Being able to sustain consistency in this game is an accomplishment few can achieve or even come close to coveting. De La Soul is one of those few, unique artists that have been able to achieve longevity in this game without compromising their style one bit. They have always been the odd group out; pushing barriers, challenging the fake, and setting trends at the same time. They changed the world of Hip-Hop with their first two releases "3feet High and Rising" and "De La Soul is Dead", pushed barriers with "Buhloone Mindstate", and proclaimed their disgust with the current state of Hip-Hop with "Stakes Is High." After taking some time off, De La returned in 2000 with the first in the trilogy of the Art Official Intelligence series, "Mosaic Thump." The album was a new look for De La Soul, but deep down it was the same old style we loved all along.
The album was a success mainly in part to the huge commercial success of "Oooh", which ended up as the summer anthem of 2000. A year later, De La follows up "Mosaic Thump" with their second installment in the AOI series "Bionix".
While "Bionix" continues the De La Soul tradition of great, fun filled Hip-Hop music, it is a different step in a different direction. While "Mosaic Thump" featured a great mix of variety, "Bionix" is more mature sound geared toward the aspect of love and relationships. De La was never one to portray the immature sounds consuming the industry today. They have grown as people, and "Bionix" is evident of this. It seems that they're one of the few groups who can pull off such a task as seen on this album without sounding watered down. However, "Bionix" does end up as repetitive and lacks in the replay area due to this lack in variety.
The main problem with "Bionix" is that it lacks that touch of originality that De La Soul usually provides with each release. Tracks like "Special", "Am I Worth You" and "The Sauce" (featuring the lackluster Philly Black) are all decent efforts from the legendary group, but don't offer anything that will keep your attention for more than a few listens. "Peer Pressure" (featuring B-Real) is a two sided tale of the pros and con's of smoking weed. Jay-Dee laces the track with some nice, funky production, but its unoriginal concept prevents it from truly being something special. Even though these tracks are questionable to say the least, there are only two remotely bad tracks featured on "Bionix." "Watch Out" is a lame attempt at striking a different crowd, and is an uncharacteristic step for De La. However, the one track that truly makes you cringe in response is the horrendous "Pawn Star" featuring shell council. The track's tedious concept is some of the worst material De La has ever put out.
Even though the mistakes on "Bionix" are noticeable, the better part of the album is filled with some classic examples of great De La Soul music. The lead single "Baby Phat" featuring Devin is a nicely laced track, that is an anthem for all those "big boned" women out there. The title track "Bionix" is exactly what we have come to expect from De La. Posdnuos does his usual stellar job on the mic, dropping the tracks best verse. "Unlike these underground MC's who rock for heads, we include the throat, chest, arms and legs. No need to spit in the cypher to show you I'm a lifer for rap, I cultivate moves larger than that."
More album highlights come from the heartfelt "Trying People" and the x rated tales from Slick Rick on "What We Do (For Love)." However, the albums true gem comes from the Cee-Lo calibration on the soulful, empowering "Held Down". The track is great look into De La's view of the world around them. "This is dedicated to all my folks diagnosed with a bad case of that proper upbringing. And never took the time to fall in line or follow or swallow the thoughts". (Posdnous)
As with any De La Soul release, you can be expected to be entertained right from the get go. De La is one of those few groups that doesn't make their music to be accepted. Like any great group they make it for themselves and their fans. "Bionix" is a two-sided story; on one hand it is a great example of artists that have been able to mature, and perfect their sounds over the years. However, on the other hand it is an album that just lacks anything that will make it stand out for more than a short period of time. Its replay value is usually low, and fails to capture the experience "Mosaic Thump" had to offer. Nevertheless, "Bionix" is still a solid release. After releasing 6 albums spawning over a decade, what does the Hip-Hop world expect from De La Soul? They have said and done more in six albums, than most have done in a lifetime. De La has always been a group ahead of its time, and never satisfied with sticking with the same script. "Bionix" is a prime example of this and shows their growth and maturity in an industry that is rarely known for such.