Are De La Soul the greatest rap group ever to grace the mike? The Long Island trio's first anthology certainly makes the case, from De La's early days in 1988 as dazzling hippie scholars ("Potholes in My Lawn," "Plug Tunin' ") to their jaded-cynics period ("Ring Ring Ring [Ha Ha Hey]") to their ascendance to legend status, able to command the respect of a hard-core rhymer like Redman ("Oooh") and an old-school soul diva like Chaka Khan ("All Good?") alike. De La had fun, too — reliving young lust on "Jenifa (Taught Me)" and whiling the hours away on "A Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays' " — but they were best with claws drawn. On midcareer gems such as "Stakes Is High" and "Ego Trippin' (Part Two)," they delivered maybe the most potent internal critiques hip-hop has ever seen, and did so in just as catchy a manner as the artists they were quietly pushing out of the way.
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