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DE LA SOUL 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING

On their debut album, 3 Feet High And Rising, Long Island trio De La Soul forged a vibrant new template for hip-hop, radically different from the macho posturing of their contemporaries. Forty years on from its release, Neil Crossley charts the creation of a suburban-inspired masterpiece
Kelvin Mercer, David Jude Jolicoeur and Vincent Mason, also known as Posdnuos, Trugoy The Dove and Pasemaster Mase
Getty

“Our parents moved us into a world of boredom. It allowed our imaginations to go wherever they wanted” PASEMASTER MASE

On 6 April 2011, the US Library of Congress unveiled a list of 25 recordings, drawn up the previous year, that it deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically important” in informing or reflecting life in the United States. The list, known as the National Recording Registry, is compiled annually and spans a rich and diverse cultural heritage. Entries on the 2010 list include the 1911-1914 cylinder recordings of the last surviving member of the Yahi tribe, who inhabited the remote cliff country of Northern California; the haunting 1927 recording of gospel blues song Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground by Blind Willie Johnson; and the 1969 album Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band

Positioned right at the end of the list is the 1989 debut album 3 Feet High And Rising by three teenagers from Long Island called De La Soul, which was acclaimed by the Library of Congress for “its astonishing range of samples”.

On the album, De La Soul unleashed a playful, witty and hugely innovative sound that was light years away from the prevailing hardcore sound of their contemporaries.

The album would shake up the hip-hop community. Three decades on from its release, 3 Feet High And Rising remains a universally recognised masterpiece.

SOUND OF THE SUBURBS

As creative environments go, the suburbs of Amityville,

Long Island where the three members of De La Soul grew up, are a world away from the streets of New York and Los Angeles that spawned many of their contemporaries. Instead of inner-city block parties, it was suburban bedrooms where Kelvin ‘Posdnuos’ Mercer, Dave Trugoy The Dove’ Jolicoeur, and Vincent ‘Pasemaster Mase’ Mason began experimenting with new sounds.

Right from the start, it was clear that De La Soul were different. Theirs was a kooky, insular world, as reflected in their choice of stage names. The press kit for 3 Feet High And Rising offered explanations of these for the benefit of bewildered journalists: Trugoy, when reversed, spells yogurt, because Jolicoeur liked yogurt, while Posdnuos was an inversion of Mercers DJ name, Sound-Sop.

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