De La Soul’s Plug 1 & Plug 2 Present First Serve
Veteran MCs as freshly motivated as their something-to-prove alter egos
For their side project First Serve, Pos and Dave from De La Soul decided to assume the identities of a couple Queensbridge up-and-comers on the road to industry success. And while the idea of a couple Class of ’88 vets playacting blog rappers some 20 years their junior might threaten to reek of “kids these days,” their depictions of Jacob “Pop” Life and Dean “D” Witter are actually far more sympathetic than that. A couple childhood friends with reverence for their predecessors but a desire to stay truly unique, their story is like a more idealistic (but no less sardonic) take on Prince Paul’s hip-hopera precedent A Prince Among Thieves. Here, a rap career saves their lives instead of ruining them, and the album engagingly tracks First Serve’s progress from living-at-home feuds with moms to a money-raking itinerary dedicated to rocking stages, with creative differences and threatened breakups providing temporary obstacles in between. Sonically and referentially it’s still a product of golden age minds; there are frequent lyrical nods to A Tribe Called Quest, Rakim and Run-DMC, and there’s no mistaking Pop and D’s flows for anything else but the distinctive conversational cadence of Plugs 1 & 2. But the winning narrative and high-gloss cinematic-soul production credited to French producers Chokolate and Khalid (aka “3 & 4″) are the kinds of welcome elements that help make the veteran pair of MCs sound as freshly motivated as their something-to-prove alter egos.