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De La Soul Biography


Home > Music > D > De La Soul > Biography


Birth Place: Long Island, New York, United States
Years Active: 1987-present
Genres: Hip Hop


De La Soul is an American hip hop trio formed in 1987 on Long Island, New York. The band is best known for their eclectic sampling, quirky lyrics, and their contributions to the evolution of the jazz rap and alternative hip hop subgenres. The members Kelvin Mercer, David Jude Jolicoeur and Vincent Mason, are known under a variety of nicknames. The three formed the group in high school and caught the attention of producer Prince Paul with a demo tape of the song “Plug Tunin'.”

De La Soul's debut album, “3 Feet High and Rising,” released in 1989, was a critical smash hit in the hip hop genre. They quickly became prominent members of the Native Tongues Posse along with A Tribe Called Quest, Black Sheep, Queen Latifah, the Jungle Brothers and others. The single “Me Myself and I” became a huge hit, further cementing the group's popularity.

De La Soul's second album, 1991’s “De La Soul Is Dead,” featured a wealth of material that criticized the violent, careless direction that hip hop was heading in at the time, though it still managed to maintain a light, absurd sense of humor. The album spawned several singles, including the dark “Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa,” a tale of a young girl who could no longer take the sexual abuse from her father, and the lead single “Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey),”

a story about the people who used De La's recent fame to try to launch their own careers.

1993's “Buhloone Mindstate” saw the group evolve a new sound and cemented their position as mainstays of the alternative hip hop movement. “I Be Blowin'” was an instrumental track featuring saxophonist Maceo Parker. “Long Island Wildin'” was a collaboration with Japanese hip hop artists Kan Takagi (Major Force) and trio Scha Dara Parr (SDP). The album was a critical success, but it was a commercial failure for the group at the time of its release

1996's “Stakes Is High” was their first album not produced by Prince Paul, with overall production credits given solely to the trio. Although it was met with poor sales, it has been critically lauded for its music, lyricism, and its overall message concerning the artistic decline rap music began to face in the mid-90s. The title track and first single, produced by J Dilla, was not a hit, but the album's second single, “Itzsoweezee (HOT),” with only Jolicoeur on vocals, did fare better due to its creative music video. The album provided a launching pad for future star rapper and actor Mos Def, who appeared on the track “Big Brother Beat.: The album also featured collaborations with Common, Truth Enola, and the Jazzyfatnastees.

In 2000, De La Soul announced that they would release a triple album series entitled “Art Official Intelligence” (or AOI). All three albums were intended to be released within a year, beginning with the release of “Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump.” This was followed by “AOI: Bionix” in late 2001. After this, however, the third and final album in the AOI series was never released. For the next two years, the only De La Soul releases were singles or remix compilations.

In 2004, De La Soul released a new full album, “The Grind Date,” on Sanctuary/BMG Records because the venture between Tommy Boy and Warner Bros. Records was shut down and the group's contract was shopped to the other WEA labels. The band thought about having its contract absorbed by Elektra Records, but it decided to leave WEA altogether. Although it was not the third AOI album fans had been expecting, the album was released to some critical acclaim and was well-received by most fans. The album featured guests MF Doom, Ghostface Killah, Butta Verses and Flavor Flav, with production from 9th Wonder, Jake One, Madlib and more.

In 2005, De La Soul collaborated with Gorillaz on the hit single "Feel Good Inc.," which won a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Collaboration (the first Grammy win in the group's career) after being nominated for a total of three Grammys.