Wilderness Rap?

De La Soul – In The Woods from Buhloone Mindstate

Oliver Wang posted a great little history of De La’s third album that collects a bunch of material that got left out of a much shorter story he did for NPR. Fans should definitely give it a read.  On a very solid album, one track that I love is the quirky In The Woods. It’s a testament to the strength of any group when you are finding great tracks nestled in the last quarter of an album.

The song begins with what sure sounds like sleigh bells ( a nod to the song’s title?), organ, two solitary horn blares, followed by an echoed call to party over here and there.  Then, the boom boom bap of bass and snare drum, that’s so simple and yet so delicious, anchors the rest of the song with a Maceo Parker sample.

Riding that beat are some bouncy verses by Torgul, Pos and Shortie No Mas. Shortie appears throughout this album but this song features her heavily, not only contributing a verse but egging on both MCs by finishing their rhymes or providing exclamations to their verses.  She has a good flow with the other MCs; I think there’s a MC Lyte comparison to be made.

Other than the references to the title of the song in the chorus, there’s not much in Torgul or Pos’s verse that have to do with the outdoors.  Shortie has a clever line about forgetting her compass and getting lost in the woods and then finding her way out.

The other line that sticks out in the song is Pos’s line that “that native shit is dead”; after the tongue-in-cheek title of their second record (De La Soul is Dead), now De La is telling us the bigger Native Tongues family is also gone to the world.  In 1993 this was probably not as much a jokey throwaway line, there was probably a feeling the groups in Native Tongues were either winding down or going in their own directions. De La definitely was already on its way to finding a path to a long and interesting career with songs like this one.

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