Three Feet High And Rising
De La Soul
De La Soul's debut album has long been seen as an instant classic, but it's now sitting in something of a vacuum. The reason being that it's a so incredibly original that it paradoxically led the band down a creative dead end. Its message of positivity (shared by others such as A Tribe Called Quest), was originally seen as an answer to the world of rap, which had become increasingly misogynistic and violent. But take a look around today and it seems to confirm that while their message was both intelligent and deftly put, it fell on deaf ears. But for a moment , it looked like De La Soul had shown the direction that hip hop should take.
The LP is still sparklingly different. Prince Paul's use of samples from sources not usually associated with the genre (Steely Dan? Hall And Oates? The album's title was taken from a JOHNNY CASH song!) may seem ordinary now, but at the time it was groundbreaking. Ironically it was also what led to the legal minefield that such snippets provide for each new hip hop album as The Turtles sued for the use of 'You Showed Me' on 'Transmitting Live From Mars'.
And what of the subject matter? Here the issues addressed are hippie philosophy (Tread Water), first love (Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin's Revenge)), drug abuse (Say No Go), body odour (A Little Bit Of Soap), and, amazingly for a rap record, self-doubt (Can U Keep A Secret). It was all delivered in that self-deprecating style with oodles of humour. And while the 'hippie' tag bothered the band for years, it was a palatable blend that could have taken rap beyond material gain and gang problems. If only.