News of the death of David Jolicoeur, aka Trugoy the Dove of De La Soul, has predictably prompted me to play 3 Feet High & Rising on repeat today.
I contend that 3 Feet High and Rising is one of the best debut albums ever, in any genre. As an ethnic minority teenager growing up in the very Tory, very white London suburb of Bromley1, I had my musical horizons widened massively by De La Soul.
At the time, my schoolmates were into bands like Iron Maiden and Guns’n’Roses, and my favourite band at the time was Wet Wet Wet. 2 I started getting into the likes of the altogether cooler Happy Mondays, New Order (via World in Motion) and Electronic, and distinctly remember the piss being taken out of me for liking the latter. For some reason, I apologised for liking them. I hate that I did that but I was 15/16, not white in a very white school and locale, trying to fit in, so give me a break.
I can’t remember how I got into De La Soul but I do remember that after I did, I played 3 Feet High & Rising on repeat. A friend of mine at the local cricket club was also a fan and I have fond memories of spending summer evenings rapping (no doubt badly) De La Soul tracks. We even did the interstitial gameshow concept skits. “How many feathers are on a Purdue chicken? How many fibres are intertwined in a Shredded Wheat biscuit? What does ‘touche et lele pu’3 mean? How many times did the Batmobile catch a flat?” What delicious silliness.
This was in an era before you could easily get hold of lyrics if they weren’t supplied with the album. I dread to think how wrong we got the lyrics, let alone how little we really understood them. Having my friend explain that ‘buddy’ and ‘jenny’ referred to boys’ and girls’ bits felt like being in on some secret code. Yeah, I know, but I was 15/16 in an altogether more innocent era – as well as having the stereotypical immaturity of someone who went to a boys’ school – so give me a break.
3 Feet’s influence on me is such that, on purchasing some smart plugs not so long ago, I named them Plug 1 and Plug 2, in tribute to the alternative names two of De La Soul used for themselves. Even now, typing that, I have Plug Tunin’ playing on loop in my head.
Listening to 3 Feet High & Rising again, I’m struck by how it transports me back to the early 1990s while at the same time sounding timeless.
RIP, Trugoy the Dove.
Tom Allen sums up Bromley well in his book No Shame: “If the Daily Mail built a theme park, it would probably look a bit like Bromley.”↩︎
Popped In, Souled Out is another album I will contend is a great debut album, albeit not one of the best ever. I also stand firm in my opinion that the first four singles Wet Wet Wet released – Wishing I was Lucky, Sweet Little Mystery, Angel Eyes, and Temptation – are among the finest examples of blue-eyed pop-soul you will ever find.↩︎
Didn’t know what it meant 30+ years ago, still don’t know what it means now but the most convincing answer I’ve found, just now, is on Quora: “It means, quite literally, “SHUT THE HELL UP” Every word is pronounced backwards. tuhS ehT lleH pU”↩︎