DE LA SOUL

"The Grind Date"

AOI/Sanctuary Urban

FEDERICO AUBELE

"Gran Hotel Buenos Aires"

Eighteenth Street Lounge Music

Speaking softly, then gradually growing louder, De La Soul opens its latest CD with the assertion that it is the past, present and future. A career of 15-plus years definitely gives the group a claim on the past. As for the present and future, "The Grind Date" suggests De La Soul may well have a good grip on that also.

Opening track "The Future" is an acknowledgment of where De La is from, with shout-outs to old Native Tongues running buddies A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, Monie Love and other members of that coalition of socially aware rappers back in the late '80s and early '90s. Then De La really kicks it into gear with the instantly catchy, slightly grimy "Verbal Clap." The beats don't stop. The stuttery instrumentation of "Shopping Bags (She Got From You)," the get-your-act-together message of "Church," the hilarity of "Come on Down" (with a Flava Flav cameo), the heavyweight blows of "Rock Co.Kane Flow" (with MF Doom) are all banging. And I haven't even mentioned quality cuts like the rhyme-spitting joint "He Comes" with Ghostface, "Days of Our Lives" with Common or the title track with its street philosophy.

De La Soul has been around a long time, but Pos, Dave and Maseo are anything but stale, delivering one of their best works in years.

With "Gran Hotel Buenos Aires," Argentine guitarist Federico Aubele has created a CD that's easy to listen to. Aubele, along with Washington's own Thievery Corporation, who served as producers, blends his deft playing with sampled beats and riffs, seductive female vocals and even the occasional bit of scratching to create atmospheric electronica that could easily vanish as a wisp of background music except that it sounds so good you can't help but listen intently. "Gran Hotel Buenos Aires" is one you'll want to check into -- and you won't want to leave.

-- Curt Fields

Appearing Friday at the 9:30 club. * To hear a free Sound Bite from De La Soul, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8131; to hear Federico Aubele, press 8132. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)

Pencil in De La Soul's "The Grind Date" on your musical calendar.