Flashbacks, May 12, 2006

By EDITORIAL  |  May 11, 2006

RAPPER’S DELIGHT | 15 years ago | May 10, 1991 | Amy Finch compared De La Soul’s first and second albums.

“Two years ago, three guys from Long Island calling themselves De La Soul released an album. 3 Feet High and Rising (Tommy Boy) went on to make a million bodies sway and critics’ hearts go pitter-patter. Someone pronounced it the ‘Sgt. Pepper of rap,’ and for once overstatement fit nicely. 3 Feet High was eclecticism gone haywire, an endless string of funny, exuberant grooves and dada poetics (remember ‘Potholes in My Lawn’?) virtually devoid of sour-hearted boasting, snarling, and one-upmanship. It actually seemed shameful to call the record rap, since to define is to limit.

“The cuts came wrapped in a goofy game-show narrative that made you feel you were watching something too. You felt the band were lovable softies with an irrepressible ache to grind people’s notions about rap into the dirt. Which they did quite literally: an early video found them taking off and burying gold chains, fancy sneakers, and assorted gear that typically signal rap status....

“Indeed, De La Soul Is Dead is yet another triumphant effort to ditch preconceptions. But whereas the earlier record set about squelching notions about rap in general, De La Soul Is Dead wants you to know that De La Soul refuse to be nailed down. Side by side, the two records are like those Monet series paintings that depict a single scene in varying degrees of shading. The narrative thread is still there (in the form of a ‘read-along’ book), as is the band’s trademark silliness (witness ‘Bitties in the BK Lounge’ — nobody can toss around insults more hilariously than these guys).”

GENDER BENDER | 20 years ago | May 13, 1986 | Neil Miller found that new notions of kin were replacing the nuclear family.

“These days, the post–World War II nuclear family, with its husband, wife, 2.3 children, station wagon, and dog, is more faithfully rendered in TV reruns than in real life. Soaring divorce rates have destroyed one of the traditional family’s primary attributes — the promise of security and permanence. The breaking down of gender roles — a man is no longer indispensable as the breadwinner, and a woman is no longer the only family member considered capable of cooking dinner and raising the kids — has had a weakening effect as well. According to recent estimates, 20 percent of all households with children under 18 are headed by single women.

“Out of the wreckage of the nuclear family, new concepts of what constitutes a family and what makes for secure and loving bonding are arising. Mother, father, and children, united by law and the immutable ties of blood, are no longer the essential elements of a family. Under the new definitions, any configuration of individuals that offers nurturing and caring can qualify.

“Even the definition of a ‘nontraditional’ or an ‘alternative’ family is becoming more fluid, no longer restricted to situations where a single mother is raising her biological child. It is becoming more and more acceptable for men to parent, even on their own.”

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