De La Soul Biography

Hailing from Long Island, New York, USA, De La Soul was formed by Posdnous (Kelvin Mercer, 17 August 1969, the Bronx, New York City, New York, USA), Trugoy the Dove (b. David Jude Joliceur, 21 September 1968, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA), and Pasemaster Mace (b. Vincent Lamont Mason Jnr., 27 March 1970, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA) who were contemporaries of Queen Latifah, Monie Love and A Tribe Called Quest. With the aforementioned crews they formed the Native Tongues Posse, who were at the forefront of the black renaissance of the early 90s.

Less harsh than many of their fellow rappers, De La Soul’s pleasantly lilting rhythms helped them chart their 1989 debut 3 Feet High And Rising, one of the first such acts to cross into the album market. Produced by Stetsasonic’s Prince Paul, it revealed an altogether delightful array of funky rhythms and comic touches, presenting an influential alternative to the macho aggression of gangsta rap. As well as hit singles like ‘Me Myself And I’, and ‘The Magic Number’, they also charted in conjunction with Queen Latifah on ‘Mama Gave Birth To The Soul Children’ and guested on the Jungle Brothers’ ‘Doing Our Own Dang’.

Some of De La Soul’s more esoteric samples ranged from Curiosity Killed The Cat to Steely Dan, though their mellow approach belied difficult subject matter. 1991’s De La Soul Is Dead, however, saw them return to tougher rhythms and a less whimsical melodic approach. Evidently they had grown tired of the ‘hippies of hip-hop’ tag dreamt up by their press officer. With over 100 artists sampled, they sidestepped injunctions by gaining clearance from all concerned artists, having previously been sued by the Turtles for sampling ‘You Showed Me’ on the 3 Feet High And Rising track ‘Transmitting Live From Mars’. The painstaking procedure delayed the album for over a year. When it did emerge it was roundly denounced by critics, who were not taken by De La Soul’s drastic gear change. However, infectious songs such as ‘Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)’ kept their profile high in the singles chart.

The 1993 follow-up Buhloone Mindstate saw De La Soul move back towards the stylings of their debut, and received better press, although by now the trio’s fortunes had waned and the album quickly dropped off the charts. A similar fate befell 1996’s Stakes Is High, which, despite returning to the tougher stylings of De La Soul Is Dead, struggled against the commercial ascendancy of gangsta rap. The excellent Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump, the group’s first release of the new millennium and the first part of a projected triple-album project, not only helped reassert their reputation as hip-hop pioneers but proved to be one of the year’s most inventive albums.

The strong follow-up AOI: Bionix attracted further critical praise, but the third part in the series remained release as the trio struggled with their label over future direction. They opted to release a new studio album, 2004’s The Grind Date, on their own AOI label. The following year the trio was featured on the Grammy award-winning Gorillaz single ‘Feel Good Inc.’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.