Featuring Plug 1 (Dave) and Plug 2 (Posdnous) from the legendary De La Soul, along with French producers Chokolate and Khalid, First Serve is a project presenting a concept album about a fictional hip-hop crew and their journey to fame, so proceed accordingly, in the same way you approached those early Prince Paul solo albums. First Serve, the album, is somewhere between the De La producer's fascinating but flawed Psychoanalysis and his entirely purposeful movie-on-wax, A Prince Among Thieves. The big difference here is that Paul invited guests to deliver his vision while the Plugs and company do it on their own, acting like a daisy age Pink Floyd with a love of funk, disco, and the old boom-bap while creating something as story driven as The Wall. Like that prog classic, First Serve has plenty of tracks that stand alone. The plot point "We Made It" doubles as a strutting victory song good for any sunny day while "Pop Life" strolls through a bunch of odd, "potholes in my lawn" style rhymes, bringing fine memories of when the De La were the best thing going. Chokolate and Khalid are obviously fans of the Plugs and provide beats that are either expected (funk, soul, groovy) or challenging (a bit of rock, a bit of soundtrack bombast) plus the flow is fine, running like a radio play and best taken in one sitting. Still, if you don't buy into the story, some of this is just note-spinning to move the narrative along, but anyone who devoured Prince Among Thieves or De La Soul Is Dead will find this "not for everyone" effort highly attractive.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries