De La Soul's first album was such a monumental, influential piece of art that the Long Island trio have spent the intervening 11 years dwelling in the long specter of its slam-bang-boom. 3 Feet High and Rising took urban hip-hop out to the suburbs. For many white suburban kids, 3 Feet High was the first album by black hip-hop artists they ever bought, a compendium not just of old-school beats (which, back then, meant the early '80s), but also funked-up samples from such bland pop acts as Steely Dan, Hall & Oates and the Turtles. It incorporated George Clintonesque humor with a decidedly laid-back approach that, in the year of Straight Outta Compton and just one year removed from It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, seemed as strangely out of place as De La themselves (in an era rife with gold-chain-wearing rappers, De La donned black Africa medallions). For a while, they were even lauded as the future of hip-hop—which lasted until N.W.A showed up about a week later. Their '90s work has been less memorable. The pseudo-hippie DAISY-age mindset they espoused got old fast, and by their second album, 1991's smirkingly titled De La Soul Is Dead, they were already trying to reinvent themselves by going darker and harder. 1993's Buhloone Mind State and 1996's Stakes Is High found them drifting, not really sure what to do with themselves in the wake of the music's self-indulgent bitches-and-Benjamins dominance. These days, it's De La themselves who are old-school, which reveals that hip-hop is as cyclical as rock & roll. And on a bill they're sharing Monday with such up-and-coming (and clearly De La-influenced) roots-hop acts as LA's Dilated Peoples and Medusa, plus a new album, Art Official Intelligence-Mosai, ready to drop in August, De La seem to be saying that—old album titles aside—they're very much alive. (Rich Kane)
DE LA SOUL PLAY LIVE AT THE BBQ AT OAK CANYON RANCH, IRVINE LAKE, 5305 SANTIAGO CANYON RD., IRVINE, (714) 740-2000. MON., NOON (DOORS OPEN AT 11 A.M.). $30. FOR THE FULL FEST LINEUP, SEE THE POP & ROCK CALENDAR LISTINGS.