3 Feet High and Rising

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3 Feet High and Rising
Studio album by
ReleasedMarch 3, 1989
LabelTommy Boy
ProducerPrince Paul
De La Soul chronology
3 Feet High and Rising
De La Soul Is Dead
Singles from 3 Feet High and Rising
  1. "Plug Tunin'"
    Released: 1988
  2. "Potholes in My Lawn"
    Released: 1988
  3. "Buddy"
    Released: December 11, 1988
  4. "Eye Know"
    Released: January 30, 1989
  5. "Me Myself and I"
    Released: April 1, 1989
  6. "Say No Go"
    Released: 1989
  7. "The Magic Number"
    Released: December 11, 1989

3 Feet High and Rising is the debut studio album by American hip hop group De La Soul, released on March 3, 1989[1] by Tommy Boy Records. It is the first of three collaborations with producer Prince Paul, which would become the critical and commercial peak of both parties. The album title comes from the Johnny Cash song "Five Feet High and Rising".[2] The album contains the singles "Me Myself and I", "The Magic Number", "Buddy", and "Eye Know".

Critically, as well as commercially, the album was a success. It is consistently placed on lists of the greatest albums of all time by noted critics and publications, with Robert Christgau calling it "unlike any rap album you or anybody else has ever heard".[3] In 1998, it was selected as one of The Source's "100 Best Rap Albums".[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]


The album's artwork was designed by Toby Mott's and Paul Spencer's radical British art collective the Grey Organisation (GO).[6] In 1986 Mott and Spencer had moved from London to New York after GO's infamous paint attacks on Cork Street art galleries, where they began working as bicycle messengers. By 1989, GO were exhibiting their paintings around the East Village and working as art directors for Tommy Boy Records and MTV (among others) making music videos for various groups, such as Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, and The Rolling Stones.[7] GO also began designing album covers for groups such as Information Society and De La Soul, most notably 3 Feet High and Rising.[8]

Mott describes the process of designing the album cover in his essay 'Hip Hop in The Daisy Age': "We have come up with the 'Daisy Age' visual concept. De La Soul visit our loft where we lay them down on the floor facing up, their heads making a triangle. We photograph them whilst hanging precariously off a step ladder, one idea being that the cover would not have a right way up. CD's [sic] have yet to be the dominant musical format so the vinyl album sleeve is our most effective way of making a statement. We layer the brightly-coloured hand drawn flower designs made with Posca paint pens on acetate over the black and white photographic portrait print, which is rostrum camera copied. This is well before the time of Apple Macs and scanning etc. [...] The intent of the design of De La Soul's, 3 Feet High and Rising LP cover is to be new and bright, with the overlaying of the fluorescent flowers and text reflecting a synthetic pop cartoon look [...] This is a move away from the prevailing macho hip hop visual codes which dominate to this day".[8]

Reception and influence[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Daily News[10]
Record Mirror5/5[13]
Rolling Stone[14]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[15]
Spin Alternative Record Guide9/10[16]
The Village VoiceA−[18]

Released amid the 1989 boom in gangsta rap, which gravitated towards hardcore, confrontational, violent lyrics, 3 Feet High and Rising showcased De La Soul's uniquely positive style,[19] which 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).

"An inevitable development in the class history of rap, [De La Soul is] new wave to Public Enemy's punk", wrote Robert Christgau of the album in his 1989 "Consumer Guide" column for The Village Voice. "Their music is maddeningly disjunct, and a few of the 24-cuts-in-67-minutes (too long for vinyl) are self-indulgent, arch. But 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."[18] Rolling Stone magazine's Michael Azerrad called 3 Feet High and Rising "the first psychedelic hip-hop record", "(o)ne of the most original rap records ever to come down the pike", and an "inventive, playful" record which "stands staid rap conventions on their def ear."[14] When The Village Voice held its annual Pazz & Jop critics' poll for 1989, 3 Feet High and Rising was ranked at number one, outdistancing its nearest opponent (Neil Young's Freedom) by 21 votes and 260 points.[20]

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).[21] Writing in retrospect for The A.V. Club, Nathan Rabin credits Prince Paul for helping "create progressive hip hop" with his production on 3 Feet High and Rising,[22] while author John Riordan says "its comedy skits and positive lyrics established the group as a progressive hip-hop act at odds with the increasingly violent image of mainstream rap."[23] Phil Witmer of Noisey cites De La Soul's "sampledelia" on the album as an "old-school" example of sampling being applied to "jarring, collage-like effect".[24] 3 Feet High and Rising is also credited with introducing the hip hop skit, a style of comedic sketch used both to introduce rap albums and as interludes between songs.[25]

In 1998, 3 Feet High and Rising was included in The Source's "100 Best Albums" list.[26] It was ranked number 346 on Rolling Stone's 2003 list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time",[27] maintaining the ranking in a 2012 revision of the list,[28] then rising to number 103 in a 2020 revision.[29] 3 Feet High and Rising was voted number 138 in the 2000 edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums,[30] while in 2005, it ranked 88th in a survey held by British television's Channel 4 to determine the 100 greatest albums of all time.[31] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[32]

In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at #20 in its list of "40 Best Albums of the '80s".[33] In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at #9 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s".[34]

Electronica artist James Lavelle cited 3 Feet High and Rising as one of his favorite albums. "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."[35]

Macy Gray felt it was "the best record of the past 15 years" in a Q magazine review: "They're like The Beatles of hip hop."[36]

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.[37]

"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.

Coincidentally, Steely Dan's album Aja, from which 3 Feet High and Rising samples, was also named to the registry that year.[37]

The track "The Magic Number" was later used in the end credits of the 2021 film Spider-Man: No Way Home as a reference to the three iterations of Peter Parker (portrayed by Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland) that appear in the film.[38]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Paul Huston, David Jolicoeur, Vincent Mason and Kelvin Mercer, except where noted. Artists sampled by the group are officially credited as songwriters for tracks 3, 9, 14 and 20.

1."Intro" 1:41
2."The Magic Number" 3:16
3."Change in Speak"Huston, Jolicoeur, Patrick Patterson, Steve Scipio2:33
4."Cool Breeze on the Rocks" 0:48
5."Can U Keep a Secret" 1:41
6."Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin's Revenge)" 3:25
7."Ghetto Thang" 3:36
8."Transmitting Live from Mars" 1:12
9."Eye Know"Walter Becker, Donald Fagen, Huston, Jolicoeur4:13
10."Take It Off" 1:53
11."A Little Bit of Soap" 0:57
12."Tread Water" 3:46
13."Potholes in My Lawn" 3:50
14."Say No Go"Sara Allen, Daryl Hall, Huston, Jolicoeur, John Oates, Scipio4:20
15."Do as De La Does" 2:12
16."Plug Tunin' (Last Chance to Comprehend)"Jolicoeur, Mercer4:07
17."De La Orgee" 1:14
18."Buddy" (featuring Jungle Brothers and Q-Tip)Jonathan Davis, Nathaniel Hall, Jolicoeur,4:55
20."Me Myself and I"George Clinton, Huston, Jolicoeur, Philippé Wynne3:50
21."This Is a Recording 4 Living in a Fulltime Era (L.I.F.E.)" 3:10
22."I Can Do Anything (Delacratic)" 0:41
23."D.A.I.S.Y. Age" 4:43
24."Plug Tunin'" (Original 12" version[39]) 3:43
2001 reissue bonus disc
1."Freedom of Speak (We Got Three Minutes)" (B-side of "Plug Tunin'")2:58
2."Strickly Dan Stuckie" (B-side of "Plug Tunin'")0:42
3."Jenifa (Taught Me) (12" version)" (from "Jenifa (Taught Me)"/"Potholes in My Lawn" single)4:42
4."Skip 2 My Loop" (B-side of "Jenifa (Taught Me)"/"Potholes in My Lawn")1:12
5."Potholes in My Lawn (12" version)" (from "Jenifa (Taught Me)"/"Potholes in My Lawn" single)3:46
6."Me Myself and I (Oblapos Mode)" (B-side of "Me Myself and I")3:31
7."Ain't Hip to be Labeled a Hippie" (B-side of "Me Myself and I")1:50
8."What's More (From the Soundtrack Hell on 1st Avenue)" (B-side of "Me Myself and I")2:05
9."Brain Washed Follower" (B-side of "Me Myself and I")2:49
10."Say No Go (New Keys Vocal)" (B-side of "Say No Go")4:53
11."The Mack Daddy on the Left" (B-side of "Say No Go" and "Eye Know")2:31
12."Double Huey Skit" (from "Say No Go" promo 12-inch)3:52
13."Ghetto Thang (Ghetto Ximer)" (B-side of "Buddy")3:52
14."Eye Know (The Know It All Mix)" (B-side of "Eye Know")7:12


