March 03, 2014

De La Soul "3 Feet High and Rising" (Spin Magazine, 2005)


"Hip-Hop never had a lawn. Despite a multitude of late-80s voices - from the gangland range of N.W.A. to the political theory of Public Enemy to the mystical modernism of Rakim to the booty mania of 2 Live Crew - it was a given that almost every MC was grounded in the tough-nut rituals of street life. "It's just a ghetto thang," echoed the enigmatic chorus on De La Soul's debut album, "3 Feet High and Rising." But not only did De La talk about having a lawn - the group's three teenage members grew up in the Long Island suburb of Amityville after their parents moved from the Bronx and Brooklyn - they were concerned about the potholes in it, which, in fact, was a metaphor for rival MCs stealing their rhyme style, which was the basis for a song ("Potholes In My Lawn") that featured a Jew's harp and a guy yodeling." Watch the visuals to the track, cont'd below...


"With its flowery Day-Glo graphics, game-show skits, lyrical anagrams, and oddball samples (Steely Dan, Hall and Oates), 3 Feet High and Rising was a vision of the unhinged fun that hip-hop could have if it got the fuck out of the city.... "It was more relaxed (on Long Island)," says Prince Paul, an Amityville DJ who had gained some local fame as a member of Brooklyn vets Stetsasonic but had never produced a record before 3 Feet High. "You had tensions, but it was more average, universal things. Rather than being focused on what was going down in the 'hood or with whatever gang, our thing was more like, 'Hey, we don't like popcorn.' De La Soul's MCs, Posdnous and David "Trugoy" Jolicoeur (along with DJ Vincent "Mase" Mason), didn't boast to boost their self-image; they teased and tweaked. Messages were delivered in twisty syntax (as on the anti drug song "Say No Go")."


"On "The Magic Number," Mercer rapped: "Difficult preaching is Posdnous' pleasure." Recalls Jolicoeur: "We wanted to have people desperate to figure things out, and listen over and over to try and understand." That in mind, he borrowed a Johnny Cash record ("Five Feet High and Rising") from his father, inspiring the album's cryptic title. Aided by the single "Me Myself and I" - with a brightly lit sample of P-Funk's "Knee Deep" - the album was an instant hit, crossing over to college and European audiences. Digs that the group were "hip-hop hippies" (occasioned by their playful "D.A.I.S.Y. Age" ethos) hurt, but now they look back fondly on those days of childlike abandon. "The beauty of that record was that we were so naive," says Prince Paul. "Unfortunately, you can't go back to being stupid, unless you take some bad mind-altering drugs." - Spin Magazine, 7/05 // 5/10.