After releasing great back to back debut and sophomore albums, by 1993 De La Soul was quickly establishing themselves as some of hip-hop’s newest generals. They came on the scene in ’89 proudly representing the daisies, but that era quickly came to an end when the hip-hop community mistook them for soft hippy rap dudes. That led them to them proclaiming their own deaths their second go round in an attempt at a new beginning, but in reality they pretty much stuck to the same script as their first outing. So, what would the trio do with their third effort? Well, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
Buhloone Mindstate, which was De La’s way of saying that no matter how successful they are with their music they won’t sellout, would pretty much use the same formula as the first two albums: Abstract rhymes from Plugs One and Two (Posdnuos and Trugoy, respectively), and jazz drenched production from all three Plugs (resident deejay, Maseo being Plug 3), and the unofficial fourth Plug, Prince Paul. Like their first two albums, Buhloone Mindstate was received with heaps of praise by critics and hip-hop heads alike. Hell, In his 2004 Rolling Stone’s magazine list of greatest hip-hop albums of all-time, Chris Rock even scored Buhloone Mindstate number 10.
I’ve always felt that Chris was a great comedian.
Intro – The album open with a lonely loop from The Outlaw Blues Band’s “Deep Gully” and De La and crew reciting what is ultimately the theme and meaning of the album title: “it might blow up, but it won’t go pop”.
Eye Patch – I never really understood the concept behind this song. Posdnuos and Trugoy’s rhymes are too coded for my liking, and the instrumental behind them is so mediocre you won’t even want to put the effort into decoding whatever the hell it is that they’re talking about. It was kind of comical to hear Maseo talk his shit to “all those rappers that dissed” De La “on records” at the end of the song, though.
En Focus – Pos and Trugoy exchange verses about fleeting fame and the fickleness of fans in the music industry. Pos’ abstract rhymes work better on this one than the first song, but Trugoy’s lines are still too much for me to try to get to the bottom of. Plus, Prince Paul and company hook up yet another uninteresting instrumental.
Patti Dooke – Over a smooth jazz flavored backdrop carried by some warm sax notes, Posdnuos and Trugoy abstractly, as our friends at Genius.com so eloquently put it, speak on” the never-ending phenomenon of the misappropriation of Black influence into mainstream musical culture without proper accreditation”, or in laymen terms: how throughout time the white man has consistently stole black folk music and made way more money off of it than the creators. Patty Duke was a child actress in the sixties best known for her starring role in The Patty Duke Show, whose name would later become the name of a popular hip-hop dance in the eighties. Guru (from Gangstarr, rip) stops by to assist with the hook, and Paul and the boys masterfully place soundbites from The Five Heartbeats (I love that movie) throughout.
I Be Blowin’ – De La Soul invites the legendary jazz saxophonist, Maceo Parker to blow the shit out of his horn over an emotional and somber backdrop. No rhymes. No hook. Just Maceo Parker playing his horn over an instrumental that is bound to make you reflect and make some introspections, as you try to figure out how you became the piece of shit that you are today. I’m just sayin’.
Long Island Wildin’ – SDP and Takagi Kan stop by, fresh off a plane from Japan (Konnichiwa, bitches!), to spit a quick verse in Japanese. I have no idea what they’re saying, but whatever, it’s over pretty quick.
Ego Trippin’ (Part Two) – This was the second single released from Buhloone Mindstate. Paul and De La borrow a few loops from Al Hirt’s “Harlem Hendoo” (the liner notes in Buhloone Mindstate credit the song as “Harlem Hendo”, but you get the drift) and turn it into a beautiful instrumental for Pos and Tru to poke fun at the hardcore gangster/pimp persona that was becoming popular in hip-hop at the time. Well done, fellas. Side-note: there is no part 1 to this song, but the “Part Two” in the title is more so paying homage to Ultramagnetic MC’s classic song with the same title.
