The Grind Date
Record label: Sanctuary Urban
Format: 2xLP/CD
Release date: 5 October 2004

Hip-hop’s elder statesmen from Amityville left some of their long-standing fan base cold with the Art Official Intelligence series. Mosaic Thump sounded like a half-hearted compromise from trailblazers in the game to be made palatable for chart banging urban radio. Bionix was a noticeable improvement and stood apart from the rising tide of lowest common denominator boom bap. Take Stakes Is High and filter it through a Bionix lens and you have The Grind Date (no, this is not the third installment of AOI). Their shortest album to date – 12 tracks, no skits, and just under 50 minutes in length - it’s easily their best effort since Stakes. The new LP continues the “grown folks’ hip-hop” aesthetic, especially when Pos and Dave speak on the delicate balance between the family life and the rap game. Despite the constant reminders from Plugs One and Two about the Soul being pioneers on almost every other track – the fact they they’re still doing it after 15 years speaks for itself – De La comes witty with the wordplay, as always. And the beats this time around are absolutely stellar. Respect due to Supa Dave West, who’s behind the boards for five of the 12 cuts, including the seriously head-bouncing title track and the punchy horns-driven “He Comes” (a memorable cameo from Ghostface certainly doesn’t hurt). The omnipresent producer Madlib crafts the beats for a pair of songs as well as J-Dilla; his work on “Much More” milks an old soul staple from L.T.D. for maximum effect. Listen to “Church” and you’ll know why 9th Wonder walks off with the grand prize – this one’s out to bring the healing. And hats off to Jake One for closing the album with “Rock. Co. Kane. Flow,” a track that reinvents De La’s sound for a new generation of listeners. The guest spot from MF Doom, one of the most gifted lyricists on the mic right now, just seals the deal. This is a very solid album, the kind you’ve come to expect from one of the greatest rap crews ever. The Grind Date brings the Soul back to classic form.

{downtempo don}

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