One of the best experiences of this blog is when I start with an album I expect to moderately enjoy, and it turns into one of my absolute favorites. Today we have another highly influential hip-hop album from the late ‘80s, “3 Feet High and Rising” by De La Soul. I was always familiar with their big hit “Me Myself and I”, and it was always in my hip-hop mix, but I never realized until listening to this album again what a brilliant and innovative record they created here. This record is rated #103 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Interestingly enough, it is not available on my preferred streaming service, but I was able to find it elsewhere to enjoy and you can too.
What makes this record as enjoyable to me as the recent releases from Public Enemy, N.W.A. and Eric B. and Rakim? It is their stylistic approach and entertaining setup for the record. Built around the framework of an ongoing game show, the music here is subtle, jazz-based and the rhythm tracks emit the feel of more live drums and instruments with a less electronic vibe. There is a flavor of psychedelia embedded in the sound, as well as a dry and subtle sense of humor that is pervasive throughout. The rapping is smooth and low-key, but never dull. As I was reminded by my son, De La Soul set the stage for other acts of this style, most notably A Tribe Called Quest, who were emerging in parallel on the same label. In fact, Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest makes several appearances on this album.
Perhaps my favorite track on the album is “Eye Know”, set to the backdrop of “Peg” by Steely Dan. It is such a happy groove, and this is music I could listen to seamlessly throughout the day. Another perfectly absurd and funky tune is “Potholes in My Lawn”. “Plug Tunin’ (Last Chance to Comprehend)” is another insanely hip beat that stands up against any hip-hop song I have heard so far on this journey. When you take all of these great songs (the album is more than an hour of music) and add in the obvious smash of “Me Myself and I”, which is based on a Parliament Funkadelic riff, this album is a masterpiece. I’m very surprised this record, isn’t on the hip-hop Top 10 list I reference for this blog, but either way, this record is a gift and I couldn’t have enjoyed it any more.