Wednesday, December 3, 2014

3 feet high and rising

De La Soul redefined rap and ushered in the daisy age with this positive and playful blend of hippie hop hilarity and sundry sampledelic soul.  The group formed in 1987 in Long Island, New York while Kelvin Mercer (Posdnuos), David Jude Jolicoeur (Trugoy the Dove), and Vincent Mason (DJ Pasemaster Mase) were still in high school.  They hooked up with Stetsasonic's Prince Paul (Paul Edward Huston) and got signed to Tommy Boy Records.  Their debut  '3 Feet High and Rising' was recorded at Calliope Studios, Brooklyn, New York with Prince Paul producing assisted by De La Soul.  Bob Coulter and Sue Fisher engineered the sessions with assistant Greg Arnold, with mixing done by Prince Paul and Al Watts.  arrangement were done by De La Soul and Prince Paul and the album features guest performers Jungle Brothers and  Q-Tip who, like De La Soul, were a part of the Native Tongues Posse.  

Mason muses:   "When I met Paul, he was trying to express a lot of different ideas with Stetsasonic and it wasn't working out too well.  We were looking to be professionals at making records and he was a professional. It just really sparked."

Jolicoeur jokes:   "We've been different ever since we were in school.  We didn't dress like anyone else and we had our own language so nobody would know what we were talking about, so it was natural that we'd do different things with our music too...And the best thing about being different is that we get attention.  So hopefully people will listen closely to what we're doing and try to understand the messages which we're putting across in our music...If some think that we have a hippy style and a hippy sound, that's just fine.  But we'd be offended if it was said that we wanted to be hippies. We don't. We just want to be ourselves. Our music is raw and it's funky but, at the same time, it's deeply soulful because this is the Daisy Age and this is the sound from within. Rap doesn't have to come off with hard basslines and heavy kicks and snares. People sometimes want to listen to soft music – even the hardcore crowd."

Mercer manifests:    "Hip-hop was still very macho back in the 1980s. The inner-city MCs' raps were full of bragging and boasting. Although I was born in the Bronx, I grew up on Long Island. At my school, which was a mixture of black and white kids, we would rap over Annie Lennox or Steve Miller. They weren't the coolest, but our love for them was genuine.  We started working with the DJ and producer Prince Paul, who'd been in Stetsasonic, one of the first hip-hop crews to use a live band. We'd take records along to the studio and say: 'We need you to loop this portion of Magic Mountain by Eric Burdon and War. We're going to rap over it and add a bunch of sounds.' And that ended up being Potholes in My Lawn.   We made the whole of 3 Feet High and Rising for $13,000, using just a Casio RZ-1 drum machine/sampler and another gadget called an Eventide harmonizer, which allowed us to match songs that had totally different pitches – we could put Daryl Hall's voice over a Sly and the Family Stone record. It was amazing.   Ideas came quickly. We were mixing three songs a day, all egging each other on. We took Hall and Oates's I Can't Go for That and turned it into Say No Go, an anti-drugs song. Eye Know took a line from the Steely Dan number Peg ("I know I love you better") and ended up being a song about a girl, with some whistling from Otis Redding. And we made Me, Myself And I by rapping over a Funkadelic loop in the rhythmic style of the Jungle Brothers.   It was playful, childlike and fun. We'd rap about "Mr Fish swimming in a bathroom sink". We'd dip into psychedelia or jazz. We'd slow down Eddie Murphy's voice and add a car screeching or us yodelling. At no point did we think what we were doing would end up being so revolutionary.   We coined the term "the daisy age" after we noticed a nightgown in a store that had a picture of Minnie Mouse holding a daisy on it. Although daisy stood for Da Inner Sound Y'All, it was also about suggesting a sunnier style of rap – during downtime, we'd do skits, silly stuff over music. When we finished the album, Prince Paul said that it needed something to glue all the tracks together, so we got on the mic and gave the album its rolling gameshow skit.    When we were recording The Magic Number, Dave [David Jude Jolicoeur, AKA Trugoy the Dove] came across a Johnny Cash album of his dad's. It had this song Five Feet High and Risin'. Someone said: 'There's three of us – how about 3 Feet High and Rising?' That became a song lyric and the album title.    We knew the album didn't sound like anything else, but we had no idea if people would like it. Everything happened very quickly after its release. Our manager asked: 'So, do you want to stay in college – or do you want to be rap stars?' I was like: 'Uh, I'll take rap star.' We were all over the radio, and they put us on the road with Public Enemy. We went from being an unknown rap act to a gigantic pop group."

'3 Feet High and Rising' hit number twenty-four on the US pop album chart, fourteen in the UK, and number one on the US Top R&B/Hip Hop album chart. 

"The Magic Number"

"Me Myself and I"

"Jenifa Taught Me"

"Eye Know"


"Potholes in my Lawn"

'3 Feet High and Rising'
full album:

3 Feet High and Rising from De La Soul on Myspace.

All songs written by Paul Huston, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason and Kelvin Mercer, except where noted. Artists sampled by the group are officially credited as songwriters for tracks 3, 9, 14 and 20. All songs produced by Prince Paul and co-produced by De La Soul.

1. "Intro"     1:41
2. "The Magic Number"     3:16
3. "Change in Speak"   Huston, Jolicoeur, Mason, Mercer, Patrick Patterson, Steve Scipio 2:33
4. "Cool Breeze on the Rocks"     0:48
5. "Can U Keep a Secret"     1:41
6. "Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin's Revenge)"     3:25
7. "Ghetto Thang"     3:36
8. "Transmitting Live from Mars"     1:12
9. "Eye Know"   Walter Becker, Donald Fagen, Huston, Jolicoeur, Mason, Mercer 4:13
10. "Take It Off"     1:53
11. "A Little Bit of Soap"     0:57
12. "Tread Water"     3:46
13. "Potholes in My Lawn"     3:50
14. "Say No Go"   Sara Allen, Daryl Hall, Huston, Jolicoeur, Mason, Mercer, John Oates, Scipio 4:20
15. "Do as De La Does"     2:12
16. "Plug Tunin' (Last Chance to Comprehend)"   Jolicoeur, Mercer 4:07
17. "De La Orgee"     1:14
18. "Buddy" (featuring Jungle Brothers and Q-Tip) Jonathan Davis, Nathaniel Hall, Huston, Jolicoeur, Mason, Mercer, Michael Small 4:55
19. "Description"   Davis 1:32
20. "Me Myself and I"   George Clinton, Huston, Jolicoeur, Mason, Mercer, PhilippĂ© Wynne 3:50
21. "This Is a Recording 4 Living in a Fulltime Era (L.I.F.E.)"     3:10
22. "I Can Do Anything (Delacratic)"     0:41
23. "D.A.I.S.Y. Age"     4:43
24. "Plug Tunin'" (Original 12" version)   3:43

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