De La Soul formed while the trio

  • Posdnuos (born Kelvin Mercer, August 17, 1969)
  • Trugoy the Dove (b. David Jude Jolicoeur, September 21, 1968)
  • Pasemaster Mase (b. Vincent Mason, March 27, 1970)
— were attending high school in the late '80s. The stage names of all of the members derived from in-jokes: Posdnuos was an inversion of Mercer's DJ name, Sound-Sop; Trugoy was an inversion of Jolicoeur's favorite food, yogurt. De La Soul's demo tape, "Plug Tunin'," came to the attention of Prince Paul, the leader and producer of the New York rap outfit Stetsasonic. Prince Paul played the tape to several colleagues and helped the trio land a contract with Tommy Boy Records.

After the release of their first record, several critics and observers labeled the group as a neo-hippie band, because the record praised peace and love, as well as proclaiming the dawning of "the D.A.I.S.Y. age" (Da Inner Sound, Y'all). Though the trio was uncomfortable with the hippie label, there was no denying that the humor and eclecticism presented an alternative to the hardcore rap that dominated hip-hop. De La Soul quickly were perceived as the leaders of a contingent of New York-based alternative rappers which also included A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, the Jungle Brothers and Monie Love; all of these artists dubbed themselves the Native Tongues Posse.

For a while, it looked like the more positive, non-violent wave of rap would eclipse the harder vein. "Me, Myself, and I" became a Top 40 hit in the US, and the record went gold. After some legal troubles involving the sampling of the Turtles song "You Showed Me" on 3 feet high and rising, their production process was slowed greatly. Artists were now required to clear all samples legally before releasing a record.

Since then, De La Soul has spent quite a few years in between records, with their newest being released in a trilogy, of sorts. They still have quite a following, and are generally regarded as one of the more talented acts in rap, collaborating with Ad Rock of the Beastie Boys, and Busta Rhymes.


  • 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
  • De La Soul is Dead (1991)
  • Buhloone Mindstate (1993)
  • Stakes is High (1996)
  • Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump (2000)
  • Art Official Intelligence: Bionix (2001)

When De La Soul first came to public attention I was a child and had the open mind of a child. As such, nothing about them seemed subversive or particularly innovative. They sounded to me then like they do when I review their early work now: like a bunch of great friends messing around and having fun. I've come to recognise this as a characteristic of many of the truly great groups.

Eye Know has a tinny hi-hat quite high up in the mix that I remember being distracted by, listening to 3 Feet High and Rising on headphones in the dark in my childhood bedroom. There are lots of silly jokes on that record about people they know being smelly or having dandruff. I've never been able to confirm the theory but I'm convinced that the name “De La Soul” was chosen to allow DJs to scratch on the word “asshole”. At times they were socially-conscious. The use of samples such as Fiorello H. LaGuardia asking, “what does it all mean?” infected my brain with their influences and the early hip hop ecosystem.

They're not that much older than me. Less than ten years. I think it's because of this that I felt able to access them in a way that made them feel more like big brothers than other artists I found in the record shops. They talked about things familiar to me like getting bad service in Burger King or talking to girls in the park. I can still recite all of those songs. I remember getting bullied by heavy metal enthusiasts about liking that stuff. A Rollerskating Jam Named Saturdays was the soundtrack to the summer of my 1991.

I grew up during the Golden Age of hip hop and it was right at the end of that most productive period that they released Stakes is High. This was the time that they first showed their capacity for the discipline in production that came to be synonymous with their name and was a serious, jam-packed record with talented collaborators and an evolved, more precise, rhyming style. As I had grown into a young man, now big enough to get into hip hop clubs I saw that they had grown along with me.

They came to my town sometime at the end of the nineties and I had to go along. In a small venue, Maseo warmed-up the crowd with a DJ set. I remember the whole place blowing up when he dropped Redman's Tonight's Da Night. Posdunous wore wire-framed glasses and stood at the side, rubbing his chin as if evaluating the crowd. I went over and said hi, of course. He wasn't interested in me. They played a fun set that was well-received. I remember them replacing the words to the refrain of Me Myself and I with “we hate this fucking song”. They must have been playing that one out for nearly a decade by then.

The songs kept coming. I was amazed when they did a track with Chaka Khan. As I approached my thirties they kept their sense of fun but started talking about what it felt like to be parents and complex feelings of estrangement from their earlier days, reflecting on the loss of old friends and lovers, particularly on the album Bionix. My first daughter was born in the same year that they released The Grind Date.

Being a parent makes you put on weight unless you're blessed with an instinctive discipline. They must have had the same problem because in the year I ran my first marathon they released Are You In? in collaboration with Nike sportswear, a mixtape of original material for runners that will just about get you through a 10k.

They toured in my town again after the COVID-19 lockdown was lifted. I insisted on taking all three of my kids to see them. Reluctant at first, they reported a great time. De La Soul obviously knew their audience perfectly, modifying their call-and-response material to, “if you're over forty-five say 'yo'” and, later, “if you're here with your dad say 'oh no'”.

Songwriter and vocalist with the group Trugoy the Dove died in February this year, just a few weeks before their music was finally cleared for streaming services. He was 54. The term, “end of an era” is rarely applied this literally. When I heard the news I thought about that last show they put on where, apparently having come to terms with their biggest hit having been Me, Myself and I they delivered a version of that song that slowed down towards the end, stripping out first the Funkadelic sample and then the drumbeat until all that was left was the guys, unaccompanied, enunciating the words, “me, myself, and I” under a spotlight until that, too, was cut, leaving the stage in darkness.

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