March 1989: De La Soul Debut on 'Three Feet High and Rising'

Submitted by notoriousclassics on Wed, 03/17/2021 - 21:13
De La Soul's 'Three Feet High and Rising'

As the '80s began to draw to a close, the hip-hop sound that came of age during the decade was changing. One of the biggest changes came on March 3, 1989, when De La Soul hit the scene with their debut 3 Feet High and Rising.

The men of De La Soul - Posdnuos, Trugoy the Dove and Maseo - were part of a loose New York-area rap collective known as the Native Tongues. (Other key members included The Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest and Queen Latifah.) The Tongues struck back at the flash and cash that was starting to show itself on rap records in favor of what the trio referred to as "The D.A.I.S.Y. Age" - an acronym for "DA Inner Sound, Y'all."

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While some critics assumed that meant De La identified as hippies, they were fully living in the now in terms of hip-hop sounds and humor. 3 Feet High and Rising was rich in positive vibes, quirky lyrical wordplay and a dense bed of sampled records: from Daryl Hall & John Oates ("Say No Go"), to Otis Redding and Steely Dan ("Eye Know") all the way to Funkadelic's "(Not Just) Knee Deep," which formed the backbone of the album's signature song "Me Myself and I." That track topped both the R&B and hip-hop charts in America and became a Top 40 pop hit.

While considered one of the greatest rap albums of all time - praised by critics and selected for preservation by the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry - 3 Feet High and Rising regrettably remains hard to acquire. Fans cannot stream or download it due to ongoing issues regarding samples from more than 30 years ago. The group and its fans continue to hold out hope that it can be accessed more easily by fans; until then, eagle-eyed record collectors would do well to investigate this classic piece of the culture.