The De La Plugs created the D.A.I.S.Y. (Da Inna Sound, Y'all) philosophy on their brilliant and weird debut, Three Feet High and Rising (making them the first—and probably only—hip-hop act to appropriate a Johnny Cash song for their album title). Then they tried to kill the Daisy with their follow-up, De La Soul Is Dead and then tried to find their way through the aftermath of that unnecessary act on Buh-Loone Mind State. Finally, a full three albums from their first, De La finds their footing with Stakes Is High.
Here, they're no longer so self-conscious and it's easy to remember why you liked them enough in the first place to stick with them through the hard times. With unfaltering lyrical dexterity, they get to ask the question, "Whatever happened to the Emcees?" ("Super-Emcees"), skewer the industry ("The Bizness," with some help from that super MC, Common), and even shout out to their birthplace, Long Island, twice (on "Long Island Degrees" and the break-down-funky "Wonce Again Long Island"). —Todd Levin