Balearic Mike’s Musical Diets / De La Soul / 3 Feet High & Rising / For Trugoy The Dove

Wonderful words by Balearic Mike.

Friday 03/03/23 should have been a joyful celebration, De La Soul Is Not Dead Day…

De La Soul – 3 Feet High And Rising – Tommy Boy / Big Life / Flying Records 1989 / 2001


I’d thought many times about digging out this record and writing about it, as it’s hugely important to me. I think I’d resolved to wait until next March when it would be 35 years old, but then had my hand forced by the excellent news that its many years in legal limbo had come to an end. With the problems between Tommy Boy, De La Soul, and the legal minefield around sample copyright solved, it meant that their back catalogue would at last be available on streaming sites, and an inevitable slew of vinyl reissues would follow. However, sadly, there’s another reason that all your social media feeds have been full of the wonderful music of De La Soul for the last few weeks, and the recollections and memories that their magical music revives in us all. The tragic death of Dave Jolicoeur AKA Trugoy The Dove, or Plug 2, at the age of only 54. What can you say? Nothing really, it’s just truly shit.

My first encounter with De La Soul came late in 1988, and my memory is incredibly sketchy on this, so it might have all been a dream. I’m pretty certain that I heard Norman Cook play Plug Tunin’ – or it could have been the other track on the US 12”, Freedom Of Speak. Even the location is vague. So, it was either in The Escape Club – now Patterns – or Downbeat – now the Rialto Theatre. I have a very clear memory of asking Norman what the record was and being shown the 12”, but the rest, as I say, quite hazy. 

I do know that I then walked into Rounder Records and bought the record from Mark, who was beginning to get to know me by name at that point. By the summer of ’89 most of the staff in Rounder knew myself and my friend Becca fairly well, partly because I was in the habit of bringing in Thorntons sweets to share – the height of ‘posh’ sweets in 1989 – and partly because we were in there buying records almost every day that summer. Our long shifts working on The Palace Pier selling ice cream and junk food making us feel quite rich for the first time.


My next encounter with De La Soul was with the LP, 3 Feet High & Rising, and it occurred on a night which was quite important for me. I’d been unhappy where I was living, and was looking for a new home. A friendly third year painter, called Bob Dixon, mentioned that another student in the second year, Melanie, had a lovely flat and was looking for a new housemate. I didn’t know Mel other than that she was part of this gang of girls in the year above who were all incredibly beautiful and intimidating, and that I’d always been too scared to say hello. Anyway, I now plucked up the courage, but she wasn’t keen on the idea of living with a boy, which seemed fair enough: I don’t like living with boys either. A few days later she must have had a change of heart; perhaps she noticed the way I flicked my hair while I danced and decided that I might actually be girly enough to share her home, and invited me up to see the place. It was indeed a gorgeous flat, situated just before Seven Dials on the highest point of Buckingham Place. We spent a lovely evening drinking wine and chatting, trying to figure out if we could get along… and we did, in no small part due to instantly bonding over music. We listened to 2 tapes on repeat, both Mel’s favourite LPs of the moment. One was N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton, and the other was 3 Feet High And Rising. 


We listened, basically on a loop, and the very next day I walked into Rounder and bought the UK pressing of De La Soul. I had wanted to buy N.W.A. as well, but it was still only available as a pricey US import. About a week later I bit the bullet and went back and bought it. I still have both, and still love them, although it’s pretty easy to pick a favourite! From there my obsession began in earnest. I subsequently bought every De La single, and remix, and one of my prized t-shirts that summer – it was a summer of MANY prized t-shirts, it must be said – was my white, hooded, short-sleeved, “This Is A Daisy Age” effort. What ever happened to that shirt?

