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De La Soul: AOI: Bionix


De La Soul

Album: AOI: Bionix
Label: Tommy Boy

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Since parting ways with visionary producer Prince Paul following the release of 1993's Buhloone Mindstate, De La Soul has fought a largely winning battle to age gracefully in a genre that worships youth and is perpetually ready to heave veteran rappers into the waste bin of old-school history. That struggle continues with AOI: Bionix, the loose, relaxed, and enormously enjoyable second entry in the group's Art Official Intelligence trilogy. Like Native Tongues kinfolk Jungle Brothers, De La Soul has never shied away from the populist, liberating ethos of the dance floor, and Bionix is no exception. The title track puts it best, as Posdnuos distances himself from backpacker stoicism with the eminently quotable lines, "Unlike these underground MCs that rock for heads / we include the throat, chest, arms, and legs." A few lines later, he proves that dance-floor escapism doesn't preclude acknowledging a world that goes far beyond big-balling and sitting on chrome, rapping, "And I don't ball too much, ya dig? / I got a ball and chain at my crib / who wants my ass home." While more consistent than its predecessor, Bionix doesn't boast a single quite as undeniable as Mosaic Thump's monster "Oooh," although "Baby Phat" is already shaping up to be a "Baby Got Back" for sensitive types. A sophisticated come-on disguised as a call for the overturn of regressive and hurtful standards of female beauty, or perhaps the other way around, the song issues hip-hop a wake-up call: "Every woman ain't a video chick / or a runway-model anorexic." De La Soul will probably never make another album as revolutionary as 3 Feet High And Rising, De La Soul Is Dead, or even Buhloone Mindstate. Having revolutionized hip-hop and nurtured a vibrant and exciting underground, the group's members seem content to serve as kindly hip-hop elder statesmen, and on AOI: Bionix, they carry out that role with dignity and unimpeachable integrity.