De La Soul’s favourite songs from their earliest records
(Credit: Matti Hillig)

Old School Archives

De La Soul's favourite songs from their earliest records

De La Soul’s place in the culture was as a legendary trio who, in their short but sweet time in the limelight, impacted the rap music culture. Although the collective didn’t have a lengthy run, that’s not to undermine their importance in developing the epic East Coast Jazz-Hop subgenre.

The Long Island collective was a critical force in promoting alternative hip-hop during the 1980s. Comprised of three individuals, Posdnuos, the late Trugoy The Dove and Maseo, the New York collective, used his ingenuity to produce music that broke the boundaries of hip-hop and encouraged sonic fusion.

Last year, the trio lost one of their members, Trugoy The Dove (real name David Jolicoeur). However, prior to his death, the group had an interview with the esteemed magazine GQ about their early albums and some of their favourite tracks.

In their conversation with journalist Rob Kenner, Trugoy The Dove, Kelvin’ Posdnuos’ Mercer and Vincent ‘Maseo’ Mason reflected on their career beginnings and began with their breakout album 3 Feet High and Rising, which only arrived on streaming services last year.

3 Feet High And Rising, (1989)

3 Feet High And Rising, with its bright yellow cover and flamboyant pink writing, may have presented the trio as a soft, lighthearted rap collective but had a vast amount of hard-hitting material. It was like nothing out at the time and was aesthetically loud. 

Looking back on their groundbreaking debut album, Posdnuos reflected on the tracklist and, while running through its hits such as ‘The Magic Number’ and ‘Potholes in My Lawn’, landed upon his favourite track ‘Tread Water’. 

Detailing why the Prince Paul-produced song is so close to his heart, the Long Island native explained, “I just feel like it’s such a great, positive message. Cause it’s just about keeping your head and trudging on, above all the negativity. And this song is just a lighthearted but really powerful record in terms of cleverly using animals.”

‘Tread Water’ wasn’t a single and wasn’t even commercially successful. However, Posdnuos clearly put a lot of effort into the lyrics and had a lot of meaning behind them. 

De La Soul Is Dead, (1991)

Fast-forwarding to 1991, Kenner began asking the trio about their sophomore project, De La Soul Is Dead. Prince Paul executively produced the project, and was released via Tommy Boy Records. However, the 1991 body of work was less lighthearted than the trio’s debut and focused on more serious topics such as drug addiction and even sexual abuse. 

The cover showed a smashed daisy pot, which contrasted with the daisy chain and flowers depicted on 3 Feet High And Rising. Discussing the change in tone and its more grounded lyricism, Kenner, again, asked the trio about some of their personal highlights. 

Despite Pos picking ‘Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa’ as his favourite, Trugoy The Dove detailed why ‘Bitties in the BK Lounge’ has to take the hotspot for him. Validating his decision, Trugoy explained, “My choice would be “Bitties in the BK Lounge” because it’s like reading De La’s Journal, something that really happened—an actual situation that took place in life, and we put it to song. Our experiences working as employees of Burger King definitely adds to it.”

He continued, “We worked in Burger King at some point together or at the establishment. And there was so many memories there and those memories spilled onto the record. And even after being fortunate enough to start a career in hip hop and travelin’ and stuff, we’ve also had instances of being in restaurants—or specifically Burger King.”

Buhloone Mindstate, (1993)

De La Soul’s third project was entitled Buhloone Mindstate. Released in 1993, the album had to compete with various legendary projects such as Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, Strictly 4 My N*ggaz and Doggystyle. The body of work saw less success than the trio’s first two albums but was still an exciting project.

Speaking to the trio about this album, which was the last to be produced by Prince Paul, Kenner highlighted how it was very jazz-heavy and asked them about Shortie No Mass, an artist who featured heavily on the album but was fairly unheard of.

Speaking about the free-thinking mindset they entered the album with, Maseo told Kenner, “At that time, we weren’t vetting artists to sign to us or anything like that. It was always in a creative moment. We were in the studio. If it worked creatively, we used that person. And we always made sure people was compensated fairly. And with Shortie on that project, she was sort of a mainstay. She worked with a lot of the concepts and ideas that Pos, in particular, was coming up with.”

Concerning Shortie No Mass, Posdnuos revealed that ‘En Focus’ featuring Shortie No Mass and Dres is his favourite song from Buhloone Mindstate. Explaining how he enjoyed making the song, the emcee detailed, “I have to say ‘En Focus.’ That was just fun putting that record together. It was me saying, ‘Yo man, we’re about to use this sample that Masta Ace had used, and I think he’s gonna love the way we used it.’ Like when you just felt like you’re gonna impress someone and they’re gonna be like, ‘Yo, the way they flipped it was dope!’ That was just a really dope record.”

He concluded, “Even with Shortie already being kind like put throughout the entire album, I just love her. And I think Dres’ rhyme on that was just fuckin’ amazing.”

The trio released six more albums following this. However, De La Soul’s first three projects were groundbreaking. You can listen to De La Soul’s first three albums below.