3 Feet High & Rising managed to capture so much of the mood of that long hot summer, my first experiences of living away from home, and working on The Palace Pier all summer, selling ice cream. Clubbing or partying every night, buying records every day. The album was such a curveball. So joyous, and funny, and funky, and odd, and original. What I don’t think I initially grasped, was how Prince-like this LP was. I don’t mean in any directly stylistic way, although the Paisley psychedelia of Around The World In A Day, and the blissed-out, ‘Liberace-on-acid’, polka-dot style psychedelia of Lovesexy and Alphabet St. in particular, are there for all to see. But on a deeper level, both Prince’s background in the very white city of Minneapolis, and De La’s sleepy, rural upbringing in the mostly white, fairly affluent village of Amityville, New York, has some parallels. Although the instability of Prince’s home life and upbringing are very different, the cultural and musical landscape would have a lot of similarities, with mainstream rock & pop FM radio giving them both a radically different musical education, to say Public Enemy. And so, Johnny Cash, Steely Dan, and Hall & Oates, fit naturally alongside Sly Stone, Parliament, Funkadelic, The Blackbyrds, and James Brown. But it’s more than simple surroundings. It’s the vision and creativity to imagine something more fantastical than the everyday life you’re living that make it great art.

There are too many highlights for me to work through the whole LP, dissecting it track by track, and I’m sure you all know them inside out anyway. The singles are completely superb, which covers 6 of the songs, but my favourite was the LP only Tread Water – a magical hip hop nursery rhyme which I used to put on mixtapes next to Parliament’s Mr Wiggles. My “Favourite Lyric” award, though, goes to Jenifa Taught Me, for the brilliant couplet:

“The downstairs, where we met, I brought records, she cassettes,
Lost the breaks, found her shape, Jenifa, oh Jeni…”

It’s unavoidable that De La Soul will forever be remembered for their debut LP. But that’s nothing to be sad about. It’s a truly era-defining record, and one who’s influence was felt across multiple genres of music, not just hip hop, plus many strands of popular culture, from fashion to graphic design. They also aren’t the only important act to debut with a record which would define them for years to come, and who would struggle to reach those heights again. Both Soul II Soul and The Stone Roses released their first LPs in the couple of months following 3 feet High And Rising, and neither of them would ever be that hot again. De La Soul would go on to release an exceptional catalogue of work over the coming decades, although some of their albums had to wait a while to be appreciated as much as they deserve. 


I’m now onto my third copy of 3 Feet High & Rising. My first as mentioned above was the UK Big Life pressing. The sound on the LP wasn’t great, but worse than that, the pressing missed off the conclusion to the quiz! This meant that I also acquired a tape, which did include it. Later that year an Italian pressing on Flying Records with a bonus remix 12” arrived in Rounder Records, and that also featured the end of the quiz. It was duly bought, and my UK copy ended up passing to my girlfriend Sarah – who did quite well out of this habit of mine – upgrading to alternative pressings. Unfortunately, the Italian record sounded even worse than the UK one, so I was relieved when, on the 20th anniversary of Tommy Boy Records, it was finally pressed up on the double vinyl that it so desperately needed and deserved. Finally, I had a copy which sounded as good as the music. No album made up of this many samples is ever going to sound that hi-fidelity, but it is a huge improvement. I don’t think I will need to upgrade to one of the fancy new coloured vinyl versions, but never say no – go – ! Sorry.


Oh, and I took my little brother Chris to see De La in Brighton. The gig fell on his 17th birthday, and was rather special. I also saw them years later at The NIA Centre in Hulme, and they were actually even better that night. They’d become a truly great live act, which isn’t always the case with hip hop.

“See I look past all my worries, which is something you must do, 

Though you’re fed up, throw your head up,

With this advice from me to you, 

And that’s to tread water.”

For more from Balearic Mike you can find him on both Facebook and Instagram – @balearicmike. 

Mike has a Mixcloud page packed with magnificent, magical, music, and you can catch him live on 1BTN, from 12 noon until 2 (UK time) every 1st and 3rd Friday.

Balearic Mike 1BTN blue

You can also check out the super silk screen prints of “Balearic Wife” over at @jo_lambert_print


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s