by Chris Estey
“My favorite new band!” Russell Simmons once proclaimed. Billboard praised “Plug Tunin'” on its release as a song that would “knock you for a loop.” And they brought “3 Is A Magic Number” to rap music in both personal affirmation, musical soul, and mystical suggestion.
De La Soul changed hip-hop forever 20 years ago, and are on tour celebrating the anniversary of their debut album 3ft High and Rising. They will be playing the Fisher Green Stage on Saturday, September 5, probably including classic creations like “Rock Co Kane Flow” and “Me Myself and I” — but these are only irresistible gems in their crown of exceptionally creative and extremely intelligent hip-hop.
Pos, Maseo, and Dave were kids who obviously listened to everything, followed their own musical path, and are known to read a lot of different writers for inspiration (including Octavia Bulter’s empathy-inspiring science fiction, Donald Goines’ street lit, and soul-motivators like T.D. Jakes). The band members were individually born in the Bronx, but ended up all out on Long Island.
Pos and Dave started out in a band called Easy Street, and made deliberate efforts from the beginning to sound different from the rap dominators of their time. When they met Mase they continued on this uncompromising path. And even when their sudden shove into the spotlight got them in trouble on their first tour due to a lack of performing finesse (as well chronicled in Brian Coleman’s amazing tome of hip-hop recording history, Check The Technique) they came back again to keep innovating the field. As in De La Soul Is Dead in which they found their stride with Bob Power’s assistance on the boards. (Pos himself has become a production wizard as well.)
Riding on the success of Are You In?, De La Soul are not-to-miss live experience now, and their presence at Bumbershoot would be celebration in itself if it didn’t also remind us how much De La Soul’s debut 20 years ago made the music so much richer, deeper, and personally expressive.
De La Soul – Buddy