“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!