“Mir­ror mir­ror on the wall
Tell me mir­ror, what is wrong?
Can it be my De La Clothes
Or is it just my De La Soul?”
– Trugoy the Dove

It is with great sad­ness that I write this obit­u­ary of De La Soul found­ing mem­ber Dave Joli­c­oeur AKA Trugoy the Dove, AKA Plug 2. The music of De La Soul soundtracked my life. BBC Three’s launch in 2003 was soundtracked by The Magic Num­ber which became a staple of my youth. [NB. When look­ing back at the launch trail­ers for this art­icle it was in fact the ori­gin­al 1973 ver­sion by Bob Dor­ough that was used but so ingrained was the De La Soul ver­sion that to me and my gen­er­a­tion that was always theori­gin­al!] This was coupled with the release of De La Soul’s Best of Album the same year which was an edu­ca­tion in Old Skool Hip Hop with bangers such as Me my self and Iprovid­ing a fun and upbeat con­trast to Emin­en and Dr Dre’s grit­ti­ness and explet­ives that filled the air­waves at the time. I also want to shout out my mates older broth­er Luke who had Mixmag’s 2006 De La Soul Mix Tape CD which fur­ther inspired my explor­a­tions of the Old Skool.

I first saw De La Soul in 2005, my first fest­iv­al exper­i­ence at that years “Get Loaded in the Park” in Clapham Com­mon. The same stage fea­tured Peter Hook, Bez and the Buzz­cocksso the crowd was a mix of Madchester fans and punks. De La Soul brought some Disco vibes into the mix and it was a wel­come glimpse of unity amongst dif­fer­ent music­al fac­tions.In 2017 I saw them again at Cam­den Round­house, bring­ingout Damon Albarn (In some sort of state) for a live rendi­tion of their col­lab­or­a­tion Feel Good Inc by the Gor­illaz, a track that was every­where on its release in 2005 and argu­ably brought De La Soul to a new young­er audi­ence.

De La Soul were formed in 1987 in Amyt­iville, Long Island,New York by high school friends, Posdnous, Trugoy and Maseo. They released their debut single Plug Tun­in which was pro­duced by Prince Paul of Stet­sason­ic. This single and the sub­sequent album, 1989’s Three Feet High and Rising saw the band mem­bers adopt numbered Plug monik­ers with Prince Paul as Plug 4 again on pro­duc­tion duty. It was a pos­it­ive anti­dote to the neg­at­iv­ity of Gang­ster rap and a sample heavy sound col­lage infamously known as the album that could nev­er be made again (Due to much stricter laws around sampling these days). A law­suit from rock band The Turtles fol­lowed. Three Feet High and Rising cre­ated a new meth­od­o­logy to Hip Hop pro­duc­tion which, rumour has it,gave the name Paul to the sim­il­arly sample heavy Paul’s Boutique by the Beast­ie Boys later that year.

Part of the Nat­ive tongues posse with artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Broth­ers, Queen Lati­fah and MonieLove, De La Soul were part of that wave of feel-good con­scious rap that embraced Afro­centrism and shunned gang­ster rap and com­mer­cial­ism and like Jungle Broth­ers, their tracks also crossed over into the dance­floors.

1991 saw the release of their second album De La soul is Dead where they tried to dis­tance them­selves from the “Hip­pies of Hip Hop” label their earli­er work had attrac­tedand took on more ser­i­ous themes and a rel­at­ively grit­ti­ersound but was still upbeat .

1993, the greatest year in Hip Hop, gave us the third albumBuhloone Mind­state again pro­duced by Prince Paul. The album exper­i­mented in jazz and incor­por­ated Jazz alumnisuch as sax­o­phon­ists Pee Wee Ellis and Maceo Park­er, trom­bon­ist Fred Wes­ley and an appear­ance from Guru who had just released Jazzmatazz.

“My begin­nings are with Stet­sason­ic but my iden­tity has always been with De La Soul…”
- Prince Paul

June 2nd 1996 saw the release of the fourth album Stakes is High. Justin Hunte from Hip Hop DX pro­duced an inter­est­ing You­tube video dis­cuss­ing Ninth wonder’s claim that the album was a coun­ter­point to Nas’ It was writ­ten, which was released on the same day and that the sim­ul­tan­eous releases drew a sol­id divid­ing line between Gang­ster rap and Under­ground/Con­scious Hip Hop that is still in play today.The album saw De La Soul part ways with Prince Paul and work with a slightly young­er gen­er­a­tion of rap­pers and pro­du­cers namely Com­mon, Mos Def and J Dilla. My music­al tastes do not go bey­ond the year 2000 so I will leave De La Soul’s post mil­len­ni­um work to be dis­cussed by oth­er IAHH writers. A high­light from my Uni days in the mid 00s was attend­ing the Vaux­hall roller disco in my De La Soul shirt soundtracked by old skool and packed with older heads who knew how to party.

2011 saw the release of the Tribe Called Quest doc­u­ment­aryBeats Rhymes and Life by Micheal Rapa­port. It fea­tured De La Soul and brought great­er atten­tion to the role they and the wider Nat­ive Tongues fam­ily played in the birth of A Tribe Called Quest as well as their impact on Hip Hop cul­ture. I’m still wait­ing for the prom­ised Nat­ive Tongues doc­u­ment­ary by Omar Akil which appears to be in limbo.

Licens­ing issues meant that De La Soul’s work has been largely absent from digit­al plat­forms and stream­ing, mak­ing their music a holy grail for later gen­er­a­tions of music fans who stream everything. 2014 saw the band release their entire back cata­logue for free for a lim­ited time, a Valentines day present cel­eb­rat­ing 25 years of Three Feet High and Risingand as a gift to the fans who stood by them in their absence .The licens­ing issues were resolved in Janu­ary this year with news that De La Soul’s work would finally be avail­able from March.

“May I cut this dance to intro­duce myself as
The chosen one to speak?
Let me lay my hand across yours
And aim a kiss upon your cheek
The name’s Plug Two
And from the soul I bring you
The Daisy of your choice
May it be filled with the pleas­ure prin­ciple
In cir­cum­fer­ence to my voice”
– Trugoy the Dove

A failed romance last sum­mer lead me to revis­it a favour­ite track of mine “Eye Know” which made me smile amongst the tur­moil. Their use of the song Peg by Steely Dan is prob­ably one of the greatest sample flips in Hip Hop his­tory. De La Soul’s music was there for me through my youth, the parties, the heart­break and the chilled days. The new of Trugoy’sdeath (The cause of which is cur­rently undis­closed) at the young age of 54 broke last night and imme­di­ately drew com­par­is­ons to the young death of Phife Dawg and aside from the usu­al flames, pray­er hands and fists, it was nice to see doves and dais­ies filling the mes­sage threads.

Rest in Power Dove!


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DJ Isuru is a music journ­al­ist and broad­caster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series fea­tur­ing the best in Asi­an Under­ground.


DJ Isuru is a music journalist and broadcaster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series featuring the best in Asian Underground.