De La Soul: and the Anonymous Nobody… review

Who are the Anonymous Nobody? Although legendary hip hop trio De La Soul have invited artists such as Snoop Dogg and Damon Albarn to feature on their new album and the Anonymous Nobody…, its most important contributor gets all due credit on the album title itself.

Entirely funded on crowdfunding website Kickstarter, the first $110,000 was donated by the ‘Anonymous Nobody’ – the campaign’s pledgers – in the first nine hours of the project going live. An impressive half a million dollars was pledged in total, allowing the album to be made without any interference from a record label. “It was all about creating the right vibe, being fully able to express themselves”, says hip hop musician and friend Davey Chigwidden in a documentary on the making of the album, available to watch on the band’s website.

As original pioneers of hip hop, De La Soul hardly need an introduction, but opening track Genesis is a worthy one, with a passionate mission statement: “When do you think it’s time to love something the most, child? When it’s reached the lowest and you don’t believe in it anymore. When nobody cares”. It’s dubbed over a beautiful string arrangement, creating a theatrical overture that leads into the opening horns of Royalty Capes – a song fit for a walk-on to a boxing ring. It sounds like a trio in charge – these guys are veterans in the genre and their conviction is stronger than ever. Snoop Dogg features on the next track, Pain, with a groove that’s been all over the airwaves since its release two weeks ago. It’s old school; it’s a format that works, with the unmistakeable sound of Snoop adding legendary hip hop kudos to this instantly stand-out track.

Noughties r’n’b singer Estelle adds her raspy and understated vocals to Memory Of… (Us), an all-chiller track with a gorgeous intimacy. It’s not all smooth hip hop tones however, electric guitars begin a heavier sound on CBGBS, (with classicly De La tongue-in-cheek lyrics: “Cash… cash… You’re a peanut with a cashew”), and the volume’s turned up even higher on Lord Intended, with guitar riffs from The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins big enough to fill a stadium.

Talking Heads frontman David Byrne features on Snoopies, adding his genius spin and showing the versatility of what this band can – and are open to – achieving on their records. The featured artists on this album, of which there are many, keep their own individuality with each track, showing the collaborative style in which De La are passionate about – a sense of togetherness that feels even more purposeful on a crowdfunded album.

Perhaps it’s the length of the album that makes the last few songs begin to sound quite tired (although final track Exodus brings it all back home with its pared-down melancholic mantras). Its real clincher is the fact that it’s been entirely funded by fans willing to support something they believe in – donating $500,000 to make it happen – particularly pertinent at a time where you can stream music for free. But, of course, the band refuse to take the credit, shrugging off any god-like status with the final lyric of the album: “Saviours? Heroes? Nah. Just common contributors, hoping that what we create inspires you to selflessly challenge and contribute.”

Debut album 3 Feet High and Rising (1989) gained cult-like status for its innovative gameshow spoof format, but ...and the Anonymous Nobody shows these guys are still creating great hip hop music with utter conviction and humility.

It sounds like a band totally comfortable with the creative freedom a crowdfunded album has given them. There is such confidence, such swagger, that permeates throughout: These guys rule the hip hop roost and they’re showing no signs of that changing any time soon.

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