De La Soul

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De La Soul


New York hip hop trio De La Soul, have changed the world. Formed in 1987, the young boys back then altered the cultural landscape of hip hop with their eclectic wordplay, comedic skits and material that pushed the boundaries of so called ‘traditional hip hop’ banter.

New York hip hop trio De La Soul, have changed the world. Formed in 1987, the young boys back then altered the cultural landscape of hip hop with their eclectic wordplay, comedic skits and material that pushed the boundaries of so called ‘traditional hip hop’ banter.

Kelvin Mercer is rarely addressed as such. ‘Plug One’ and ‘Posdnuos’ are more familiar to the MC, rapper and producer. ‘Posdnuos’ is pronounced "like you eat pasta and a noose around your neck, so pasta-noose," according to Mercer. But Mercer isn’t the only one who goes by several monikers, fellow hip hop master Dave Jolicoeur goes by ‘Plug Two’ and Vincent Mason goes by ‘Plug Three’. These monikers came about when boys released Plug Tunin’ from their debut album 3 Feet High And Rising in 1989. "The actual song was a routine," Mercer begins.

"You know how a lot of rappers back in the day had different routines, it was us looking up to the rappers of our time that we respected – one of the big things to do was practise routines and name them and in the beginning of that song, we just had a chant ‘plug one, plug two’ so it just happened to be that I was the one who got chosen to say ‘plug one’. It was never meant to be like that but people actually started identifying us like that. The DJ became plug three by default so it’s funny; we never set to call ourselves that at all. People would say ‘hey it’s Plug One!’ and I’d be like ‘why you calling me that?’."

3 Feet High And Rising introduced De La Soul to the world as the fresh, young, comedic hip hop trio. Mercer says he was probably 17 years old when the trio got signed. The colourful artwork on the album cover featuring cartoon flowers was all part of the trio’s introduction of the DA.I.S.Y concept; an acronym for "da inner soul y’all" which the group used to describe their feelings behind the music. "The beginning of it came about where myself and Dave were just walking in the mall and he was like ‘we need to just think of a name, a cool name for our production company, you know, like when we make beats, what will that name be?’," Mercer says.

"We were walking out of a department store into the main mall and then Dave happened to glance over at the sleepwear section and he saw this pyjama shirt with Mini Mouse standing there with a daisy in her hand and he was like ‘errr daisy, call it daisy’. I was very supportive of it… thought that [the acronym] was cool because we had already named ourselves De La Soul so to say that our production company was from the inner soul of our hearts, that was cool, it all kind of naturally aligned."

But the boys haven’t agreed on everything throughout their twenty plus year career. Mercer, however, sees only positives from these differing visions and ideas all three bring to the table. "It’s been really great," he reflects. "I mean there’ve been times where there can be a certain album where one member has a great vision and so passionate about it that we all allow that person to take the helm. Say an album like Stakes Is High – Dave was really keen on having something that said we were really serious; our version of a Marvin Gaye album. We were at a point in our career where we could either go this way or that way. That was one of the first albums where we actually had the title of the album before we started writing. There are times like that or Buhloone Mindstate – where a lot of the ideas and the focal point came from a feeling or something that Prince Paul [producer] could bring to the table. It has always been great that we’ve always had our own ideas because a great thing that Prince Paul taught us was to always hear everyone else, let everyone try their ideas."

But as for the trio’s "inner sound", well that’s one thing that Mercer says has "just grown". "We started when I was only 18… now I’m a 41 year old man, so throughout those progressions – say at age 17 you had no kids and by age 20 something you had children – all those experiences always added something to the way we write and how we express our music," he says. "It’s definitely changed but then I would say the main aspect of how we chose to create and always be open-minded about different sounds and different cultures – that has remained the same."

Touring their highly influential second album De La Soul Is Dead to mark the record’s 20th anniversary, Mercer says the album was an important step in the trio’s development as musicians and as human beings. "The big thing about that album is that it was our departure from where we were when we were making 3 Feet High And Rising which was just us as normal kids – what we really saw in front of us when we were 18, young and growing up. De La Soul Is Dead was more like ‘now this is us after the fame, I’ve seen great times, I’ve seen the road, I’ve seen bad times’," Mercer says.

"It does feel good to listen back on an album like De La Soul Is Dead and know that there is still relevance to it. It doesn’t sound dated. I do listen with an open ear to certain things and I can be like you know – when you look at yourself in pictures and you’re wearing your high tops and it’s not what’s in but, when we listen to our music, these songs feel timeless. Millie Pulled The Pistol On Santa – sexually molested by her own father, these reign true within, still can be said now, it’s songs like that. Even fun moments like It’s Saturday [ A Roller Skating Jam Named "Saturdays"] that still feels good now hearing it in a club or someone playing it at a roller rink. It’s a blessing that we played a part in creating something that stands true even now like 20 something years later as opposed to when it just came out."

And as for name of the album, it came about out of pure fun. "We were at our management company and there was a board which had De La Soul’s name on it and a bunch of different other artists, you know, Fresh Prince or whoever and it showed all of our dates," Mercer says. "Dave was just so tired of us being on the road, he grabbed an eraser and erased all of our dates and wrote De La Soul Is Dead and everyone started laughing because everyone just wanted to stay home, they didn’t want to work no more. And we were like ‘you know what, that could be a great title’.

With less than two weeks until the show goes down, Mercer says fans can expect more than just De La Soul Is Dead tunes. "We’re definitely going to implement De La Soul Is Dead songs but it’s gonna be very hard not to include other songs. We just want to do our best to implement different songs and make sure the energy is high."




By Annabel Maclean