3 Feet High and Rising

3 Feet High and Rising
Studio album by De La Soul
Released March 3, 1989
Recorded 1988-1989 at Calliope Studios, New York
Genre Alternative hip hop
Length 65:59 (album)
45:56 (bonus CD)
Label Tommy Boy/Warner Bros. Records
Producer Prince Paul
De La Soul chronology
3 Feet High and Rising
De La Soul Is Dead

3 Feet High and Rising is the debut album from American hip hop trio De La Soul, released in 1989.

The album marked the first of three full-length collaborations with producer Prince Paul, which would become the critical and commercial peak of both parties. It is consistently placed on 'greatest albums' lists by noted music critics and publications.[1] Robert Christgau called the record "unlike any rap album you or anybody else has ever heard."[2] In 1998, the album was selected as one of The Source Magazine's 100 Best Rap Albums..[3]

A critical, as well as commercial success, the album contains the well known singles, "Me Myself and I", "The Magic Number", "Buddy", and "Eye Know". On October 23, 2001, the album was re-issued along with an extra disc of B-side tracks, and alternative versions. The album's title was inspired by a line in the Johnny Cash song "Five Feet High and Rising." The album is discussed in detail by De La Soul in Brian Coleman's book Check the Technique.[4] It was selected by the Library of Congress as a 2010 addition to the National Recording Registry, which selects recordings annually that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[5]



Lyrically, the album was unusual for its time. Even beside its exhortations for peace and harmony, many of the songs are personal and heartfelt recountings of early sexual intercourse ("Jenifa Taught Me"), love ("Eye Know") and insecurity regarding personal appearance and fashion ("Can U Keep a Secret", "A Little Bit of Soap" "Take It Off"). With the exception of "Do As De La Does", there is very little profanity on the album, in contrast to most hip hop albums from the time period. Many of the lyrics are humorous and/or abstract, being both inventive and original; Posdnous compares the rhymes to dance in "The Magic Number" ("the phrasing Fred Astaires"). Many of the listeners who compared the group to hippies criticized the album for a childlike, simple approach at complex issues, as on "Tread Water", where a series of animals exhort the listener to maintain a positive mental attitude. Supporters point to songs like "Say No Go" as a realistic portrayal of the pitfalls of drug abuse. The title, besides being a Hall & Oates sample, is a reference to Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign; Posdnous criticizes Reagan, but applauds the sentiment.

The first track, entitled "Intro", is a skit that takes place at a game show. The contestants (portrayed by the three members of De La Soul plus producer Prince Paul) are asked four questions by the host (Al Watts), and their attempts at answering are scattered about the album. The song "Ghetto Thang" is one of the few non-positive tracks on the album. It is a story about poverty and other social ills, even though De La Soul is from middle-class suburb Amityville, New York (on Long Island). Its denunciation of ghetto violence can be summed up in the words "Ghetto gained a ghetto name from ghetto ways/Now there must be ghetto gangs and ghetto play/If ghetto thing can have its way and get arranged/Then there must be some ghetto love and ghetto change". "Description" describes each member of De La Soul, and a few others, in five lines each, the style reminiscent of a limerick.

Reception and influence

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[6]
BBC (favorable)[7]
RapReviews.com (10/10)[8]
Robert Christgau (A-)[9]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars[10]
Tiny Mix Tapes 5/5 stars[11]
Trouser Press (favorable)[12]
Uncut 5/5 stars[13]

It is also listed on Rolling Stones' 200 Essential Rock Records and The Source's 100 Best Rap Albums (both of which are unordered). When Village Voice held its annual Pazz & Jop Critics Poll for 1989, 3 Feet High and Rising was ranked at #1, outdistancing its nearest opponent (Neil Young's Freedom) by 21 votes and 260 points. It was also listed on the Rolling Stones The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Released amid the 1989 boom in gangsta rap, which gravitated towards hardcore, confrontational, violent lyrics, De La Soul's uniquely positive style made them an oddity beginning with the first single, "Me, Myself and I". Their positivity meant many observers labeled them a "hippie" group, based on their declaration of the "D.A.I.S.Y. Age" (da inner sound, y'all). Sampling artists as diverse as Johnny Cash, Hall & Oates, Steely Dan and The Turtles, 3 Feet High and Rising is often viewed as the stylistic beginning of 1990s alternative hip hop (and especially jazz rap).[14]

"An inevitable development in the class history of rap, [De La Soul is] new wave to Public Enemy's punk," wrote critic Robert Christgau in his Consumer Guide column's review of 3 Feet High and Rising. "Their music is also radically unlike any rap you or anybody else has ever heard — inspirations include the Jarmels and a learn-it-yourself French record. And for all their kiddie consciousness, junk-culture arcana, and suburban in-jokes, they're in the new tradition — you can dance to them, which counts for plenty when disjunction is your problem."

