[5 May 2009]
Nike’s running mixes have certainly grown from what originally appeared to be artist-at-the-helm mixes. From Aesop Rock to LCD Soundsystem, a fair amount of reputable rappers and producers, or both, have tackled the idea of throwing together what is half concept record and half continuous compilation. Either way, they all have the same goal. The point of these mixes is to, with the help of music, make the listener hit the ground running. Sure, there is a fiscal side to it as well. But the idea that artists are coming together to create sometimes-original efforts with the idea of making people exercise is somewhat inspiring. And it’s certainly refreshing at a time when there is a plethora of unhealthy advertisements everywhere you turn. Sure, you might see a Vitamin Water spot here and there, but what sticks in your mind? Dancing lizards and guys in white dancing outfits or the Burger King and his ladies dancing to a remix of “Baby Got Back” aimed at children? If you guessed the King, you win. Don’t take this as a PSA, though, but more as just the truth of it all.
But enough preaching about childhood obesity, or obesity in general. Interestingly enough, at least one of these Nike+ mixes garnered enough attention to be more than just an iTunes-only purchase. And that was LCD Soundsystem’s 45:33, which was later released on vinyl and CD. Unfortunately, even though it is enjoyable, it’s doubtful that De La Soul’s Are You In? will receive the same treatment. The 45-minute single continuous track is a blend of all new tracks, something that we can all certainly be excited about. And that is further accentuated by the fact that the Plug’s last original effort was 2006’s The Impossible: Mission TV Series - Pt. 1, which featured some already-released tracks like “Wasn’t For You (Remix)” off Handsome Boy Modeling School’s White People.
Even with the all new music, though, Are You In? isn’t entirely worth getting too excited about. Yes, the 10-track mix is solid and good. But it’s not up to snuff when taken out of context. As a series of joints primed to either pump you up or cool you down, it does its job more than well enough. From the beautiful opening number “Mornin’ Rise” featuring the fantastic crooner Raheem DeVaughn to the aptly-titled “Pick Up Your Pace (Run)”, everything in here just works. And what is most interesting is the fact that De La and DJ Flosstradamus, who mixed and produced some tracks on here, didn’t just rely on boom-bap. There is plenty of it sprinkled throughout, but there is also some trance and even rock thrown in, too. And, musically, it’s something you wouldn’t need to lace up your Nike’s to listen to. When you do hit the concrete or track or treadmill, though, this mix will absolutely keep you moving. The constant beats, the heavy drums, the guitar riffs, the synths, and everything in between are going to keep you running, jogging, or walking. And one of the highlights is actually the aforementioned “Pick Up Your Pace (Run)”. Dave and Pos rap with a distortion effect as DJ cuts, jazz drums, and guitar riffs fill the background. It might sound like a mess, but it all bleeds together naturally.
But lyrically, that’s where it all starts to fall apart. Pos and Dave are on their same bitter-tip from The Grind Date, but none of it packs the same punch. And that’s a damn shame because these are two of the most consistent and talented emcees to ever grace the mic. Their verses consist of either spiteful lyrics shitting on the new breed of rappers or they just go with the concept of this record and essentially rap about exercising. It’s understandable since that’s the whole point of Are You In?, which actually stands for R.U.N. But it would be foolish to not at least expect the same level of lyrical expertise heard on past De La albums. Not everything spit on here is a dud, but don’t expect to be reciting any verses.
From the standpoint of being a mix to make you run, Are You In? is spot-on outside of some interludes going on too long. The beats are all there and they are likely to keep your pace steady and strong. But there is rapping on here. And, unfortunately for this legendary group, the time spent in the booth was not well-spent. Grab this if you need a solid work-out mix, but do not expect much more than that.