When De La Soul’s monumentally groundbreaking album 3 Feet High and Rising came out in March of 1989—a few months ahead of The Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, it should be noted—it was a significant moment, a high-water mark, if you will, of the era when the lessons of “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on The Wheels of Steel,” “Rapper’s Delight” and Run DMC had been taken on-board and refined by a younger generation of musicians.
The “sample” wasn’t exactly a new thing by the late 1980s (Faust sampled The Beatles in 1970, and there must be dozens of historical examples prior to that) but knitting together entire songs from parts of other songs was still a relatively “new” thing to do at the time. The way forward pointed out by these earlier pioneers of the form, could be perfected and expanded upon. The gear was there—and was coming down in price—there was a will and there was a way.
The groups who were heavily sample-based could simply wow you with the depth of their musical knowledge, their crate digging prowess and the sheer wittiness of their samples. A Tribe Called Quest, Deee-Lite, the Dust Brothers/Beasties, Public Enemy/The Bomb Squad, and De La Soul/Prince Paul were all doing something so startling and creative in the context of the late 80s/early 90s, that many people—myself included—who were disappointed with the sorry state of music after the post-punk era had tailed-off started to pay attention.
Yes, there was a brief moment there before the lawyers got their teeth stuck in and ruined everything…
Nevertheless, a small handful of classic albums that mostly consist of samples did get made—and released—despite the best efforts of the music industry’s own legal eagles to strangle them in their crib. 3 Feet High and Rising is one of these records and considering that the samples come from Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, Jefferson Starship, Kraftwerk, The Turtles, Parliament, Otis Redding, James Brown, Barry White, Sly and the Family Stone, Johnny Cash, Steely Dan, The Bar-Kays, The Monkees, Cymande, even Liberace and Richard Pryor, it is something—like Paul’s Boutique—where it’s just a miracle that it even exists.
3 Feet High and Rising is one for the ages. The Village Voice dubbed it “The Sgt. Pepper of hip hop” and the good people of the Library of Congress evidently feel the same way as they inducted it into the National Recording Registry of culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant American creations in 2010. It’s an album that’s been included on practically every “of all time” list known to man.
Enjoy the sounds of the D.A.I.S.Y. Age (“da inner sound, y’all”)...
“Me, Myself and I”
“The Magic Number”
More magic numbers from De La Soul after the jump…