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Taken from SPIN (Mar 01, 2024)

De La Soul's Second Act: An Exclusive Interview

One year after Dave "Trugoy the Dove" Jolicoeur's passing, the remaining members release a 35th anniversary edition of '3 Feet High and Rising' with bonus tracks

by Kyle Eustice

Credit: Richard Bord/Getty Images
Vincent "Mase" Mason during the Blue Note Jazz Festival at Silverado Resort and Spa, July 30, 2023 in Napa, California. (Credit: Richard Bord/Getty Images)

De La Soul's Kelvin "Posdnuos" Mercer and Vincent "Pasemaster Mase" Mason aren't necessarily aware of this, but there's an elephant in the room-or, more accurately, on the phone. Knowing the one-year anniversary of Dave "Trugoy the Dove" Jolicoeur 's death was just days ago on February 12 creates an arc of sadness that has yet to dissipate. Still, Pos and Mase have valiantly pressed on, vowing to carry Trugoy's torch as they figure out how to navigate life without him.

A year ago, the New York-bred trio was just weeks away from celebrating the release of their inaugural six albums-3 Feet High and Rising, De La Soul Is Dead, Buhloone Mindstate, Stakes Is High, Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump, and AOI: Bionix-to digital service providers for the first time. Their hard-won victory came after decades of stalled negotiations with former label Tommy Boy Records, public outcry, and loads of emotional turmoil for the group. And unexpectedly, Trugoy wasn't there to see it.

Credit: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images for Live Nation
Kelvin "Posdnuos" Mercer performs during the NY State of Mind Tour at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena, September 20, 2023. (Credit: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images for Live Nation)

In honor of both Trugoy the Dove and De La Soul's arduous yet triumphant journey, the group has released a 35th anniversary edition of 3 Feet High and Rising. The extended version comes with six bonus tracks (two of them are original home demos), including the first single, "Freedom of Speak (We Got Three Minutes)." Written and recorded between late 1986 and early 1987, the track is peppered with De La Soul's innocuous sense of humor, an explosive sample of James Brown's "Super Bad," and a verse from Trugoy-a gift in itself.

"The home demos that we added are what we had put together before Prince Paul came onboard," Pos explains by phone. "So those home demos are stuff that Mase played before. You'll hear the stuff that's missing from the songs that everyone knows. You'll then realize, 'Oh this is what Prince Paul added to what the guys did in the house.'"

Aside from a track called "Funny Weed," Pos says there weren't many unreleased songs from the Three Feet High recording sessions. The 1988 release of Slick Rick's The Great Adventures of Slick Rick inadvertently put an end to that.

"That was one song where [A Tribe Called Quest's] Q-Tip is in it with us, but that never made the first album," Pos adds. "But anything we recorded once we got our deal for the album, it made the album. But this one just never got finished.

"Slick Rick's album had come out while we were working on it, and it shook me. This album was incredible. I looked at what we were doing and was like, 'We need something else!' I think that's why I didn't finish 'Funny Weed.' It was too fast; it was too light-hearted and too in the vein of 'Three's the Magic Number.' The last record I added to 3 Feet was 'This is a Recording 4 Living in a Fulltime Era (L.I.F.E.).'"

But even as other major artists like Big Daddy Kane and Public Enemy were carving out their own lanes with their innovative work, De La Soul knew they were creating a unique sound.

"At no point when we were recording the album did I feel like, 'Oh this is not measuring up to Kane' or someone else who was coming out because it was just in its own lane," Pos says. "We were just so happy to be recording. Everyone who was hearing the music, you could see in their eyes they were touched and felt like this was something new."

The anniversary edition of 3 Feet High also comes with the 12" version of "Jenifa Taught Me," "What's More," "Plug Tunin' (Home Demo)," "Freedom of Speak (Home Demo)," and "Ain't Hip to Be Labelled a Hippie," which was a huge statement at the time.

Labeled "hippies" early on in their careers, the group quickly grew tired of the distinction and boldly declared De La Soul is Dead on their 1991 sophomore album. The cover art included three wilting daisies spilling out of a clay pot, a nod to the "D.A.I.S.Y. Age" they helped usher in with 3 Feet High and were anxious to shed.

Credit: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images
Posdnuos, Maseo and Trugoy the Dove backstage at The Arena in St. Louis, August 1989. (Credit: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

"'Freedom of Speak' was our first single with Tommy Boy," Pos explains. "The second single was 'Potholes in My Lawn' and 'Jenifa Taught Me.' But the first single following the release of the album was 'Me Myself and I.' We had already had such great press, but nonetheless the press was overstating the whole 'D.A.I.S.Y. Age' and hippie thing. I just felt like, 'Yo, I just want to do this quick song about the press and everyone that's beating us in the head about being hippies.'"

At this point, an enthusiastic Maseo hops on the call and shouts, "I brought my Oculus with me!" to a group of people at a recording studio in Delaware. He'd just arrived and was clearly in good spirits, ready to work. Pos immediately begins to laugh and jokes, "Yo, we're in the library right now. Keep the noise down. You walked in the library blowing party favors!"

"I'm sorry," Mase replies with a chuckle. "I came in hot!" Once he gets into interview mode, Mase offers his take on the hippie label, saying, "I didn't know anything about it back then. I was so wanting to be b-boys and hip-hop in our own way, so it didn't come to mind. Over the years, I began to appreciate it, especially at this age. I'm way more hippie than I am hip-hop."

Pos jumps in, "But you gotta remember, Mase, we had only put out two singles before we even got to the third single. Going into 3 Feet, the press just ate everything up that we were doing so much that the hippie label stood out more than anything else. Every photo shoot we were going to, the photographer wanted to have a bag of daisies. It was just too much."

Mase concedes, "The acronym [D.A.I.S.Y.: DA Inner Sound Y'all] was just misconstrued, and the records we sampled replicated that era as well. In that moment, it wasn't registering to me like that. We just didn't want to be deemed as sellouts. We knew we were very authentic in what we were doing. But we were all struggling with the thought that the [bigger] success we were having, based on some image as opposed to the music, was putting us in that sellout lane."

De La Soul, however, blossomed into bonafide hip-hop stars who've withstood the test of time. Between an upcoming appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the album release, De La Soul Day on March 3, a new merch store- and other surprises-Pos and Mase are continuing to water the soil that sprouted one of hip-hop's most beloved groups. And somewhere, Trugoy is smiling.

"I'm gonna take a page out of KRS-One's book," Mase says. "We got somebody on the other side that's navigating us through this shit. That's real."

Cop the 35th anniversary edition of '3 Feet High and Rising' here.




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