I’ve got the trees in my backyard, and it’s hard for them to tell a lie to me,” that line pulled Hip-Hop out of the city without compromising one iota of its ruggedness on the Jazz-tinged track. In one single line, he’s nodding to another L.I. icon in Billy Joel with the cadence, but also Boogie Down Production’s Hip-Hopping it on “Bridge Is Over.” The writing is arguably environmental, but presumably an explanation of why De La was not concerned with the rigmarole. This bar embodies one of the group’s secrets to success: they take pleasure in the simple things, like a home on some land, and time to reflect. It’s a far cry from “the merry-go-round” industry-universe that John Lennon tried to escape right before he was killed in the Big Apple 13 years earlier.
Much of “Ego Trippin” laughs at those without this same clarity. By 1993, rappers and Rap groups were living out their dreams in fantastic music videos. Models, low-riders, pool-parties, helicopters, chase sequences all enhanced the lyricism, with plenty of bubbly or malt liquor to go round–depending on the brand of Rap. De La Soul laughed at the posturing and inflated ideals. As they played along with decade-old Mercedes roadsters, mansion pool-parties, and hats made of cash money, the trio and affiliate Shorty No Mas still wear their Everyman layered t-shirts and baggy pants. Captions cue the viewer that it’s all a front; the car is rented, and Dave doesn’t live in the West Coast estate.
While the group had already been unceremoniously dissed by Ice Cube’s cousin Del The Funky Homosapien (see: 1991’s “Pissin’ On Your Steps”), this parody caused a bigger star in Tupac Shakur to take umbrage, for his similar aesthetics in “I Get Around.” That video dropped the same season as Pac and Shock G’s swanky pool party. On De La Soul Is Dead, the guys had amassed a reputation for being outspoken about Rap’s mainstream perception. However, the trio also put candor meaning alongside their silliness. Posdnuos says it himself: “Now people stop takin’ my stylin’ for a joke / I don’t sassafras, I put the foot up the ass.” On the last album, De La tried to shed the “Hip-Hop Hippies” imagery, and they let aimed to let folks know that while funny, they were no clowns. That had not changed.
However, it can be argued that while the video is both playful and cynical, the musical component is truly a giant shout-out to a cross-section of Hip-Hop. The song, complete with its Ultramagnetic MC’s-inspired title and Kool Keith “smack my b*tch up” reference, is a vocal complement to Paul’s production style. A list including B.D.P., Big Daddy Kane, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Cypress Hill, Kris Kross, Run-D.M.C., Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Snoop Doggy Dogg, all tabulate the vocal riffs. While some can assume the video jabs at Gangsta Rap, some of those groups in there fall under that sub-genre umbrella. De La Soul puts itself in the middle of the Rap intersection on a song where they rhyme about home and status.
In the mid-1980s, Ultramag’ and Next Plateau Records were not in a position to “ego-trip” on MTV or BET. Keith’s imaginative verses under the stylus, on cassette reel, or CD were as good as fans could get (until a 2015 retroactive visual happened). Knowing they were among the best out, De La toasted to themselves the same way that many rappers were in ’93. They celebrated in the age of the Rap video, while still having some fun at the medium’s expense.
Twenty-five years ago, De La Soul was still blowing up, but they would never, ever, go Pop.
Fans of Buhloone Mindstate can still purchase a few remaining copies of Tommy Boy’s 25th-anniversary re-pressing.
#BonusBeat: Just as De La paid respects to Ultra, The Roots would take the idea of the closed-caption to another level on 1996’s “What They Do” video: