Remembering De La Soul co-founder David Jolicoeur, aka Trugoy the Dove
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAY NO GO")
DE LA SOUL: (Rapping) Now let's get right on down to the skit. A baby is brought into a world of pits.
DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, in for Terry Gross. David Jolicoeur, otherwise known as Trugoy the Dove or Plug 2, of the influential hip-hop group De La Soul, died Sunday at the age of 54. No cause was given. Though recently he revealed he had congestive heart problems. In 1989, the group released its first album with such fun and funny tracks as this.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ME MYSELF AND I")
DE LA SOUL: (Rapping) Mirror, mirror on the wall, tell me mirror, what is wrong? Can it be my De La Clothes, or is it just my De La Soul? What I do ain't make-believe. People say I sit and try. But when it comes to being De La, it's just me myself and I. It's just me myself and I. It's just me myself and I.
BIANCULLI: That's from the album "3 Feet High And Rising." The group was known for sampling widely from Steely Dan, Ben E. King, George Clinton, Lee Dorsey, Liberace and others. De La Soul's members were middle class and suburban, from the Amityville area of Long Island. Their music offered an accessible alternative to the grittier, urban version of rap. David Jolicoeur, or Dave, founded De La Soul while still in high school with his friends Kelvin Mercer, otherwise known as Posdnuos, and Vincent Mason, known as Mase. They were discovered by DJ and producer Prince Paul. They produced eight studio albums. Their album "3 Feet High And Rising" is in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry. Terry Gross spoke to Dave and Mase in 2000.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)
TERRY GROSS: Let me play something from the first De La Soul record, "3 Feet High And Rising." And this is "Three Is The Magic Number" (ph). I mean, we're talking about what what kids listen to. And on this CD, you pay tribute to a type of kids song I imagine you grew up with, which is "Multiplication Rock." And so this is - this kind of takes off from there. Let's hear it. This is "Three Is The Magic Number" (ph).
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE MAGIC NUMBER")
DE LA SOUL: Got to have soul.
(Singing) Three, that's the magic number. Yes, it is.
(Singing) It's the magic number.
(Singing) Somewhere in this hip-hop soul community was born three - Mase, Dove and me. And that's the magic number.
What does it all mean?
(Rapping) Difficult preaching is Posdnuos' pleasure, Pleasure and preaching starts in the heart - something that stimulates the music in the measure, measure in the music, raised in three parts. Casually see but don't do like the soul 'cause seein' and doin' are actions for monkeys. Doin' hip-hop hustle, no rock 'n' roll, unless your name's Brewster, 'cause Brewster's a punk.
(Rapping) Parents, let go, 'cause there's magic in the air, criticizing rap shows you're out of order. Stop, look and listen to the phrasing, Fred Astaires. And don't get offended while Mase do-si-dos your daughter. A tri-camera rolls system is now set. Fly rhymes are stored on a DaISY production. It stands for da inner sound, y'all, and y'all can bet that the action's not a trick, but sure 'nough a function.
What does it all mean?
(Rapping) Everybody wants to be a DJ. Everybody wants to be an MC. But being speakers are the best. And you don't have to guess. De La Soul posse consists of three. And that's the magic number.
(Rapping) This here piece of the pie is not dessert, but the course that we dine. And three out of every darn time, the effect is mmm when a daisy grows in your mind. Showing true position, this here piece is kissin' the part of the pie that's missin', where that negative number fills up the casualty. Maybe you can subtract it. You can call it your lucky partner. Maybe you can call it your adjective. But odd as it may be, without my one and two, where would there be my three? Mase, Pos and me - and that's the magic number.
What does it all mean?
(Rapping) Focus is formed by flaunts to the soul.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)
GROSS: That's from De La Soul's first CD. It was really refreshing, I think, to hear rap that was ironic and really playful. And I'm wondering if you were almost afraid to do that then, because it was so different from the kind of more hardcore rap that took itself really seriously.
VINCENT MASON: No, we weren't afraid. I mean, that's really where we come from. That's what we knew. So that's...
DAVID JOLICOEUR: Yeah.
MASON: ...What we knew to implement in our music.
JOLICOEUR: It was an innocence. We paid no mind to what was happening all around us. I mean, you know, the people that we were we admired and looked up to were the Run-DMCs and the Public Enemies and the...
MASON: LL Cool Js.
JOLICOEUR: ...LL Cool Js and KRS-Ones. And, you know, none of these groups sound anything alike. You know, everyone was doing their own thing. So to step into the game or even try to introduce our game - ourselves to the game was like, OK, well, we're bringing our own thing to light also. And there was an innocence there that, you know, paid no attention to fads, what was in, you know, what was selling and what was not and what wasn't. It was just, you know, a couple of kids just getting together and having a good time and just giving a product to a company that had bigger plans for it, you know? And that's why it was with us. So, I mean, to sit back and really analyze the situation and say, wow, are we going to make it; is this going to is this going to be accepted or what have you? - that was no concern of ours.
GROSS: Not only didn't you want to go along with fads, you had a song on that CD called "Take It Off"...
GROSS: ...In which you urged people to throw away throw away stuff that was faddish, whether it was...
GROSS: ...You know, clothing or ideas. Yeah.
JOLICOEUR: Yeah, definitely. I think, you know, that's one of the things that we did try to, you know, make the - obviously, the highlighted theme of "3 Feet High And Rising," into era was just, you know, individualism, you know, people expressing themselves, you know, the way that they choose - you know, if you want to cut your head - cut your hair bald, if you want to grow dreads, if you want to put parts, if you want to braid or what have you, you know? Just because everyone's rockin' Afros, that doesn't mean you can't go against the grain. You know, we all have our own interpretation of what fashion is in style, and why not express it, you know? And that's where it was at with us.
GROSS: Why don't we hear just a little bit of "Take It Off"?
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TAKE IT OFF")
DE LA SOUL: Take it off. Take that Kangol off. Please. Take it off. Please. Take that Jordache off. Please. Take it off. Please. Take that Afro off. Please. Take it off. Take that jheri curl off. Take it off. Please. Take that Le Tigre off. Take it off. Take those acid-washed jeans, bell-bottom, designed by your mama off. Please? Please.
GROSS: That's more music from De La Soul's first CD, "3 Feet High And Rising." My guests are two of the three members. What's the range of reactions you got to that first CD, which was filled with humor and irony and - we'll get to this later - with samples from just all kinds of different music.
JOLICOEUR: I mean, people loved what we did. I mean, I have to honestly say that's my favorite, and it probably will be the best album that I felt like we've ever done. Like I said, there weren't no - there weren't any boundaries. We were just some young kids having a good time, and people respected it for that. It was like, wow, these guys aren't really, you know, afraid to give themselves a hundred percent, whether you thought it was childish, whether you thought it was funny or whether you thought it was ingenious, it was just - you know, people accepted it.
People was like, wow, I always wanted to do something like that, but I just was afraid to put it on - you know, on tape. I always wanted to sample that, but I didn't think it would work. And, you know, it was always good to hear, you know, the toughest of the tough, you know, the gangsters, the - you know, someone like a KRS-One at our first release party, you know, like, just praising us. Like, wow, De La Soul, you guys are incredible. This is crazy. Or DMC from Run-DMC having to get to our first show that we ever did was like, yo, I got to be here, front row. I got to be right in the front, you know? And it was like - it was good to see those people that, you know, went out and bought records, you know, for years, just loving what we did. It was excellent.
JOLICOEUR: Then, on top of that, meeting people throughout touring through the years and telling us, you know - like, one guy approached me telling me that he met his wife buying "3 Feet High And Rising," and...
MASON: Yeah, and other people saying that - you know, you guys, you know, if it wasn't for you, I was - you know, I was going to commit suicide, and...
JOLICOEUR: And stuff like that.
MASON: You know, things like that are always good. So aside even from, you know, our peers in the game itself, you know, just people as a whole, just, like, kind of - "3 Feet High and Rising" was some sort of a magnet to people just opening up. So, you know, it's a good feeling to hear things like that.
GROSS: Did you think anything was misinterpreted?
JOLICOEUR: I think the only thing that maybe was misinterpreted - that people kept classifying us to be hippies - you know? - when we didn't really have an understanding of what that was all about, you know? It was cool...
GROSS: I wonder how much of that just came from the design on the album jacket. It's got, like, daisies on it and...
JOLICOEUR: Yeah, I think it came from the design.
MASON: Yeah. People misinterpreted the look, you know? I mean, I think people thought that we were going out trying to, I guess, advertise ourselves as, you know, this fun-loving, you know, '60s hip-hop group. And I was born in the late '60s. I knew nothing about, you know...
JOLICOEUR: I'm a '70s baby myself (laughter).
MASON: You know? So I think that's the only thing that kind of, like, got at us, was, like, you know, when it came down to publicity and advertising the record, people always wanted us to take pictures with flowers and make sure you wear yellow and lime green. And, you know, I was like, you know, well, I want to wear brown today, you know? So it was that kind of a thing that was kind of a bit annoying.
GROSS: The samples on that first CD included Steely Dan, Liberace, Otis Redding, the Jarmels, who did "A Little Bit Of Soap." "Stand By Me," I think, is sampled on it, the Ben E. King record. There's a French language instruction record. How did you know all these records?
JOLICOEUR: Parents' record collections.
JOLICOEUR: That's really what it was. I mean, I was kind of hung up in the funk era and reggae era with my parents and uncles and stuff, and...
MASON: And my parents were listening to Perry Como, Liberace, Sammy Davis Jr. and...
GROSS: Really (laughter)?
MASON: You know, stuff like that, and...
JOLICOEUR: And Pos' parents have a real strong Southern background.
JOLICOEUR: So they listen to a lot of Otis Redding and...
JOLICOEUR: You know, a lot of stuff that was on this popular station called ABC back in the day.
GROSS: Oh, Home of the Good Guys. Yeah, right.
JOLICOEUR: Yeah. Well, we got, you know...
MASON: And then, of course, Prince Paul, who collected stuff like "Multiplication Rock" and Mickey Mouse records and, you know, all sorts of kiddie records like that. So just, you know, the - you know, everybody bringing their forth (ph) into it made "3 Feet High And Rising" what it was.
GROSS: So these are records that you really liked, even if you like some of them for being really bad, I mean, for just really being so awful that they were fun?
MASON: Oh, yeah. You - I mean, you're always going to find something. I - you know, it's not every record. I mean, there are a lot of records that are in our crates that, you know, are just, like, you know, just for one thing. But that one thing makes it special. And that Liberace record...
MASON: I'm not going to sit here and say that I listen to Liberace all day, but, you know, that introduction was just incredible, you know? And that worked for De La Soul. It was like - you know, that had to go on the record.
GROSS: Well, I think we'd better hear the Liberace sample.
MASON: All right.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLUG TUNIN'")
LIBERACE: And now for my next number, I'd like to return to the classics, perhaps the most famous classic in all the world of music.
DE LA SOUL: The first time around, you didn't quite understand our new style of speak. Don't worry. We can fix that right now. So why don't you all just grab your bags? Come on board, hoist the anchor, and we'll be off. Plug one. Plug one.
GROSS: That's from De La Soul's first CD, "3 Feet High And Rising." My guests are two of the three members of the group, Dave and Mase. So when you started sampling, I'm wondering if you started shopping for records in a different way than you ever did before, just looking for cool things to put on your own records.
MASON: What's so funny - the method of shopping for records was kind of, like, really different. I mean, it's like that for a lot of hip-hop artists. We sometimes are clueless of the artists and what music they play and what instruments or what type of music it is. Sometimes we just - we're looking at a couple of things. We're looking at the year. We're looking at what instruments are being played. We're looking at the font on the record. If it looks like it's psychedelic, that might have something different. If it looks jazzy, it might have - you know, we're looking at a lot of other things more than who the musician is and what the songs are, you know? It's funny how we shop for records. It really is. It's - you know, you're looking for certain labels. You - like I said, you're looking for the font on the album cover. And you're looking for the year.
GROSS: Do you mostly go to used record stores and look for vinyl? Or do you use CDs for sampling too?
JOLICOEUR: I personally look for vinyl due to the fact that I'm a DJ and I highly support vinyl. And when I am DJing, I like to put a lot of obscure scratches into what I'm doing sometimes, let alone playing some of these old records. You know, some of these old records that I've been looking for, like a King Floyd record or Otis Redding record that I would love to play in a party - like, to play this certain break in a party or something like that and then go into my next tune. So I'm highly supportive of shopping for vinyl. It's just a DJ thing.
MASON: It is, I think, just, you know, seeing how many - how much more records you can just load into that garage that's already looking like some sort of a...
JOLICOEUR: Record store (laughter).
MASON: You know? A record junkyard, you know?
JOLICOEUR: Yeah (laughter).
MASON: It's just - it's always a good feeling also to just crack that new plastic and then put something on that turntable and hope that you find the most incredible, you know, horn section or drum loop or - it's just exciting.
BIANCULLI: David Jolicoeur and Vincent Mason, also known as Dave and Mase, speaking to Terry Gross in 2000. More after a break, this is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "U CAN DO (LIFE)")
DE LA SOUL: Come on. Come on. Bounce. Bounce. Come on. Bounce. Rock. Roll. (Singing) You can do whatever you want...
BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. Let's get back to Terry's 2000 interview with two members of the influential hip-hop group De La Soul, David Jolicoeur and Vincent Mason, popularly known as Dave and Mase. David Jolicoeur died Sunday at age 54.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)
GROSS: How did you guys meet in high school?
MASON: I met Dave in English class.
JOLICOEUR: Yeah, with Ms. Scahan (ph).
MASON: Ms. Scahan (laughter).
JOLICOEUR: We just met each other in school. Mase was a popular DJ in the neighborhood. He came out of Brooklyn and came into Amityville and started doing a lot of parties here and there and coupling up with a lot of rappers in the neighborhood and when we were all doing it just for a hobby, just for - doing our little basement parties here and there. And he was a popular DJ at the time. Myself and Pos were rapping in the basement, making tapes with our own group. And then we just, like, started hearing about each other. And one day, it just actually meshed where it was like, OK, let's try something. Let's make a tape. And that's it was about back in the days, making a tape at home, seeing if you could come up with your own little songs, and then maybe somewhere down the line going to a party and performing and just young kids stuff.
MASON: And I met Pos in the party scene in Amityville.
GROSS: What was the party scene in Amityville like?
MASON: Basement parties, back out parties.
JOLICOEUR: Dark basement parties and...
MASON: Dugout parties (laughter).
JOLICOEUR: The little red light bulb. And there's like a basement filled with maybe like 70 people and everybody dancing. All the dancers were out at the time. And then backyard parties in the summertime. People would throw backyard party, speakers, and they'd fill their backyard and...
MASON: I mean, that was back when I was DJing. And I was also playing slow records.
JOLICOEUR: They don't play slow jams at the parties anymore.
GROSS: I'm wondering if either of you had parents who were very political - and not necessarily voting booth politics, but just in terms of having a kind of political social analysis of of class and race in America and if they talked to you a lot about that.
JOLICOEUR: I think we grew up with parents who just, you know, had, you know, moral backbone. It was like, you know, I'm not sending my kid out in the street looking any old way. I'm not going to send my kid out in the streets or into school, you know, not knowing how to speak, you know. I mean, yeah, we heard curses around the house, but you know that that's where it was - that's where you kept it and that's it. And if mom or dad cursed, it was mom and dad cursing. I wasn't the one that's supposed to follow right behind or say it out in the streets or say it to anyone else. You know, my parents were very strict. And, you know, if we got out of line, you know, we got dealt with also.
And, you know, it just carries on. You know, at the time, you know, you're like, oh, mom and dad or mom or whoever, you know, their pains or what have you. But it paid off. And I - you know, it doesn't necessarily take, you know, mom and dad in the household. Perfect example is Mase. And it's like, you know, seeing how his mom was and, you know, just being in a small part of his life and how his mom seemed to be as a person, it's like Ms. Mason raised us, myself, Pos. You know, it's like, you know, when you - when we weren't at home with our parents, she was there making sure that we were in order, you know. So I could imagine how it went down in his house.
MASON: I grew up in a single-parent home. You know, I come from a lot of the struggle that these rappers talk about. I've been on welfare. I've lived from house to house. I lived in a one-bedroom apartment, putting milk on the windowsill. And, you know, regardless of all the trials and tribulations I've been through with my mom, my mother's my hero. You know, she struggled. And she struggled to really provide a good life for me and my brother. She did everything possibly under the sun to make sure that we've had a pretty stable life, you know, working odd jobs as well as having public assistance.
JOLICOEUR: Yeah. And sometimes it goes just farther than just putting food on the table. I mean, you know, after they put food on the table, they made sure that you held the fork the right way and, you know, you didn't stuff your mouth like a...
MASON: Instill those values in my head.
JOLICOEUR: And those things were more important than, you know, her working a 12-hour shift or what have you, my mom and my dad trading up on shifts and, you know, you babysit them, then while I'm going away - it's like, you know, a lot of things - a lot of other things were important to them, too. So that's kind of what molded us to be the people that we are today.
GROSS: Well, I want to thank you both so much for talking with us.
JOLICOEUR: Thanks for having us.
BIANCULLI: De La Soul members David Jolicoeur and Vincent Mason, popularly known as Dave and Mase, speaking to Terry Gross in 2000. David Jolicoeur died Sunday at age 54. Beginning March 3, the music from the first six albums by De La Soul will be available for streaming for the first time. After a break, science writer Ed Yong explains how animals perceive the world differently than humans. And film critic Justin Chang reviews the new movie "Emily" focusing on novelist Emily Bronte before she wrote "Wuthering Heights." I'm David Bianculli, and this is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.