Rap you could take your mother to see

First Night: De La Soul Jazz Cafe London

RAP, SO LONG the thief of black music's fertile heritage, has suddenly discovered it has a history all of its own. What else could explain the resurgence of all things hip-hop? High street shops are groaning with haut couture evolutions of tracksuits and trainers last seen in East Coast America's dodgiest housing projects and those old-school warriors, Run DMC, only recently relinquished their stranglehold on the charts with the Beastie Boys' collaborator Jason Nevins.

It would be tempting, then, to look to one of rap's longest standing and most innovative acts to preside over this rejuvenation. De La Soul's 1989 album 3 Feet High and Rising was the form's high point, a jokey, intuitive classic.

The Daisy Age the threesome were said to have heralded, proved nothing more than a brief respite in rap's decline, however. De La Soul offered rap an ironic, cerebral future at the start of the Nineties but instead it chose to water down the politicised scaremongering of more visceral groups such as NWA, credited for keeping their coruscating rants "real"'. The Daisy Age was never going to survive gangsta rap's scything nihilism, a fact the group themselves recognised in their disastrous second album, De La Soul Is Dead.

True to the prevailing mood in hip-hop, the trio mount a rootsy, stripped down show. Long free of their flowery imagery, they perform with nothing more than a grand piano incongruously propping up their record decks. Rap, they seem to be saying, is coming home.

Hip-hop artists all too often ram their achievements down their audiences' throats. De La Soul - while they've learnt how to party - still appeal to your better nature. The quartet rattled through 3 Feet High and Rising, not to get their best known hits ("Me, Myself and I") and ("Hey, How Ya Doin'") out of the way, but to get feet moving. The fundamentals of hip- hop performance are all there: the crowd participation, the good-time rhetoric. But they are still the only rap group you would take your Mum to see.

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