3 Feet High and 25 Yrs Old
25 years ago today, De La Soul put out one of the most important hip hop records of all time, but great music and its influence expands beyond genre. As did this one.
I remember the first time I heard 3 Feet High and Rising by De La Soul. My friend bought it just after it came out and brought it to my house to listen to while we shot hoops. Usually we’d listen to big, loud, banging rap music while we played hoops like Public Enemy or Run DMC. This was… anything but that.
I thought, “what the frig is this?” I never heard anything like it. That intrigued me. I never heard rappers or rap music like that. They sampled Steely Dan, Ben E.King, Hall & Oates, Johnny Cash and The Doors to name a few. That intrigued me. I never heard such interludes and weirdness on a record like on that record. That really intrigued me. They didn’t wear baseball hats of tough sports teams or drape fat, gold chains around their necks. They were different. Positive, big on peace, girls, friends, music, art, partys and enjoying life. I wasn’t sure if I was liking this record at first, but… I was intrigued.
Ok, so like five minutes later of course I adored the record and all of the freshness it brought to hip hop. It was kind of a crazy record. Crazy can be cool. De Le Soul became a band that you didn’t have to be a rap fan to embrace. Thats pretty cool. They rose above genre and just became a “group” to so many people. Sure they’re a rap group. They had one of the best rap producers ever (Prince Paul) overseeing them and they were on one of the soon to be biggest rap labels in the world, but they became universal.
I really like this quote from Robert Christgau in his Consumer Guide column’s review of 3 Feet High and Rising… “An inevitable development in the class history of rap, [De La Soul is] new wave to Public Enemy‘s punk.” I think I can totally get down with that assessment. I mean we love the Sex Pistols (punk) and all that chaos, but look at The Police (new wave) and the influence they’ve had on so much after them. The Police sounded unlike anything and yet they reached so many people. Yeah, I think Robert’s quote fits well here.
They’d go on to have a fantastic career, which still hums to this day. Even in recent times you heard them on the Gorillaz records.
De La Soul were a big reason for hip hop reaching college students about 23 years ago and they found a steady home at those colleges everywhere in the US. That collegiate support still lasts to this day really. The college scene in the late 80’s/early 90’s opened a new world for hip hop and De La was a major if not THE most major reason for that (along with A Tribe Called Quest).
This De La Soul record and another one we’ll celebrate in the summer (Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys) changed rap possibly more than any other records. They would reach more people in the music world with originality and a fresh approach. Their musical appreciation drove those records. You can tell by listening to any De La Soul record, especially this one that they are music fans. That to me is what helped make them so universal. No one could ever lay that ol’, “rap isn’t music” crapola line on this band. No way, no how!
I’ll leave you with this story, when I did college radio many many many years ago; I made one trip (of eventually quite a few) to NYC to visit record label friends. This particular trip, a few of us went to see out friends at Tommy Boy Records, De La Soul’s label for pretty much their entire career. Our radio rep friend let us go into the stock room. He said the magic words, “go ahead, take whatever you guys want or need”, then walked away. It was like the kids set loose in Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Copies of House of Pain, Naughty By Nature, Planet Rock, Apache and others were flying all over the place. I snagged a few things, but one thing I wanted was an up-opened copy of this record by De La Soul. I don’t know why I thought of it like this, but a thought hit me that I wanted to give a sealed copy to one of my kids when they got older. I mean, I’ll do the same with Sgt. Peppers and Ok Computer and Van Halen 1 and Jeff Buckey’s Grace and some others, but I wanted to have this to save for my offspring cause I felt this was that type of a special album. An album from the past, that will still sound like the future.
Enjoy the DA.I.S.Y age with some De La videos & this awesome album promo.