To celebrate the 20th anniversary of 3 Feet High and Rising De La Soul gave Rollingstone Magazine a track by track break down of each song.
The first time I heard De La Soul was a 12″ of “Plug Tunin” that my cousin had borrowed from a friend. This was back in 1988 when hip-hop wasn’t played on the radio 24 hours a day so to hear a new song was damn near an event. If it wasn’t on Video Music Box we had to wait until Red Alert or Mr. Magic came on at night. So we huddled around a plastic Fisher Price turntable and prayed the batteries lasted long enough to make it to the end of the song. I think having to actually seek out and find the music is what made us appreciate it more. The slowed down sample of The Invitations “Written On The Wall” was unlike anything else out at the time and then they followed up with “Potholes In My Lawn” which was a strange statement on so many levels. Here you had these guys from Long Island talking about potholes, which were a scourge of the inner city roadways, but in their front lawns? In my part of Flatbush, Brooklyn the closest thing to a lawn was that little patch of grass by the lamp post that the dogs peed in. But it turned out to be a fantastic metaphor for biting styles that lives on til today for those of us that remember.
A lot of folks throw around the word “classic” in reference to albums that have come out in the past few years and as hip-hop matures we’re finding out who really deserved that title. As a longtime hip-hop fan and supporter it’s a privilege to be able to look back TWENTY YEARS at a project that I grew up listening to and know that it really was that good. Furthermore, when you look at all of the groups that have broken up after two albums the fact that Pos, Mase and Dave are still recording together is even more incredible.
So take a moment to read De La’s memories and hope that in 20 years your favorite artist will be around to do the same.
“The Magic Number”
Posdnous: “At that point, we were still trying things in Mase’s house, just having fun with records. [Schoolhouse Rock‘s] ‘Multiplication Rock’ was a record we just had and we were already in love with History of the Hip-Hop I record from Tommy Boy, where Double Dee and Steinski had the beat that was up top there, so we decided to just put those two together on our little Casio machine.”
Trugoy: “There was no plan back then. It was just putting songs together and placing them where they belonged. Obviously three of us in the group, ‘3 is the magic number’ became the philosophy, but mostly, it was just a song that we loved and it became part of the album.”
“Change in Speak”
Posdnous: “There was a record I found that had a whole bunch of great songs from the Mad Lads on it. Then we just decided to put the ‘Bra’ song from Cymade on it, we just started mashing things. We all worked together really well as a foursome, just trying to add different things.”
“Cool Breeze on the Rocks”
Posdnous: “Honestly, I can’t even remember why we decided to make that collage in the first place. When we started, it was just so cool to try to do it, like, ‘Yo, how bout “Rocket in the Pocket” ‘ — everyone was just trying to scroll through their mind for any song that said ‘rock’ in it. Everyone came to the studio with a different album, whether it was a rap album, a rock album, Michael Jackson.”
Trugoy: “We weren’t thinking legalities at that time. We were just thinking about putting good music together, and although there was a process — even at that time, we did have clear samples, and turn in information — but our label didn’t think that really had to clear the samples because they only expected the album to sell a couple of thousand anyway.”
“Can U Keep a Secret”
Posdnous: “That song is a testament to a lot of the stuff we did in the studio in that it wasn’t planned out as a song.”
Trugoy: “That was just another high moment. And a lot of people there. We had 15 or more people at our sessions at all times and we were always thinking, ‘Let’s utilize voices, let’s utilize personalities.’ ”
“Jenifa Taught Me”
Posdnous: “The original record was one of my father’s, ‘Soupy’ [by Maggie Thrett], some old doo-wop record. It was definitely Paul who came with the Liberace cassette with ‘Chopsticks.’ ”