De La Soul has managed to put out, in my opinion, two classic albums for the hiphop community to enjoy even to this day - Stakes is High and, of course, 3 Feet High and Rising. These two albums, released back to back, were the indications in my life that hiphop isn't only political or gangsta, but
hiphop can also be spiritual. These two albums, yeah they had content that tapped into your political conscious, but they made you think of your life as an individual. This group, these artists (who I consider Posdnuos, Plug Two, and Maseo), made you think of how to be in tune with your mind first and then your surroundings. Ultimately, the group focused on peace and harmony amongst the community.
Usually there are labels associated with hiphop artists - the gangsta rapper, the conscious rapper, the fun guy, the gimmicky guy, and so on. But these brothers managed to step outside the box made for the hiphop community, with their natural, hippie-like image and uniq
ue rap content. Of course people gave them crap for that. They never worn the gold chains, luxurious cars, and outlandish houses. In fact, they criticized others who used their talent as a way to make money instead of tools for empowerment.
My most favorite album was their debut album 3 Feet High and Rising. With numerous classics on this album, it's no wonder that De La gets major respect from the hiphop community. The thing about this album was that it wasn't about being one with the hiphop community, but about being in tune with yourself. This had to be the first album that would spit the basics to the people; the messages throughout this album were plain and simple. One song that first comes to mind is "A Little Bit of Soap" that (obviously) goes into how effective proper hygiene can have on a person. Plus the timeless classic "Me Myself and I" was one the first songs by any hiphop artist that had a humorous commentary to social issues. They addressed their often misunderstood image of being hippies and told the world that they could care less of what they think of De La Soul. But the main thing that established their image and purpose in hiphop was their dry humor and clean, positive hiphop music.
Another one of my favorite De La Soul albums is Stakes is High, although they didn't get as
much credit for this album as they deserved (but when did I care about the American consensus?), because they were the first to give an even newer light to hiphop than their positive rap music. I appreciated their efforts in standing against the rise in gangsta rap, Tupac in particular, which is expected with their image, but that very criticism is what made them fall short of commercial success with this album. Their leading single "Stakes is High" addressed the issues with rap music at the time head-on, stating they were sick of brand name clothes, drug music, scantly-clad women, and so on (most of these are issues we face today in rap music). Another single that addressed the state of rap being a money maker instead of a tool of expression was "Itzsoweezee (HOT)", produced by the late J-Dilla, which had a video full of cameos that would drive a hiphop head crazy (it did for me anyway)! One thing they did that set them aside from other people who rap about rap is their usual spin on their music, spitting about peace and being one spiritually. Plug Two said in the beginning of the third verse said "I think smiling in public is against the law / Because love don't get you through life no more", claiming positive rap no longer exist because it's been pushed out by violent and sexually explicit lyrics. Another couple of contributions from the album, at least what they gave to me, was the first single I heard Common after "I Used to Love H.E.R." was on "The Bizness" and the first single I heard Mos Def spit, which was "Big Brother".
Overall, De La Soul is a group to remember. Not only because they were the first group outside of the commercial mold for rap music, but because they decided to be themselves - which was a group who though love and peace conquered all - although most people thought they weird. Even though they tried to dissociate themselves from the Native Tongues and the image of being hippies, their dry humor, music of peace, and social commentary kept them to the left of what hiphop was at the time and what it was said to be later in their career. It is because of them hiphop expanded beyond political, social, and party music, defining what conscious music really was. So in honor of 20 years of De La Soul, I leave you all with the classic hiphop video "Itzsoweezee (HOT)"