Rolling Stone magazine gave the album three stars and concluded that it was "(o)ne of the most original rap records ever to come down the pike, the inventive, playful 3 Feet High and Rising stands staid rap conventions on their def ear".

It was ranked 7 in Spin's "100 Greatest Albums, 1985–2005", ranked 88th in a 2005 survey held by British television's Channel 4 to determine the 100 greatest albums of all time. In 1998 , the album was selected as one of The Source's 100 Best Rap Albums. In 2003, the album was ranked number 346 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at #20 in its list of "40 Best Albums of the '80s".[15]

Electronica artist James Lavelle cited 3 Feet High and Rising as one of his favorite albums[16] "It was definitely a reaction to the slightly more hardcore area of what was going on in hip hop. As a concept record, it’s probably one of the best ever. It’s like the Pink Floyd of hip hop, their Dark Side of the Moon – the way it musically and sonically moves around, but also the use of language was so unusual and out there."

In 2011, 3 Feet High and Rising was among 25 albums chosen as additions to the Library of Congress’ 2010 National Recording Registry for being cultural and aesthetical and also for its historical impact. “America's recorded-sound heritage has in many ways transformed the soundscape of the modern world, resonating and flowing through our cultural memory, audio recordings have documented our lives and allowed us to share artistic expressions and entertainment. Songs, words, and the natural sounds of the world that we live in have been captured on one of the most perishable of all of our art media. The salient question is not whether we should preserve these artifacts, but how best collectively to save this indispensable part of our history." — James H. Billington from the Library of Congress.


  • The album's artwork was designed by radical British art collective The Grey Organisation[17]
  • Though the idea was quickly abandoned, the original concept behind the group was that Mase was PA and Posdnuos and Dove were the microphone plugs, transmitting messages from Mars. This is the origin of the nicknames for Posdnuos and Dave, Plug One and Plug Two, respectively.
  • The Turtles sued De La Soul and Tommy Boy over the allegedly unauthorized sampling (the original is looped, slowed down and played backwards) of "You Showed Me" on "Transmitting Live from Mars". An out of court settlement was reached without admission of liability by the defendants.
  • The title 3 Feet High and Rising comes from a Johnny Cash song called "Five Feet High and Rising" ("How high's the water, Mama?/It's three feet high and rising"). This song is sampled on the album. Some[who?] have interpreted the title as a reference to recreational drug use; De La Soul has not commented on this interpretation.
  • The members of the group have said that the only thing they would change about 3 Feet High and Rising is the cover, because the light-hearted colors do not mesh well with their somber faces.
  • De La Soul in collaboration with Nike Skateboarding created two SB Dunks (one low, one high) based on the 3 Feet High and Rising album cover.
  • In 2011, the album was named to the 2010 registry of the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. Coincidentally, Steely Dan’s album Aja, from which it samples, was also named to the registry the same year.[18]

Track listing

All songs written by De La Soul and Prince Paul except where stated.

