Few hip-hop fans argue the relevance of golden-age innovators De La Soul, but two recent releases from the Rhino label may cause debate.
The first, “Live at Tramps, NYC, 1996,” catches the trio performing for a hyped home crowd near their creative peak — and just before the release of “Stakes Is High,” their worst album to date. The second, “De La Mix Tape: Remixes, Rarities & Classics,” is exactly that, except that it isn’t mixed together, and most tracks aren’t that rare (or special) to long-time listeners.
Still, of the two, “Mix Tape” is far more enjoyable. Live hip-hop recordings invariably fall flat, and the sound on “Tramps” is barely above answering-machine quality. Only on the classic “Potholes in My Lawn” does DJ Maseo sound like he’s in the same room. And this very same recording is also included on “Mix Tape,” along with an excellent flute-driven B-side and De La’s guest appearances on songs by DJ Honda and longtime collaborator Prince Paul.
As a party novelty, “Mix Tape” entertains, but “Tramps” is best left on the shelf.
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