Top 10 Favorite Lines from Posdnuos in De La Soul Songs
Onward with the nerd lists about subjects I have no credentials to talk about. For some reason, like I think the world wants to hear what I have to say about “Confessions of a Shopaholic” (surprisingly awesome) – so it’s time for another list of personal favorites that will appeal to 3 and a half people in the world.
One of the more time-consuming – but enjoyable – themes for me to write about is favorite lyrics from a specific artist. And this time I chose to go with my favorite lyricist: Posdnuos of De La Soul. But there aren’t really Posdnuos songs, there are De La Soul songs. So I’m ignoring the lyrical contributions of Dave aka Dove aka Trugoy – the other emcee in that group, because in all honesty, I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about and breaking down Pos’s rhymes. That’s not to say Trugoy’s verses are any less potent, just that Posdnuos delivers his bizness from a place in his heart that appeals to me.
Aside: I once Tweeted something to him and he responded, and that is the highlight of my Twitter using career.
As I was putting this list together, I realized that early De La does not appeal as much to me lyrically as their later stuff. I know for many, the golden era of De La Soul was the Buhloone Mindstate/Stakes is High run, but for me, it extends to the seriously under-appreciated “Art Official Intelligence” and in many respects all the way to “Grind Date” I think as one of the few rap groups to actively aim to grow their emcee personae as they grew older as people, the lines they dropped int heir mid-20s, late-20s and into their 30s got heavier and more meaningful. And the heavy representation of AOI on this list probably has a lot to do with the fact that at the time, Pos was roughly the age I am now and going through similar things in life.
Anyway though, what follows is my ten favorite lines from Posdnuos, with some selection criteria, like they all come from songs that have appeared on De La Soul albums, I’m not including guest verses on other artists albums, not even Prince Paul stuff. Also, even though content, delivery and flow, voice, and sounds and aesthetics all play into what makes me love a line, I’m trying to not include much or any of the actual rhyme sounds, and only leaving it at the specific heart of the line that has caught my attention over and over. If you want to catch any of these lines in context, go listen to the entire song to catch the whole thing.
10. “While you others represent, I present my rep” from Supa Emcees
This was the mid-90s, so seemed like all of hip hop was about representing, whether it was a set, a hood, a city, whatever. Pos subtly laid down the gauntlet by saying the only claim anyone has to the title of “emcee” is their skills, and until that’s proven, your other credentials can be taken off the wall. Moreover, Pos is real good at this, unpacking a word to its different parts and incorporating them all together, for example “it ain’t my fault your ass is on the asphalt” and so on.
9. “My aim’s to freeze you dead center in your tracks with your hands high” from Declaration
This is a favorite at live shows cuz Pos always does the whole thing the same way, and incorporates a coordinated arm movement from the entire crowd. So yeah, that’s fun. But listen to the lyrics son! For someone who always comes across humble and maintains he’s a good but not great rapper, he lets out a little bit of the other side in this song, showing why he truly believes he is better than you. The whole thing is about how he will easily and gladly out-rhyme you, and what?
8. “Don’t come shaking my hand like we peeps/it ain’t beef, but be sure to understand” from All Good
At this point, De La was roughly 5 years since the previous album, and more than a decade on the scene. What was dope about this was they brough Chaka Khan on the track – you know, they were always known for featuring young up-and-comers like Common, Mos, and even Q-Tip back in the day. But they got someone with more old school credentials than themselves, you know, someone who knew exactly what it was like to be this deep in the game and have to deal with fake isht. I feel like this all the time now.
7. “Most crews are post-current, while we’re forever” from Oooh
I know to most folks, this probably seems like a throwaway line. But it’s a bold statement, but more than that – it doesn’t even rhyme with anything, it’s just there like it was something Pos had to say, f-ck a rhyme scheme.
6. “Wanna flip grammar instead of grams, like that’s the only choice they got” from Trying People
Too many De La fans have not heard this song! This is a midcareer (for an emcee) crisis for all to see; this line in particular is kind of the crux of it. A lot of kids these days are putting all their energy into becoming the next big rap star. That’s better than trying to become the next big drug dealer, sure – but it’s not easy or necessarily enjoyable either. Wonder if he had a chance to choose a different career path, if he would have been somethign else? Like a rug cleaner?
5. “A brother be’s a ni–a when he packs it” from Breakadawn
On “Hip Hop Honors” last year, it was revealed that De La’s emcees don’t actually write songs together – they each write their verses separately. It’s weird to me that they fit together so well then.It means they are on a cosmic wavelength that transcends physical proximity.
This was a vaguely autobiographical song from my freshman year of high school, and I remember just being caught in the way the beat actually dictated the pace of the story – like it the music telling its life story, and not the actual men doing the rapping.
4 (tie). “Said we’d be natives to the end, nowadays we don’t even speak” from I Am I Be
4. (tie) “Native Tongues have officially been re-instated” from Stakes is High
So much of their semi-public lives were semi-public to fans who were looking for it. I got a thrill out of hearing him admit defeatedly that the Native Tongues weren’t on the best of terms during Buhloone Mindstate – but even more than that, it was really good to hear him renege on that on Stakes. It was like real life stuff, and I guess my younger self found it really interesting when people who were untouchable to me turned out to be real people.
2. “They were looking for God but found religion instead” from Held Down
This song is another criminally underheard one. It’s 3 straight verses from Pos on here, with a hook done by Cee-Lo. First of all, the music is FILTHY. This is one of the nastiest ass grooves I have heard in 10 years. And when Cee-Lo is singing, it’s almost always good news. (I have never been a fan of his rapping for some reason…)
The vibe alone is actually enough reason to be hitting rewind, but the whole thing is full of gems like “the biggest oppressor can be your own ego” and “everybody playing rebel with no sign of a cause.” So much of their music – but especially Posdnuos’s verses – is about lessons learned; what’s more though, is he doesn’t deliver them as the wise man who’s seen it all – he’s always coming from a place that feels like damn, can you believe this shit is still happening? Nothing’s easy.
1. “Fuck being hard, Posdnuos is complicated” from In the Woods
There’s really nothing else to say.