Paul’s Revenge – This short interlude has Prince Paul leaving a venting voicemail about not getting credit for some songs he apparently produced for Slick Rick (I’m assuming he’s referring to The Ruler’s Back album?). It’ll make you chuckle at least the first few times you listen to it.
3 Days Later – Posdnuos and Trugoy each share cautionary tales where lust and pride, respectively, do them in. This song has never been one of my favorites. The instrumental might not grab you right away, but after a few listens, you’ll begin to appreciate it, but I have and always will hate Pos and Trugoy’s elementary flow on this one.
Area – Brothers De La use this drab backdrop to shoutout the different area codes they dwell in, their people dwell in, or where they had to kick niggas asses at. I never cared for this one in the past and still don’t today.
I Am I Be – De La revisits the instrumental from “I Be Blowin'”, but this time around they substitute Maceo Parker’s sax solo with rhymes from Posdnuos and Trugoy, who give brief bio’s to explain who they are and “what they be”. The intro (and outro) of the song have De La’s extended family members (i.e. Q-Tip, Shortie No Mass, Busta Rhymes, Dres, to name a few) introducing themselves and “what they be”, which brings me back to a line from Posdnuos’ first verse: “faker than a fist of kids, speakin’ that they’re black, when they’re just niggas trying to be Greek, or some tongues who lied and said “‘We’ll be native to the end”, nowadays we don’t even speak”. I’ve always wondered which of his Native Tongue brethren (or sisters) that line was meant for. If you know, hit me in the comments. This is definitely one of the best songs on the album.
In The Woods – This is one of my favorite songs on Buhloone Mindstate. The fellas hook up an upbeat jazz flavored backdrop, complete with warm horns on the hook, as Posdnuos, Trugoy, and female emcee, Shortie No Mass (who is to Buhloone Mindstate what Consequence would later be to Tribe’s Beats, Rhymes And Life), each spit a verse over its splendor. Posdnuos, as usual, walks away with the title, as he spits what is probably his best verse of the entire album, with bars like “Catch me breathin’ on planes where the gangstas outdated, fuck being hard, Posdnuos is complicated”. This one sounds better today than it did when I first heard it two decades ago.
Breakadawn – This was the lead single from Buhloone Mindstate. Paul and the boys rip a loop from MJ’s “I Can’t Help It” and turn it into a beautifully melodic instrumental that Pos and Trugoy spill their rhymes over.
Dave Has A Problem…Seriously – Trugoy (also known by his government name, Dave) uses this interlude to quickly makes what starts out as a routine voicemail go from weird to downright disgusting. It’ll make you laugh at least the first two times you listen to it, though.
Stone Age – De La Soul ends Buhloone Mindstate with what may be the worst song in their entire catalog. From the empty instrumental, to Pos, Trugoy and special guest, Biz Markie’s, garbage rhymes, everything about this song was wrong.
I love De La Soul. Maybe not as much as ATCQ, but I still have a significant amount of love for the Long Island threesome. Any true hip-hop head or historian will agree that De La Soul’s prime years were their first four albums (3 Feet High And Rising, De La Soul Is Dead, Buhloone Mindstate and Stakes Is High). That doesn’t mean that the rest of their catalog is garbage. They definitely had some fire songs and pretty solid albums after Stakes Is High, but they were no longer relevant.
I say all of that to say that of De La’s prime albums, Buhloone Mindstate is without question the weakest of the four. Posdnuos and Trugoy have always been abstract with their rhymes, but on Buhloone Mindstate they take their abstractions to new levels, to the point I get headaches trying to decode them. And to make matters worse, most of the production ranges from boring to trash. Don’t get me wrong, Buhloone Mindstate does have a handful of dope songs (see “Patti Dooke”, “I Am I Be”, “In The Woods” and “Breakadawn”), but the majority of the album is barely passable from an early nineties De La Soul. Or, maybe I’m just deaf, dumb and blind (I’m actually not that far from being legally blind, but that a story for a different day).