De La Soul

Live at Tramps, NYC, 1996

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From the days of the earliest Cold Crush battle tapes, live hip-hop on record has been a sketchy proposition. There's simply no way to transmit the energy and community feeling of a live show onto wax or tape or disc, and sludgy audio quality has rarely convinced anyone other than the hardcore to risk an investment. For reasons unknown, De La Soul, those ambassadors of hip-hop exuberance despite their professorial inclinations, were gifted by Tommy Boy/Rhino with a release of one of their live shows -- a May 13, 1996, gig at Tramps in New York City. First, the date raises a question: why target the year when De La Soul released their most bungled LP? Worse yet, the sound quality is barely at the level of an audience recording; the vocals aren't balanced and make up nearly 75 percent of the mix, while beats, basslines, and an occasional sample are left to wallow in the murk. The core trio are joined by several guests, including Mos Def, then an unknown property but just about to make his De La debut on Stakes Is High. Common stops by for a pair of tracks, and the Jungle Brothers take the stage for one of the few highlights, a reprise of their 1989 single "Buddy."

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
2 3:02
3 3:09
4 2:37
feat: Mos Def
6 2:19
7 1:48
8 3:37
9 2:36
feat: Common
feat: Common
12 2:15
13 3:01
14 4:42
blue highlight denotes track pick