De La Soul's Buhloone Mindstate: A 20th Anniversary Retrospective
On September 21st, 1993, De La Soul released their third LP, Buhloone Mindstate, on Tommy Boy Records. De La Soul and Prince Paul produced yet another magnum opus in the vein of the their first two albums but like their previous efforts it was completely different. Twenty years since its release, it is still a high watermark for Hip-Hop.
Their 1989 debut album 3 Feet High & Rising was an avant garde progressive Hip-Hop album that happened to cross over and left the group feeling as though they were being pigeonholed and misunderstood. Their equally classic second effort De La Soul Is Dead, which dropped in 1991 was a complete departure from the previous album in tone, but retained all of the quirkiness and originality of their debut. De La Soul declared themselves dead so listeners were forced to throw out all of their old ideas of what the Long Island trio was about or what they stood for and judge them strictly off of their present body of work.
De La Soul had two critically acclaimed albums under their belts but in 1993 the current climate of the Rap world was far from the one that the Native Tongues movement flourished under at the tail end of the first Golden Era. Tommy Boy pressured De La Soul to try to produce an effort that would be do as well commercially as their debut. De La Soul maintained that whatever music they made might crossover and potentially sell like their debut inexplicably did, would not go Pop. They were not going to make music that purposefully appealed to a wider audience because they knew that would truly spell doom for them.
Sonically, Buhloone Mindstate's theme was far more upbeat than De La Soul Is Dead. But clocking in at only 15 tracks, 4 of which were skits, you could tell off the bat that we were in the midst of an aesthetic transition of some sort. Previous to Buhloone Mindstate, De La Soul albums averaged just under 26 tracks along with skits that averaged in the double digits. The album was recorded and mixed by Bob Power and the combination of De La Soul, Prince Paul and the legendary engineer really paid off when you heard the final product.
Fans & heads alike were excited for the album after hearing "Breakadawn", which even cracked the Billboard Hot 100 shortly after debuting on Yo! MTV Raps. But not even an excellent lead single could properly prepare the listener for the experience that was Buhloone Mindstate. The album opens with the sound of a balloon being inflated then popping followed by the repeated word/phrases "Stickabush" in coordination with "It might blow up but it won't go pop until "Stickabush" is dropped out all together and "It might blow up but it won't go pop gets progressively louder over a loop of the opening of Outlaw Blues Band's "Deep Gully". It then seamlessly slips into the opener "Eye Patch" and right back into "Deep Gully" again before "eN FoCUS" starts up. We were barely three tracks into the album and you already felt like you were taking a correspondence course master class in album sequencing.
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Photo: Tommy Boy