Artist: De La Soul
Album: AOI: Bionix
Label: Tommy Boy
Rating: 6 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
De La Soul are back with the second installment of the AOI series – “Bionix”. Many heads were disappointed with the direction taken by the Long Island trio on the last album, although the commercial sounds of the ‘Oooh’ and ‘All Good’ cuts definitely made an impression on the charts. Thinking back, De La were in a similar situation after the release of “3 Feet High And Rising” – heads accusing them of commercialisation, due to the non-rap heads who were attracted to the group by the use of Hall and Oates samples. Then, they went totally against the grain and reinvented their whole style on the follow up “De La Soul Is Dead”, jettisoning the majority of their “pop” audience in the process. It was this move and the subsequent release of the strong “Buhloone Mindstate” and “Stakes Is High” which solidified their position as Hiphop “legends”.
With the criticism of the first AOI installment still fresh in most people’s minds, its time to see if De La will again “reinvent” themselves, or whether their legendary status is in danger of being spoiled…
After a short intro, the title track ‘Bionix’ kicks in with a dope mid-tempo drum beat, interspersed with soulful snippets where Maseo talks his usual brand of Maseo-nonsense. But its the actual beats on here that grab the attention as Dave and Pos both rip the track up in typical De La style, flipping familiar lines and sayings in an unfamiliar way.
“Unlike these underground emcees who rock for heads,
We include the throat, chest, arms and legs,
Don’t even need to spit in a cypher to show you I’m a lifer for rap,
I cultivate moves larger than that,
And I don’t ball too much, ya dig?
I got a ball and chain at my crib who want my ass home.”
After such a hot opener, I was kinda disappointed with the next couple of cuts. ‘Baby Phat’ is the first single, and features Devin The Dude. Its gonna be the ‘Oooh’ of this album – one that hooks you with its commercial sound, but ultimately one that heads will get bored with quickly. This is standard R’n’B terrority. As for ‘Simply Havin’, well this one samples McCartney’s ‘Simply Havin’ A Wonderful Christmas Time’, a song that I absolutely detest, so needless to say, I ain’t happy about this one at all. One thing to note though is Dave’s perfect Greg Nice impression, as he namechecks Nice And Smooth.
Things pick up with the very descriptive ‘Hold Down’, the latin flavour of ‘Watch Out’, and the very hardcore beats of ‘Special’. However the latter cut is somewhat spoiled by another R’n’B chorus. ‘Hold Down’ is one of the nicest cuts on the entire album, and is a perfect example of a singer on the chorus working perfectly. Its backed up by some of the strongest lyrics on here, as Plugs 1 and 2, talk about how difficult it is dealing with fake friends in the industry, and how growing up in an often violent world is so hard to explain to their children.
“Something for the ladies” is how ‘The Sauce’ is described, but as usual De La flip it, and go hardcore. Ironic since several other cuts on here, could easily be “for the ladies.” However, this is another strong cut which features newcomer Philly Black on the helpout.
Unfortunately the second part of the album trails off badly. The R’n’B feel continues with ‘Am I Worth You?’, which features a heavy bassline, but really is no better than average. As for the weak ‘Pawn Star’, and the pointless ‘Reverend Do Good’ skits sprinkled throughout – they serve no purpose whatsoever.
A couple of other famous faces pop up towards the end of this joint. Slick Rick features on the appalling ‘What We Do For Love’, and B-Real argues the merits of marijuana with the trio on the slow paced ‘Peer Pressure’, which is one of the only bright spots on the second half of the album.
The album ends with a pretty nice cut called ‘Trying People’. The emotion in Dave’s verse in particular, translates perfectly to the track, as he touches on his life, children, and surroundings.
“The skys over your head ain’t safe no more,
And Hiphop ain’t your home,
And if it is you’re fucking up the crib son.”
Its just a shame that the majority of the album fits this last line. Ya see despite the strong cuts and messages on here, ultimately, this is no more than a continuation from the first AOI. Remember how we didn’t really feel it? Be ready to be disappointed again. Don’t get me wrong, its a fairly solid release – the production is top notch on almost all the tracks. Its just not the De La Soul album that I, and I’m sure, a lot of heads were hoping for.