Isn't it cool when a group you really like comes out after a long hiatus with a really dope record? That's what happened with De La Soul on Stakes Is High, blasting New York radio and clubs in 1996 with the 1-2 punch of "The Bizness" and the title track. Everybody has their favorite LP from the LI trio, accompanied by various rationalizations for their choice (pro-Prince Paul, anti-skit, etc.) – but somehow this album unfairly receives a less than thunderous applause. The first full-length completely devoid of Prince Paul's input, Stakes loses the skits but keeps the quirky and innovative samples (check the inspired Walter Wanderley snip on "Supa Emcees" or the proto-glich hop "Pony Ride"), not to mention that crazy De La speak. The boys may have been at the exact intersection of inspiration and cynicism when these tracks were recorded, lacing their rhymes with equal doses of humor and grown up realism. Guest turns are impeccable, with future stars like Mos Def (on the sleeper "Big Brother Beat") getting some of their first big league playing time; even Zhane get in to the act with the secret club killer "4 More(6)." The whole record is solid, with unheralded cuts like "Betta Listen" and "Brakes" waiting for a new wave of clever DJs to rediscover them. This loud 2LP set is how the vinyl should've been released originally, and was – overseas (we in the States got a single measly LP that left off 2 cuts). "Down Syndrome" and "Intro(," the two tracks orphaned on the original US vinyl, are both some of the hardest, MC-centric cuts De La has ever done, an added reason to pick this classic up. Recommended.
- black double vinyl pressing
- first time on vinyl in 12+ years
- original release year: 1996
- music label: Chrysalis 2023
reviewed by monk 08/2005