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First Serve
De La Soul's Plug 1 & Plug 2 present First Serve
Released 30 March 2012
Producer Chokolate, Khalid
Label PIAS Recordings
Length 54:46
Genre Hip Hop
Website wearefirstserve.tumblr.com

De La Soul have always been the dependable mainstays of hip hop, simmering away on the alternative scene, known to many through their innovation of the form back in the late ‘80s, their turn of the century rebirth with Art Official Intelligence or their scene stealing turns with Gorillaz in the noughties. Their positive message has served as an antidote to the violent posturing of gangster rap or the money obsessed hip hop of modern acts. For their latest project Pos (Plug 1) and Dave (Plug 2) have left Maceo (Plug 3) at home and joined up with French DJs Chokolate and Khalid to create a concept album that imagines the rise to fame of the titular Hip Hop act, First Serve.

In keeping with their habit of adopting aliases Pos and Dave become Jacob ‘Pop Life’ Barrow and Deen Witter who, at the beginning of the album, are two basement rappers dreaming of the big time. From here First Serve plays out like a movie, each track documenting a period of time in the rise, fall and eventual redemption of the duo.

For a concept album, it’s not exactly the most groundbreaking of narratives, the underdog-comes-good angle has been done to death and there aren’t too many twists and turns outside the expected second act conflict. The outcome is never in doubt and the way resolution is achieved on 'Pop Life' is all a bit too convenient without being in any way clever. Even the side stories are predictable and while we might raise the odd smile for the overbearing mother ('Opening Credits'), the devious record label boss ('Clash Symphony') or the two-timing love interest ('Pop Love'), the characters are one-dimensional.

Both Pos and Dave deliver their trademark slow flow lyrics but the album lacks the real clever social commentary we’ve come to expect from the duo. If this is the album where the Plugs want to kick back and have fun then they have succeeded but it is at the expense of the album’s credibility. On a purely pop level the album can still be enjoyed, much in the same way The Black Eyed Peas singing about tonight being a good night can sell by the bucket load but, like said song, don’t expect to gain any major philosophical insight.

- Brian Kinsella