Influential hip-hop group De La Soul made a name for itself with clever wordplay and a storytelling vibe that's uncommon in today's music scene.
Two-thirds of the group, Posdnuous (aka Plug 1) and Dave (Plug 2) and, have returned on the album "De La Soul's Plug 1 & Plug 2 present First Serve." The product is a concept album about two young rappers struggling to make their way up, then hitting the big time, and the resulting drama that comes along with fame.
The tennis theme of the album's name is a reference to the back-and-forth between the two characters, Deen Whitter and Jacob "Pop Life" Barrow.
"I love watching tennis," Dave said. "[The title] is a lyrical thing, wordplay. It's the perfect match. The falling in love and out of love relationship between the two guys. It refers to a tennis vibe."
De La's fans have been clamoring for a new album for years, as the trio's last studio album was recorded in 2004. Interestingly enough, this one came about because of a pair of French producers named Chokolate and Khalid, who wanted to make some music and work with Pos and Dave on the lyrics.
The producers "approached a mutual friend, a promoter out in Paris, and asked if they could possibly get us to listen to some music that they'd been working on," Dave said. "There were probably roughly 50-60 tracks, and the production was cool. We said, 'Let's at least sit down and talk to these guys.'"
Dave and Posdnuous flew to Paris, spent a couple of days with the producers, and decided to go for it. They stayed and began recording music right away. The story changed from the original vision of a blaxploitation tale.
"We felt like it wasn't relevant to our lives and what we were about," Dave said. "We said, 'Let's do a story about success, or about overcoming something, or about ambition.' We sat down and started writing characters. It's a story on wax, if you want to call it that." Rolling Stone called the storyline "'Behind the Music,' but funnier."
The fact that Chokolate and Khalid were French producers who sought them out wasn't lost on Dave.
"It was an honor. These guys came out of nowhere. We actually never heard of them before. It was a flattering kind of thing," Dave said. "We had our fears. People have been waiting on a De La Soul album for some time."
With that in mind, Dave said he knows fans will wonder about the project, and particularly DJ Maseo, who normally makes the beats.
"Obviously it has the blood of De La. The lyrical and conceptual theme was something De La would do," he said. "We're a loving family. We're working on our own album now. Hopefully this will keep people fed for a little while until it's finished."
Check out First Serve's "Must B The Music" here. Note: Contains a couple of explicit lyrics.