Press Play: De La Soul

In general, when people think of hippies they do not conjure up an image of three black men performing hip-hop which is why De La Soul is special and unique.  From the onset of their debut in the music scene, they approached their lyrics and sound from a deep space. This space created a subgenre and subculture of hip-hop that the world had rarely seen.

The hip hop trio formed in 1987 in Long Island, New York. The three met while in high school and recorded a demo that caught the ear of producer Prince Paul. Paul would produce the group’s first album 3 Feet High and Rising. This album allowed them into the circle of Native Tongues posse providing them the opportunity to rub elbows with prominent artists like A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah and Black Sheep. 3 Feet High and Rising was the group’s most commercially successful album.  Thematically the album was about peace and harmony; unintentionally branding the band as hip-hop hippies.De La Soul 2

The group’s sophomore album took a different approach. Although it still provided listeners with a deeper experience it was more serious. De La Soul is Dead criticized the negative turn hip-hop had taken.  The album had a rough incarnation, but over time became better received from listeners.

They went on to release their junior album Buhloone Mindstate, and then Stakes is High.  Stakes is High was a prophetic and fitting title as this was the group’s first self-produced album.  Unfortunately, the album did not sell well which was a paradox to how the album was received. It was praised for its music and bold lyricism that protested against the artistic decline of rap music that occurred in the 90’s.

Although De La Soul has gone through traditional growing pains of dealing with record labels and evolving individually they have managed to be one of the few hip-hop groups who have stuck together.  They have released six albums since their first. They have also participated in many collaborations. Notably, the Grammy-winning song “Feel Good” by the Gorillaz.   Their newest album and The Anonymous Nobody… was funded by a Kickstarter campaign.  They have stuck to their format of always creating sounds that send listeners to a place of questioning and reflection.  And The Anonymous Nobody… features 17 tracks with the first single featuring Snoop Dogg. Be sure to press play on De La Soul for a deeper listening experience.

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