# Title Writer(s) Samples Length
1 "Intro" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason 1:41
2 "The Magic Number" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason 3:14
3 "Change in Speak" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason, Steve Scipio, Patrick Patterson, Steve Allen
  • "Bra" by Cymande
  • Unknown James Brown track
  • "Mary, Mary" by The Monkees
  • "No Strings Attached" by Mad Lads
4 "Cool Breeze on the Rocks" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason 0:46
5 "Can U Keep a Secret" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason 1:38
6 "Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin's Revenge)" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason 3:25
7 "Ghetto Thang" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason 3:35
8 "Transmitting Live from Mars" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason
  • "You Showed Me" by The Turtles
  • A-LM (Audio-Lingual Materials) French 7 Practice Record Set from Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.
  • "Hey Jude" by Wilson Pickett
9 "Eye Know" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason, Walter Becker, Donald Fagen 4:06
10 "Take It Off" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason 1:53
11 "A Little Bit of Soap" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason 0:47
12 "Tread Water" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason 3:54
13 "Potholes in My Lawn" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason
  • "Cookies" by Brother Soul
  • "Little Old Country Boy" by Parliament
  • "Synthetic Substitution" by Melvin Bliss
  • "Magic Mountain" by Eric Burdon and War
14 "Say No Go" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason, Steve Scipio, Daryl Hall, John Oates, Sara Allen 4:20
15 "Do as De La Does" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason 1:58
16 "Plug Tunin' (Last Chance to Comprehend)" Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur
  • "Classic Concertos" by Liberace
  • "Stiletto" by Billy Joel
  • "Midnight Theme" by Manzel
  • "Son of Shaft" by the Bar-Kays
  • "Written on the Wall" by The Invitations
17 "De La Orgee" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason
  • "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little Bit More, Babe" by Barry White
18 "Buddy" (featuring Q-Tip and the Jungle Brothers) Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason, Michael Small, Nathaniel Phillip Hall, J. Davis 4:56
19 "Description" J. Davis
  • "Poet" by Sly & the Family Stone
  • "Midnight Theme" by Manzel
20 "Me Myself and I" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason, Phillip E. Wynn, George Clinton 3:41
21 "This Is a Recording 4 Living in a Fulltime Era (L.I.F.E.)" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason 3:16
22 "I Can Do Anything (Delacratic)" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason 0:40
23 "D.A.I.S.Y. Age" Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason 3:58
24 "Plug Tunin'" (original 12" version) Paul Huston, Kelvin Mercer, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason
  • "Stiletto" by Billy Joel
  • "Midnight Theme" by Manzel
  • "Son of Shaft" by the Bar-Kays
  • "Written on the Wall" by The Invitations

Bonus disc

When Tommy Boy Records re-issued 3 Feet High and Rising on October 23, 2001, initial pressings included this compact disc as a companion. It mainly featured B-side tracks, alternate versions of album tracks and skits that would later impact other De La Soul albums.

  1. "Freedom of Speak (We Got Three Minutes)" – 2:59
  2. "Strickly Dan Stuckie (Interlude)" – 0:42
  3. "Jenifa (Taught Me)" (12" version) – 4:42
  4. "Skip to My Loop (Interlude)" – 1:12
  5. "Potholes in My Lawn" (12" version) – 3:46
  6. "Me Myself and I" (Oblapos Mode) – 3:31
  7. "Ain't Hip to be Labeled a Hippie" – 1:50
  8. "What's More (From the Soundtrack Hell on 1st Avenue) (Interlude)" – 2:05
  9. "Brain Washed Follower" – 2:49
  10. "Say No Go" (New Keys Vocal) – 4:45
  11. "The Mack Daddy on the Left" – 2:31
  12. "Double Huey Skit" – 3:52
  13. "Ghetto Thang" (Ghetto Ximer) – 3:52
  14. "Eye Know" (The Know It All Mix) – 7:12


The following lists songs and sounds sampled for 3 Feet High and Rising.

Bonus disc

  • "Freedom of Speak (We Got Three Minutes)"
  • "Strictly Dan Shuckie"
    • "Schoolboy Crush" by The Average White Band
  • "Skip to My Loop"
    • "13 (Death March)" by Wes Montgomery & Jimmy Smith
    • "Baby It's Cold Outside" by Wes Montgomery & Jimmy Smith
  • "Brain-Washed Follower"
    • "Booty Butt" by Ray Charles Orchestra
    • "Funky President" by James Brown
    • "So This Is Our Goodbye" by The Moments
    • "You Made a Believer (Out of Me)" by Ruby Andrews
  • "The Mack Daddy on the Left"
    • "Hector" by the Village Callers


Information taken from Allmusic.[19]

  • arranger – De La Soul, Prince Paul, Trugoy the Dove
  • assistant production – De La Soul
  • engineering – Bob Coulter, Sue Fisher
  • assistant engineering – Greg Arnold
  • layout design – Steven Miglio
  • mixing – Prince Paul, Al Watts
  • performers – Jungle Brothers, Q-Tip
  • production – Prince Paul



Charts (1989)[20][21] Peak
UK Albums Chart 13
U.S. Billboard 200 24
U.S. Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums 1


Year Single Peak chart positions[22]
Billboard Hot 100 UK Singles Chart[20] Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks Hot Rap Singles Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales Dance Music/Club Play Singles
1988 "Plug Tunin'"
1989 "Potholes in My Lawn" 22
"Me Myself and I" 34 22 1 1 1 1
"Say No Go" 18 32 11 13 3
"Buddy" 18
1990 "Buddy" 8 2 11 27
"The Magic Number" 7
"Eye Know" 14

"—" denotes releases that did not chart.


