Stakes Is High

Stakes Is High

On their fourth album, Stakes Is High, De La Soul provide the missing link between their unconventional attitude toward ’80s hip-hop and the upcoming revolution in ’90s “indie rap”—the idiosyncratic rappers like Black Star and Company Flow that took their ball and ran with it. It marked a moment where they could have just as easily fallen off—stakes were indeed high, and they subsequently moved away from Prince Paul’s screwball energy toward self-produced boom-bap and classically technical lyricism and punch lines. “I think when Paul was leaving, it was a little scary,” Trugoy the Dove told Apple Music in 2018. “The approach, being on our own, it was scary. It was the first time we invited that many outside producers into our space.” Yearning for the days when MCs were MCs, the album is rooted in the trio’s deserved mythology as rap veterans and an undying devotion to the genre’s tenets. Raps Posdnuos, “While you others represent, I present my rep.” Naturally, its incisive bars about bars would be sampled by a phalanx of artists (Beastie Boys, Gang Starr, Jeru the Damaja, Quasimoto, Deltron 3030) and provided many through lines to the independent rap of the late ’90s: one of the first recorded appearances of Mos Def (“Big Brother Beat”), a guest appearance from Common (“The Bizness”), and a beat (“Stakes Is High”) from a little-known producer who would ultimately call himself J Dilla and change the world with his loping, human production.

Other Versions

Select a country or region

Africa, Middle East, and India

Asia Pacific


Latin America and the Caribbean

The United States and Canada