There’s a bittersweet nostalgia this morning. 30 years ago today De La Soul released 3 Feet High And Rising, a record that fundamentally challenged the norms of hip hop. Before De La, there wasn’t a meaningful mainstream counter argument to the machismo soaked bars that had launched hip hop into global consciousness. Where NY’s hip hop greats proudly and loudly lauded their Bronx, Queens or Brooklyn bonafides, De La Soul was miles away in the suburbs of Amityville, Long Island, making music in the place you’d move to if you wanted to escape urban decay. It struck listeners as supremely self aware that De La Soul didn’t try to cut their cloth to fit the “norm”; their songs had a much more playful, positive, groove focus, and questioned the image of hip hop itself as a trope. And the reaction was tremendous. “Me Myself and I” was an enormous hit, bridging hip hop and pop audiences and demonstrating the trio’s ability to make music with wide appeal.
Fast forward to 2019. 30 years later their music isn’t available on streaming platforms due to clearance issues and protracted negotiations with their label Tommy Boy. De La Soul and Tommy Boy’s issues are playing out in a surprisingly public way, and you can read more about that anywhere, really, including Instagram where De La Soul has been posting regular updates. But the real scandal here is the thought that it is almost certain that somewhere there is somebody who wasn’t alive to hear 3 Feet when it dropped, and has never actually sat down and listened to the album. This stands in stark contrast to the long, uninterrupted line of culture we’ve enjoyed for at least the last few generations. Could a Baby Boomer imagine us not having ever been given the ability to listen to Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, James Brown? It’s inconceivable. What if To Kill a Mockingbird was no longer in print after 1989? If Rocky or Apocolypse Now simply disappeared? Which begs the question…WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE DOING TO PROTECT OUR CULTURE? How do we ensure that we can share the things that shaped us with our children, and their children? Do we care enough about who we are to preserve the stories that define us?
This iconic album turned 30 years old today, but it doesnt matter. Not at all. Because if we write our history in the sand, it’s all for not. We grew up taking field trips to museums to learn about dinosaurs and the founding fathers. The remoteness of time past was so sublime we got dizzy standing before fossils of impossible dimensions. And today our prehistoric past is only 3 decades old. Perhaps less. We’re moving into an era of hyper disposability, characterized by the perponderence of everything and the preservation of little. We recommend you buy a physical copy of De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising and keep it as away to remind you to remember, and because your children might want to know who you actually are someday.