  1. ^ "Tower.com: The Planet's Entertainment Destination for Music, CDs, Movies, DVDs, Books & more". Towerrecords.com. http://www.towerrecords.com/product.aspx?pfid=1023716&title=3+Feet+High+And+Rising&artist=De+La+Soul. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  2. ^ "Playboy Feb. 1989". Robert Christgau. http://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/play/1989-02.php. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  3. ^ "Source Magazine's 100 Best Albums". Raquenel.com. http://www.raquenel.com/hipland/album.html. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  4. ^ Coleman, Brian. Check The Technique: Liner Notes For Hip-Hop Junkies. New York: Villard/Random House, 2007.
  5. ^ "The National Recording Registry 2010". Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/rr/record/nrpb/registry/nrpb-2010reg.html. Retrieved April 10, 2011. 
  6. ^ Allmusic Review
  7. ^ "BBC Review". Bbc.co.uk. http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/nmw6. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  8. ^ "Review". Rapreviews.com. 2005-05-31. http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/BTTL_3feethigh.html. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  9. ^ "Robert Christgau Review". Robertchristgau.com. http://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?name=de+la+soul. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  10. ^ "The new Rolling Stone album guide - Google Books". Books.google.com. http://books.google.com/books?id=t9eocwUfoSoC&lpg=PA674&pg=PA224#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  11. ^ Joseph, Mister. "Tiny Mix Tapes Review". Tinymixtapes.com. http://www.tinymixtapes.com/music-review/de-la-soul-3-feet-high-and-rising. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  12. ^ "De La Soul". TrouserPress.com. http://www.trouserpress.com/entry.php?a=de_la_soul. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  13. ^ "The 500 Greatest Hip Hop albums plus the other ones that are honorable mention.". Rate Your Music. http://rateyourmusic.com/list/ChrisPC/the_500_greatest_hip_hop_albums__plus_the_other_ones_that_are_honorable_mention_/. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  14. ^ Robertson, Glen A. (2005) [2003] "342" in Joe Levey, Gillian Telling, and Kate Rockland's Rolling Stone's The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 1 Design Director: David Matt, Designer: Andrew Horton, Photo Editor: Deborah Dragon, Copy Editor: Corey Sabourin, Contributors: Pat Blashill, Nathan Brackett, Anthony DeCurtis, Matt Diehel, Chuck Eddy, Ben Edmons, Gavin Edwards, Jenny Eliscu, David Fricke, Elysa Gardener, Andy Greene, Mark Kemp, Greg Kot, Joe Levy, David McGee, Rob O'Connor, Parke Puterbaugh, Austin Scaggs, Karen Schoemer, Bud Scoppa, Rob Sceffield, David Thigpen, Barry Walters (1 ed.) Wenner Books, 1220 Avenue of Americas, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10104: Wenner Media, LLC p. 191 ISBN 1-932958-01-0 OCLC 70672814 
  15. ^ Q August 2006, Issue 241
  16. ^ "Features | Baker's Dozen | Baker's Dozen: UNKLE'S James Lavelle On His 13 Favourite Records". The Quietus. 2011-04-20. http://thequietus.com/articles/06129-james-lavelle-unkle-favourite-records?page=7. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  17. ^ "De La Soul - 3 Feet High And Rising (Vinyl, LP, Album) at Discogs". Discogs.com. 2007-08-28. http://www.discogs.com/De-La-Soul-3-Feet-High-And-Rising/release/1005555. Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  18. ^ "The National Recording Registry 2010." Retrieved from the Library of Congress Web Site on April 8, 2011.
  19. ^ "allmusic ((( 3 Feet High and Rising > Credits )))". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/album/r27752/credits. Retrieved 2009-10-28. 
  20. ^ a b Warwick, Neil; Kutner, Jon; Brown, Tony (2004). The Complete Book of the British Charts: Singles & Albums (3rd ed.). Omnibus Press. p. 303. ISBN 1-84449-058-0.
  21. ^ "allmusic ((( 3 Feet High and Rising > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Allmusic. Retrieved April 17, 2010.
  22. ^ "allmusic ((( 3 Feet High and Rising > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles )))". Allmusic. Retrieved April 17, 2010.

External links

See also

  • List of number-one R&B albums of 1989 (U.S.)

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