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Rap Biographies: De La Soul

De La Soul
When De La Soul entered the rhyme scene they were at the forefront of conscious rap, offering an alternative to braggadocio and gangsta rap. Using elliptical rhymes, the group gave a more creative vibe to hip-hop. Dave wraps up who De La Soul is in a nutshell: "The most important thing to us is respect. We've never compromised ourselves or our artistic point of view and we as people are just everyday people. You are never going to see us doing anything other that what we do. Being Dave, Pos, or Mace."

Celebrated hip-hop originators De La Soul are set to release their 8th CD, The Grind Date, on Mathew Knowles-helmed Sanctuary Urban Records Group (SURG) on October 5. De La Soul's The Grind Date will be the first release on Sanctuary Urban, a division of London-based power-house record label, Sanctuary Records Group.

With over 15 years under their belts, De La Soul is one the few long-term success stories in hip hop today. "We have shown a steady pace of longevity," Pos states. "Nowadays, people are so quick to want to blow up, but they burn themselves out very quickly instead of moving slow and steady. I'd like to think that De La Soul is like incense that's burning slow and even by the time it's fizzed out, it's left a great aroma."

The members are Kelvin Mercer (Posdnuos, Mercenary, Plug Wonder Why, Plug One), David Jude Jolicœur (Trugoy the Dove, Dave, Plug Two) and Vincent Mason (P.A. Pasemaster Mase, Maseo, Plug Three). The three formed the group in high school and caught the attention of producer Paul Huston (Prince Paul) with a demo tape of the song "Plug Tunin'". Prince Paul was also sometimes referred to as Plug Four.

Their debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising (1989), was a critical smash that saw the group labeled hippies due to the message of peace and love. They quickly became prominent members of the Zulu Nation, along with A Tribe Called Quest, Black Sheep, Queen Latifah, The Jungle Brothers and others. They were also members of the famed Native Tongues Posse and mentioned the group often in their music (though they have since left the group for various reasons). "Me, Myself and I" became a huge hit, further cementing the group's popularity. However, rock group the Turtles sued the group for sampling "You Showed Me" without permission on De La Soul's "Transmitting Live from Mars". From that point on, sampling required permission from the sources before it was released.

After 3 Feet High and Rising, De La Soul was pegged by audiences as hippies and were expected to continue creating the same type of music. This greatly agitated the group, as they always envisioned their career as a constantly changing style. This would influence their next recording sessions.

De La Soul's second album, De La Soul Is Dead (1991) was a much darker album. It featured skits that criticized the direction that hip hop was heading in at the time, though it still managed to maintain a light sense of humor. The album cover featured a broken daisy flower pot, symbolizing their trying to shed the "hippie" label that the first album caused. While the album is a fan favorite today, it received mixed reviews and did not sell as well as 3 Feet High and Rising.

1993's Buhloone Mindstate saw the group evolve a new sound and cemented their position as mainstays of the alternative hip hop movement. The album was a critical success and is widely considered their strongest work by fans, but the commercial success was even less this time out than with their previous release. Pos' cousin and female MC Shortie No Mas was prominent on many tracks on the CD. There were several moments on the album which proved the band had matured and moved away from the silliness of their previous works, partially due to the deterioration of the Native Tongues movement around the same time. "I Be Blowin'" was a departure as the track was an instrumental featuring saxophone playing by the legendary Maceo Parker. "Long Island Wildin'" was a collaboration with Japanese hip-hop trio Scha Dara Parr (SDP). First single "Breakadawn" used a sample of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" throughout. The album ended with a fun Biz Markie collaboration called "Stone Age."

In 1994, 500 copies of a promotional EP called Clearlake Audiotorium were released on clear vinyl and CD. The 6 track EP contained edited versions of tracks off of Buhloone Mindstate but also featured the tracks "Sh.Fe.MC's" (Shocking Female MC's) which was a collaboration with A Tribe Called Quest, and "Stix & Stonz" which featured old-school hip hop artists Grandmaster Caz, Tito of Fearless Four, Whipper Whip, La Sashae and Superstar. The EP was widely bootlegged afterwards.

1996's Stakes Is High was the first album produced solely by the trio, and again, was met with mixed results and poor sales. The title track and first single did not leave a lasting impression, although the album did provide a launching pad for future star artist and actor Mos Def, who appeared on the track "Big Brother Beat." The album also featured collaborations with Common (Sense), Truth Enola, Zhane, and the Jazzyfatnastees.

Four years later, 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 public saw no release of the third and final album in the AOI series. For the next two years, the only De La Soul releases were singles or remix compilations. Jolicœur (Dave) stated in an interview that it usually takes about four years for the group to record an album, promote it with advertisements, touring and so on. The group was having trouble finishing the last AOI installment for many reasons, one of which being an ongoing struggle with Tommy Boy Records, who had been releasing their albums ever since their debut.

In 2004, De La Soul ended up releasing a new full album: The Grind Date on Sanctuary Records. Although it was not the new AOI album their fans had been anticipating, it was released to some critical acclaim and was well received by most fans. The album also receives recognition for being the seventh studio album from the group.

In 2005, they were featured on the Gorillaz single, "Feel Good Inc" and on the LA Symphony single "Universal". "Feel Good Inc" also won a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Collaboration.
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