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) and "My Brother's a Basehead" (which is about Posdnuos' brother, who is a crack addictnote ).
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)
- The Impossible Mission TV Series — Part 1 (2006)
- Are You In?: Nike+ Original Run (2011)
- First Serve (2012)
- and the Anonymous Nobody (2016)
Trope-holes In My Lawn:
- 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 "The Magic Number" off 3 Feet High and Rising, 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
- Arc Words: In the De La Soul Is Dead album, you'll hear the Slick Rick sample "I can't be your loverrrrr" on a few different tracks. It's even part of the riff in "Kicked Out The House".
- "It might blow up, but it won't go pop" in Buhloone Mindstate.
- Book-Ends: On De La Soul Is Dead, the story told through the skits begins and ends with the album in the garbage.
- Call-Back: In the first skit of De La Soul Is Dead, once the bullies get the tape and start playing it, the first thing heard is the game show ending of 3 Feet High and Rising.
- And in "Patti Dooke" off Buhloone Mindstate: "Respect is clear crystal, cuz Millie got a pistol, and she's down with me." (Evidently she survived the whole shooting-Santa ordeal.)
- Careful with That Axe: At the beginning of "Ego Trippin' (Part Two)".
- Content Warnings: "My Brother's a Basehead" contains a parody of these:This song does not contain explicit lyrics, but what it does contain is an undesired element. This element is known as the basehead, the lowest of lowest of all elements that exist.
- Nonetheless, the lyrics of the song do include two usages of "shit."
- Curse Cut Short: At the beginning of "Afro Connections At A Hi 5", there's some ranting about R&B music - "You mean Rhythm and Blues?" "No, Rap and BULLSH-" - and the music immediately cuts off that last word.
- Darker and Edgier: De La Soul is Dead is darker than its predecessor, and more grounded in reality. "Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa" is one of the main songs cited as this.Pos: This is the stylin' for a title that sounds silly, but nuttin' silly 'bout the triflin' times of Millie.
- "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 "Millie Fell Off The Fire Escape" is a Sequel Song 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 Niño": 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."
- Fun with Acronyms: What's with the daisies, you ask? D.A.I.S.Y. stands for "DA Inner Sound Y'all".
- 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).
- The Golden Age of Hip Hop
- Gratuitous French: "Transmitting Live From Mars" samples an old French lesson record. In fact, that's the only dialogue in the track.
- Gratuitous Panning: Pos's first lines in "En Focus".
- Intercourse with You: "Jenifa Taught Me", "Eye Know", "Let Let Me In"
- Lighter and Softer: In comparison to A Tribe Called Quest's more "Abstract" beats, as Q-tip puts it, De La Soul was this until they finally sunk to their level in Buhloone Mindstate, which was even more bizarre and "Abstract" than the Tribe's Midnight Marauders.
- Long Title: "This Is A Recording 4 Living In A Fulltime Era (L.I.F.E.)" and "Afro Connections at a Hi 5 (In the Eyes of the Hoodlum)"
- Mood Whiplash: The "Derwin's Revenge" part of "Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin's Revenge)" — shortly after the line "...asked was I a virgin / like some kid named Derwin?", the sex-romp smooth groove is interrupted by "Little Derwin got something to show us that Jenny could never do!" and a round of "Chopsticks" on a toy piano. After that, it returns to the rap already in progress.
- 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."
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: "Patti Dooke"
- No Indoor Voice: Inverted on "Can U Keep A Secret"... the entire rap is whispered.
- One-Woman Song: "Jenifa Taught Me", "Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa"
- Outdated Outfit: "Take It Off" ...as in "take that mock neck off", "take that Gucci off", etc. (Ending in "Take those acid-washed jeans, bell bottoms, designed by your mama, off, please?")
- The Pig-Pen: Addressed by the group in "A Little Bit Of Soap".
- Precision F-Strike: Two on De La Soul Is Dead, at the beginning of "Afro Connections At A Hi 5" (which, curiously, also contains a Sound-Effect Bleep and a Curse Cut Short) and another courtesy of a sample at the end of "My Brother's A Basehead".
- Rule of Three: It's "The Magic Number", after all.
- Sampling: De La Soul's early albums contained hundreds of samples, and Warner Music refuses to clear the samples for digital release.
- Sequel Song: "Millie Fell Off The Fire Escape", a 2009 single by Atmosphere, follows up "Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa".
- "Ego Trippin' (Part Two)" can be either a sequel to "Ego Trippin'" by the Ultramagnetic MC's or be considered a Spiritual Successor to "Afro Connections At A Hi 5".
- Shout-Out: Two of the characters on "Pease Porridge" sound like Kermit The Frog and Peter Lorre.
- Sixth Ranger: Female rapper Shortie No Mass contributed to several tracks on Buhloone Mindstate and was even part of the group photo on the album cover, so she could very well be considered a "Plug Four" here.
- Song Style Shift: "Bitties In The BK Lounge" switches beats and tempos twice mid-track, resulting in a different style for each member of the group to lead on.
- Sound-Effect Bleep: There are a few parts of De La Soul Is Dead that dub a "cracka" sample over curse words.
- Take That!: Being compared to Arsenio Hall is a particularly offensive insult on De La Soul Is Dead. "Pass the Plugs" notes that "Arsenio dissed us but the crowd kept clapping".
- From the same album, "Afro Connections at a Hi 5 (In the Eyes of the Hoodlum)" is an entire song lambasting "studio gangstas" (and it ends with an Arsenio-style "Let's get busy!") and "Kicked Out The House" mocks house-rap.
- "Ego trippin part 2" from Buhloone Mindstate was basically a big one towards mainstream Gangsta Rap.
- Take That Me: A lot of tracks on De La Soul Is Dead features characters responding negatively to their music, calling them "wack", "punks" and incomprehensible. (It's best if you don't try to make a Drinking Game where you take a shot every time one of the bullies asks "What are they saying?!".)
- The skits on 3 Feet High and Rising depict De La Soul as the hapless contestants on a bizarre game show, unable to answer questions like "How many times did the Batmobile catch a flat?".
- In "Bitties In The BK Lounge", Dave jokes that he's actually Tracy Chapman.
- Talking Animal: Three of them (Mr. Squirrel, Mr. Fish and Mr. Monkey) in "Tread Water".
- This Is a Song: "This Is A Recording 4 Living In A Fulltime Era (L.I.F.E.)"
- Thanks, and good night... for 3 Feet High And Rising, this is Don Newkirk.