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Arts + CultureMusicIn Trugoy we trust: Remembering the rapper through De...

In Trugoy we trust: Remembering the rapper through De La’s ‘3 Feet High and Rising’

30 years ago, the album rewired hip-hop. Trugoy the Dove's passing now lends its reissue a melancholy sheen.

When David Jolicoeur aka. Trugoy the Dove, one-third of the authoritative hip-hop group De La Soul, passed on the 12th of last month, the hip-hop community and music lovers around the globe mourned the loss.

According to The New York Times, his death was confirmed by the group’s publicist Tony Ferguson, who did not specify a cause or say where Mr. Jolicoeur was when he died. (In recent years, the rapper had openly discussed a struggle with congestive heart failure.)

In the oddest twist of fate, the loss came at a time when De La Soul’s classic albums are finally coming to streaming services on March 3, alongside physical reissues set to be released simultaneously. The hip-hop legends’ 1989-2001 discography will be digitally released via band member Maseo’s label AOI, in partnership with Reservoir and the distribution wing of Chrysalis. The six albums on deck are 3 Feet High and Rising, De La Soul Is Dead, Buhloone Mindstate, Stakes Is High, Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump, and AOI: Bionix.

Born David Jude Jolicoeur, Trugoy the Dove formed De La Soul in 1988 with his high school friends, rappers Posdnuos and Maseo. According to Pitchfork, the three artists grew up in the Amityville area of Long Island. After catching the attention of local producer Prince Paul, De La Soul issued their debut album 3 Feet High and Rising in 1989.

That entrance rewired its upstart genre, permanently expanding hip hop’s bandwidth.

I’m talking light years. 

The album’s numerous samples—think Otis Redding in musical conversation with Steely Dan—alongside its concepts and audio marvels that still make you scratch your head, had simply never been heard before. “Me Myself and I” spliced in Funkadelic’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” tossing the track into the hip-hop headwind long before Dre, Snoop, and many others made “G-Funk” a genre.

Producer and studio wizard Prince Paul suggested the idea of having skits in between songs that made fun of the group, and ultimately challenged the culture of hip-hop in its infant stage.

Made with $13,000, an entry-level Casio RZ-1 drum machine/sampler, and another device called an Eventide harmonizer that allowed the group to match songs with completely different pitches, 3 Feet High remains a cultural benchmark for rap.

But although the debut was well received by critics and fans—it was named one of The Source’s “100 Best Rap Albums” in 1998—the record was initially siloed as “alternative rap.” At the time, rap records didn’t sound like that. The members looked, thought, and acted differently than other “Supa Emcees,” and their work felt offbeat yet very much on-time.

As a result, 3 Feet High and Rising has remained a unicorn of an album, despite its lack of streaming access in the digital platform era until now.

It’s had a longer career than several indie rock genres from the aughts, and crypto, combined.

That’s weight. De La’s utter uniqueness ensures Trugoy’s legacy will last for even longer.

“Hip-hop was still very macho back in the 1980s,” Kelvin Mercer, aka. Posdnuos or Pos told The Guardian in 2014. “The inner-city MCs’ raps were full of bragging and boasting. Although I was born in the Bronx, I grew up on Long Island. At my school, which was a mixture of Black and white kids, we would rap over Annie Lennox or Steve Miller. They weren’t the coolest, but our love for them was genuine.”

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John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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