De La Soul was perhaps one of the most innovative hip-hop groups of the late 80s and early 90s. Coming out of Long Island, three gentlemen would catch the attention of record producer Prince Paul with their wordplay and wit. They were Kevin Mercer (also known as Posdnuos or Plug One,) David Jolicoeur (Trugoy or Plug Two, who recently passed away at the age of 54), and Vincent Mason Jr. (Maseo or Plug Three). This collaboration would create some of the finest music of that period, but their first album would become one of the crowning jewels of hip-hop; Three Feet High and Rising.
Three Feet High was a unique album for the era lyrically, sonically, and visually. In a time when aggression and violence was the norm in hip-hop, the group dared to be different, crafting lyrics of love and positivity amidst various sampled beats and melodies that would define their sound. Visually the album was different from anything else, with bright, vibrant yellows and pinks illuminating peace signs, hearts, and flowers. Daisies would become a recurring motif in the album’s lyrics, often referencing the acronym DA.I.S.Y. (it stands for Da Inner Sound, Y’all.) This led to De La Soul often being called a “Hippy group,” which the group would denounce. The album itself is 67 minutes long and consists of 23 tracks, which was long for the time. Despite the runtime, the entire album deserves a listen. De La Soul frames the songs as advertisements in between skits involving participants on a game show. That being said, I’ll recommend a few standout tracks. The opener, “The Magic Number,” is an incredible tribute to hip-hop and the show “School House Rock.” An interpolation of the classic song “Three is a Magic Number,” is used as a lyrical lesson to introduce the band members, and present what they are all about with mathematical precision. “Eye Know,” a personal favorite, is a carefree and joyous love song. This track is designed to be incredibly infectious, with its creative flow, full instrumentation, catchy whistling (courtesy of Otis Redding) and refrain of “I know I love you better.” Another notable song, “Me, Myself, and I,” would become a radio staple and one of the album’s biggest tracks. De la soul pairs funky synths and drums (taken from a Parliament-Funkadelic song) with lyrics satirizing their hippy image and embracing who they are as individuals.
Unfortunately, De La Soul’s immaculate samples came at a disadvantage, as copyright issues would plague the group for years to come. As a result most of De La Soul’s albums became unavailable to the masses on streaming platforms like Spotify or Apple Music. Nonetheless, the group remains popular to this day despite the copyright issues. They notably appeared with the virtual band Gorillaz on the tracks “Feel Good Inc.” and “Superfast Jellyfish.” Additionally, 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home introduced a new generation of music fans to De La Soul, with the end credits featuring the track “The Magic Number ” referencing the three Spider-Men who appear in the film. This exposure led to a resurgence in popularity. As a result 3 Feet High and De La’s other albums will finally appear on streaming services on the third of March 2023, alongside physical reissues on CD, cassette, and vinyl.