50 Years of Hip Hop: ‘De La Soul Is Dead’ Defined the Genre’s Grip on Culture
There are some key albums in hip-hop history that help define a generation, but perhaps none more so than the second album from the Native Tongues group De La Soul – “De La Soul is Dead.”
“De La Soul is Dead,” the second album from the group, enhanced hip-hop’s grip on modern culture. It was released in May of 1991, and was produced by Prince Paul.
The group consisted of Kelvin “Psodnous” Mercer, David “Trugoy the Dove” Jolicoeur, and Vincent “Maseo” Mason. Trugoy the Dove sadly died in February of 2023, after battling heart issues for several years. Just days before his death, the group performed on the Grammy Awards, but without him present.
“You were the heart of our group. You brought so much creativity, energy, and passion to our music, and your influence will be felt for years to come,” the group said in an Instagram post after his death. “Your passing is a great loss not only to us, but also to the entire hip-hop community. You were a true artist who used music to inspire and uplift others, and you will be deeply missed by all who knew you.”
The album title was striking, as the group was illustrating they weren’t the De La Soul you knew on their first album, “3 Feet High and Rising.” And man, was it different!
Listening to the album with such tracks as “Ring, Ring, Ring,” and “Oodles of O’s,” gives you a picture of a group that was no longer the light, funny De La Soul.
The title itself confuses, but at the same time enhances our interpretation of music’s dynamics. The old-school, children’s vinyl storybook feel of the album, displays the groups, adolescence, and fresh take on hip-hop at the time. Making the album “De La Soul is Dead” not a death certificate, but a new dimension in hip-hop!
While the album only reached No. 26 on the Billboard 200, it stands out as one of the more iconic of the generation. It did go Gold, selling over 500,000 units, and has landed on many lists among the best hip-hop albums of all-time.