Wednesday, March 29, 2023

De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising 2xLP


AOI / Chrysalis (2023, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Age' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

I've had a complicated relationship with De La Soul over the years.  Not that anything about them is inherently complicated, but I've had mixed feelings about their albums, particularly 3 Feet High and Rising.  I didn't listen to De La Soul as a kid when they were originally out.  In 1989, when this album first was released, I wasn't super into hip hop yet.  It was 1990's Mama Said Knock You Out that sent me down that path, but I didn't look in the rear view for this one.

I eventually became aware of the group and have tried to give their albums chances over the years.  De La Soul has always been one of those groups that I felt like I was supposed to like.  I'm not sure why they hadn't connected with me in a meaningful way.  There were times where I listened to this album and thought it was good.  There were times I listened to it and found it really annoying and so it went over the years.  I had a reissue of the CD that I got while in the music biz in the early 2000s, but eventually sold it as part of a CD purge.  I've probably downloaded and deleted the MP3s of the album a dozen times over the years.  One thing I never had was the vinyl, which has been out of print and expensive for ages.

When the news came out a few months back that De La Soul was back in the mix with their classic albums and that everything was being released to streaming platforms and rereleased as physical media, I figured I would just grab this.  I was finally able to sit down with 3 Feet High and Rising on a turntable, really listening to it.  I've always felt that listening to a record on vinyl is a very different experience than any other way of listening.  It's not because of some magic, audiophile sound quality mumbo jumbo, I just find that when I put on a record, I really listen to it.  It's a different, tactile experience for me.

So anyway, I've listened to the album on vinyl now and I do have some different opinions, but others were reinforced.  First the negatives.  It's too long.  At nearly seventy minutes, I just don't need that much music in one shot.  I also hate the skits.  I know the album is considered very innovative as far as bringing the skit to hip hop, but for me that's not something to be proud of.  I think they bring every album in the world to a screeching halt and it's especially egregious for 3 Feet High and Rising.  If you cut out all of the skits and maybe a song or two the album would be a lot tighter and easier to listen to, I think.

On the positive side, there are some really great songs on here.  "Eye Know," The Magic Number" and Potholes in my Lawn" stand out in a big way, particularly when you realize this came out in 1989 and how little hip hop sounded like this at the time.  I don't think I ever need to hear "Me Myself and I" ever again, but I think that's probably recency bias in that nearly every classic episode of Yo! MTV Raps that's streaming on Paramount+ shows this video and that wore me down after a while.

I am glad I own this record now.  It's obviously important and quite good in places.  It's a little bloated for my personal tastes, but the good outweighs the bad by a long shot.  I have other De La Soul albums on vinyl preordered, so I'm eager to re-experience those and see what other wrong opinions I may have been holding onto over the years.

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