Tuesday, December 28, 2010

346. 3 feet high and rising. When hip hop gets silly.

Album: Three feet high and rising
Artist: De La Soul
Genre: Hip Hop
Year: 1989


1 Intro 1:41
2 The Magic Number
3 Change in Speak
4 Cool Breeze on the Rocks
5 Can U Keep a Secret?
6 Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin's Revenge)
7 Ghetto Thang
8 Transmitting Live from Mars
9 Eye Know
10 Take It Off
11 A Little Bit of Soap
12 Tread Water
13 Potholes in My Lawn
14 Say No Go
15 Do as De La Does
16 Plug Tunin' [Last Chance to Comprehend]
17 De la Orgee
18 Buddy
19 Description
20 Me, Myself and I
21 This Is a Recording 4 Livingin a Fulltime Era (L.I.F.E.)
22 I Can Do Anything (Delacratic)
23 D.A.I.S.Y.
24 Plug Tunin'

There's no doubt hip hop is a genre that seems to take itself fairly seriously. Not many of the rappers I've listened to so far appear to have much of a sense of humour about themselves or a sense of the ridiculous. You don't find may gangsta rappers cracking jokes about their insecurities. Rap traditionally doesn't have much appreciation of absurdism as a lyrical tool. The exception to this rule is De La Soul. The three guys who make up De La Soul are clearly big fans of silly. They like silliness and they appreciate a good round of lyrical foolishness. They're less interested in guns, misogyny, egotism and drugs and quaintly obsessed with daisies and dandruff. They're also a lot less interested in swearing a lot. You might think this sounds like G-rated rap for those who like their hip-hoping to be more family orientated. And you'd be wrong. De La Orgee is 1:14 minutes of the band and some female friends replicating the sounds of an orgy in progress. At least I assume they're just pretending. It's possible someone just left the mic on after a recording session with some backing vocalists who were very open to suggestions.

Musically 3 Feet High and Rising is a lot more playful than other rap. It's bouncier and more laid back and sounds like an attempt to move rap towards the mainstream. The backing is primarilly made up of samples and includes beats and riffs taken from Led Zep, Johnny Cash, Parliament, James Brown, The Monkees, The Turtles, Sly and the Family Stone, Otis Redding, Bo Diddley and a host of others. Not that you'll recognize most of them. They've cherry picked all the music that went before and made it their own.

The most recognizable track on this album for me was The Magic Number which mobile phone company 3 have taken as their promotional jingle. I naively assumed it was an original piece of music and didn't realize that they'd ripped it off De La Soul. The other singles I didn't recognise but then I'm sure they still get a lot of airplay on radio stations who play that sort of thing.

You might think having read this review that i quite liked 3 feet high. In fact I found it fairly irritating. It was refreshing to hear some hip hop that was prepared to be vaguely light hearted but that doesn't make it entertaining listening. The skits were really annoying the first time let alone on repeated listens and the tracks didn't move me much at all. I'm glad someone is playing around with the idea of rap but I'm not sure I need to listen to the end results.

Influenced by: Grandmaster Flash and Funkadelic
Influenced: Playful hip hop everywhere

Highlight: The refreshing outlook on life.
Lowlight: The skits inbetween tracks

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Here are the top 5 songs on the album. 5. Say No Go- I haven't heard this song yet, but I have heard alot about it, and seems like one of their greatest hits ever."

-For the love of Clapton- DO NOT WRITE A REVIEW OF AN ALBUM IF YOU HAVEN'T ACTUALLY HEARD IT ALL THE WAY THROUGH AT LEAST ONCE! Seriously. What did you give the album five stars for if you haven't heard the music? Was the cover really that good?

So are you three feet high and rising or plummeting back down to earth with a dull (sampled) thud? Let me know below.


  1. Reading this review, I'm shocked you didn't put "The Fresh Prince" as one of the ones influenced by this album. Maybe it's just me, but Will Smith's brand of hip-hop music seems very playful.

    Also -- I have several of my own blog reviews written, I just need a place to post them. And a name for the blog. Any ideas, sir?

  2. Ryan- I would have put Will Smith as one of those influenced if I'd thought of it but to be honest my knowledge of Hip Hop is sadly lacking. Thanks for pointing it out.

    As for the blog name... tricky. You could do something about the fact that the Blender list starts at 1980 which is the decade that a lot of people think killed rock and Roll. Maybe something like "Zombie Rock- the songs that live on after Rock Died." Or a reference to the fact that classic rock stations will be playing the Blender list in twenty years time "The classic rock of tomorrow". Not sure about either of those but I'll keep thinking and let you know if I have anymore ideas. I'm looking forward to reading it though.

  3. I sure hope they're good reads, as short as they are -- as inexperienced as I am.