Apple Music 100 Best Albums

This is an image of the album cover for “@@album_name@@” by @@artist_name@@.

3 Feet High and Rising

De La Soul


A playful 63-minute blueprint for hip-hop’s odd future.

Transmitting live from Mars—or, more specifically, the Long Island suburbs—De La Soul emerged fully formed and casually bugged-out in 1988 with “Plug Tunin’,” a 12-inch that mixed off-the-wall wordplay with the most off-kilter samples hip-hop had ever seen. On their subsequent debut album, Trugoy, Posdnuos, DJ P.A. Pasemaster Mase, and producer Prince Paul laid out a playful 63-minute blueprint for rap’s odd future. They were outcasts before Outkast, the roots of The Roots.

De La’s genre-agnostic approach to crate-digging imbued hip-hop with alien moods and new textures rather than just blips of James Brown and Funkadelic (though the latter’s rubbery melody would drive “Me Myself and I,” the band’s lone US Top 40 moment). Their playground included Schoolhouse Rock!, Steely Dan, learn-to-speak-French records, Johnny Cash, and a Liberace cassette they found in the studio. And their freewheeling poetry broke sentences apart into expressionist clouds that ranged from pure poetry to inspired nonsense. Proudly eccentric and preaching their message of self-expression while dressed in African medallions instead of fat gold ropes, they became the bohemian model for years of alternative-minded rappers.