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Review: De La Soul at Ibiza Rocks, 12th August

Happy days with true hip hop ways.

Island favourite Harley Maxwell opened Ibiza Rocks’ evening of hip hop to a small but dedicated crowd, bringing sunny grooves to the darkening courtyard and setting the relaxed yet powerful tone which would colour the whole night. A few beers deep and multimedia maestro DJ Yoda took control, with an expertly arranged introduction to preface a set which crammed more hip hop classics, pop culture references and obscure samples into an hour than there are freckles on the face of a pure-bred ginge on holiday. It was a hyperactively fast-moving trip down memory lane, charging through monsters like Pharoahe Monch Simon Says and Biggie Smalls Hypnotize whilst Arnold Swarznegger, The Morph and Yoda flashed across the screen with the perfectly arranged timing that is Yoda’s calling card. He was a joy to watch too, constantly interacting with the crowd and screen behind with an approachable, “Guys guys! Check this out!” face on at all times.

De La Soul rolled on stage and instantly owned it; after twenty-eight years making and playing music together, you learn how to work a room. What was immediately clear, however, was that they don’t show up to serve themselves. They’re here to show you the best time possible through their music, and they couldn’t give a sweaty sponge if you don’t know the words. De La Soul offer the flip side of the aggressive, ego-fuelled hip hop which made it to the mainstream, preaching peace, beats and freaky samples for almost three decades.

The back catalogue amassed in such a time is immense, so you can’t go into a De La Soul gig hoping to hear all your favourites. What they offered was a choice selection of some of their popular tracks, woven together expertly by De La DJ Maseo, animated by the legendary MCs Pos and Dave, all with the sharpest timing and smoothest transitions, the trio in constant eye contact throughout, working as one. Me Myself and I got a look in, A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays had the crowd chanting and a re-imagined Eye Know and Potholes In My Lawn were some of my favourites. Pos and Dave were busy igniting a good old fashioned crowd battle throughout, in between playful but probably quite serious calls for someone to bring them some dinner (none came, though the did score a bottle of grog from the front row).

Indefensible against De La Soul’s good mood, the crowd was all smiles and elbow swings. Just like Ibiza Rocks’ major hip hop booking last year (Nas on the Balearic leg of his Illmatic tour), the crowd was predominantly locals and workers, De La Soul visibly surprised at the response when they asked the crowd who was on holiday and who was off to work tomorrow. Pumpkin o'clock at Ibiza Rocks was drawing near, but not before we heard the classic song that may be responsible for sparking a decade of cringe-worthy novelty answering machine messages, Ring Ring Ring. Tune went off. Lyrics were bellowed, arms were swayed (check stubborn-mc-sway-the-wrong-way in the foreground of the embedded video) and beers were happily spilled as even Maseo emerged from behind the decks for the climax of the evening.

There was time for one more tune, De La Soul closing with one of the many examples of their permeation into music beyond their own scene, a little track called Feel Good Inc, in collaboration with Damian Albarn’s Gorillaz. The crowd was a-whoopin’ and a-bobbin’, only interrupting its bounce to punch out the familiar maniacal cackles, “watch me as I gravitate ha ha ha ha Haaaaaaa!” bringing to a close a brilliant evening celebrating one of the classiest acts in hip hop.

WORDS | Jordan Smith PHOTOGRAPHY | James Chapman

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