Back in 1985, three Long Island teenagers all failed classes at Amityville Memorial High School and were forced to attend summer school together. Pos, Dove, and Mace started hanging out after school every day, messing around with records, and recording under the name De La Soul. The cool kid in the neighborhood was DJ Prince Paul of Stetsasonic, and when he heard an early version of their first single “Plug Tunin” he too joined forces. This team would go on to make one of the grooviest, quirkiest rap albums of all time, 3 Feet High and Rising, which turns 30 years old today.
De La Soul is now so ingrained in our collective consciousness that it’s easy to forget how unabashedly weird this album was at the time. The previous year had seen classic albums from Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick and many more. Released in March 1989, over a year before the first A Tribe Called Quest album, 3 Feet High set a completely alternative template for hip-hop.
We got an MC named Soundsop spelled backwards, and another named Yogurt spelled backwards. We got African medallions and daisies. Daisy, of course, is Da Inner Sound Ya’ll, and that’s exactly what this album is: an expression of the inner weirdness of four bugged out kids who made it OK to be bugged out. There isn’t one track to skip on this album (unless your parents or children are in the room, in which case you’re skipping “De La Orgy!”).
It’s unacceptable that De La is still struggling to reach a settlement with Tommy Boy Records to get their catalogue on streaming services. If our kids today can stream ‘It Takes A Nation of Millions’ and ‘Paul’s Boutique’, they have to be able to stream 3 Feet High and Rising. Buy a physical copy of this album if you don’t have it, and give it a spin today if you do. You have dandruff.