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One of the best known acts in the first wave of Alternative Hip Hop, De La Soul is best known for their eclectic Sampling and quirky lyrics. The group consists of Posdnuos, Dave Jude Jolicoeur (formally Trugoy) and Maseo. They were also heavily associated with producer Prince Paul (also known for his work with Handsome Boy Modeling School and Gravediggaz).
Upon release of their debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising in 1989, the group was frequently called "hippies" due to the fact that the lyrics often talked about peace and love, the album cover featured daisies, and their clothing wasn't exactly in line with the usual stereotypical Hip Hop gear. However, the group specifically stated that they are not hippies in the lyrics to their single, "Me Myself and I", which they performed on The Arsenio Hall Show...immediately after Arsenio introduced De La Soul as "the hippies of hip hop", indicating that he never listened to their music. Further adding to the disrespect, the credits for the show ran over the performance before the group was finished.
Also, their sampling got them into some hot water - Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan of The Turtles and The Mothers Of Invention sued De La Soul over an uncredited sample of the Turtles song "You Showed Me" in De La Soul's interlude "Transmitting Live from Mars" and were later given credit for the sample. Volman and Kaylan later explained that they like samples, as long as they receive credit for the original recording.
Following continuing frustration over being called hippies, De La Soul released a Darker and Edgier album, De La Soul Is Dead, featuring an album cover depicting a broken pot of daisies. The album's sketches formed a storyline that was essentially a Take That towards Gangsta Rap, where the group expressed frustration over the fact that they were overlooked because they didn't embody Hardcore Hip Hop stereotypes by portraying a group of bullies listening to De La Soul Is Dead and mocking the group because they didn't rap about guns, violence and gang life. This storyline is presented as a "read along storybook", and much like their debut, featured a comic strip in the booklet. In sharp contrast to Hardcore and Gangsta lyrical themes, De La Soul Is Dead took a conscious approach to inner city life, such as on "Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa", which is about a girl who shoots her father while he is working as a Mall Santa, because he sexually molests her and no one believes her.
De La Soul continued to experiment with Jazz fusion on Buhloone Mindstate and featured a guest spot by Japanese rappers Scha Dara Parr. Chris Rock listed this album as the 10th best hip hop album of all time, out of 25 listed for a Rolling Stone article. This was the last De La Soul album produced by Prince Paul. Without Paul, they continued to release albums, including Stakes Is High and The Grind Date. They've also collaborated with Gorillaz on their singles "Feel Good Inc" and "Superfast Jellyfish", and with the Alternative Rock band Teenage Fanclub, they contributed to the Rap Rock-based Judgment Night soundtrack.
- 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
- De La Soul is Dead (1991)
- Buhloone Mindstate (1993)
- Stakes Is High (1996)
- Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump (2000)
- AOI: Bionix (2001)
- The Grind Date (2004)
De La Soul provides examples of the following tropes:
- 555: Averted in "Ring Ring Ring": "You wanna call me? Take my number down. It's 222-2222. I've got an answering machine that will talk to you." The number is usually blanked out in TV and radio broadcasts of the song and its music video, because it's actually used by the Chicago Tribune, among others.
- Album Title Drop: In "Three Is The Magic Number", the title is dropped by Johnny Cash, via a sample. And the outro of De La Soul Is Dead has the bully leader Hemorrhoid dropping the title after throwing the album in the trash.
- Alternative Hip Hop
- Book Ends: On De La Soul Is Dead, the story told through the skits begins and ends with the album in the garbage.
- Days of the Week Song: "A Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays'"
- Domestic Abuse: "Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa" is a story about a girl who's being sexually molested by her father and, when no one believes her about it, she procures a gun and shoots him in the head while her dad is working as a mall Santa.
- The Atmosphere song "Mille Fell Off The Fire Escape" is a sequel to this, which has Millie running from the mall, trying to hide out on the roof of an old factory, realizing the severity of the situation she put herself in, and falling to her death when the cops corner her.
- "El Niño" Is Spanish for "The Nino": Inverted. According to their hit song "Me, Myself and I", "De La Soul is from the soul".
- Evil Laugh: During their appearance on Feel Good Inc.
- Gang of Bullies: The skits on De La Soul Is Dead feature a trio of bullies named Hemorrhoid (the leader), Dick Snot and Butt Crust. The intro has them beating up a kid and stealing the De La Soul Is Dead tape he found in the garbage, and the rest of the skits have the bullies expressing their disapproval of the album (Butt Crust seems to enjoy it, but the others beat him up every time he mentions this).
- Never Speak Ill of the Dead: "When someone dies thou shalt no longer be under obligation to cry saying 'he'll be missed' knowing good and well that he was an asshole."
- Self-Deprecation: A lot of tracks on De La Soul Is Dead features characters responding negatively to their music, calling them "wack", "punks" and incomprehensible.
- Shout-Out: Two of the characters on "Please Porridge" sound like Kermit The Frog and Peter Lorre.
- Take That: Being compared to Arsenio Hall is a particularly offensive insult on De La Soul Is Dead.