Information taken from AllMusic.[40]

  • De La Soul – arrangers, production assistance
  • Prince Paul – arranger, mixing, production
  • Trugoy the Dove – arranger
  • Al Watts – mixing, production, engineer, game show host
  • Sue Fisher – engineer
  • Bob Coulter – engineer
  • Greg Arnold – assistant engineer
  • Steven Miglio – layout design
  • Jungle Brothers – performer
  • Q-Tip – performer



Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[49] Platinum 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cantor, Paul. "De La Soul, '3 Feet High and Rising' at 25: Classic Track-by-Track Review". Billboard. Billboard Inc. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  2. ^ Brian Coleman (12 Mar 2009). Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies. p. 152. ISBN 9780307494429.
  3. ^ "Playboy Feb. 1989". Robert Christgau. Archived from the original on 3 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-16.
  4. ^ "Source Magazine's 100 Best Albums". Raquenel.com. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2011-08-16.
  5. ^ "The National Recording Registry 2010". Library of Congress. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  6. ^ Andrew Noz. "The 50 Best Hip-Hop Album Covers". Complex.
  7. ^ Lydia Slater (9 September 2010). "Toby Mott, from the punk of Pimlico to power player". Evening Standard.
  8. ^ a b "The Art of the Album Cover: De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising by Toby Mott + the Grey Organisation". hypergallery.blogspot.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2013-05-29. Retrieved 2012-12-04.
  9. ^ Bush, John. "3 Feet High and Rising – De La Soul". AllMusic. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  10. ^ Browne, David (February 5, 1989). "Rap Goes Psychedelic". Daily News.
  11. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (March 18, 1989). "Rap Goes Green". NME. p. 35.
  12. ^ Chang, Jeff (September 23, 2018). "De La Soul: 3 Feet High and Rising". Pitchfork. Retrieved September 23, 2018.
  13. ^ Halasa, Malu (March 18, 1989). "De La Soul: 3 Feet High and Rising". Record Mirror. p. 39.
  14. ^ a b Azerrad, Michael (March 23, 1989). "3 Feet High And Rising". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on April 14, 2022. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
  15. ^ Caramanica, Jon (2004). "De La Soul". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 224–225. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  16. ^ Weisbard, Eric (1995). "De La Soul". In Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (eds.). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. pp. 104–105. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  17. ^ Hasted, Nick (July 2003). "Bohemian rap-sody". Uncut. No. 74. p. 132.
  18. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (March 28, 1989). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  19. ^ "De La Soul 3 Feet High and Rising 30th Anniversary Mixtape mixed by Chris Read - Wax Poetics". Archived from the original on 2019-06-19. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  20. ^ "The 1989 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. February 27, 1990. Retrieved July 27, 2022.
  21. ^ Robertson, Glen A.; et al. (2005) [2003]. "342". In Levey, Joe; Telling, Gillian; Rockland, Kate (eds.). Rolling Stone's The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Vol. 1 (1 ed.). New York, NY: Wenner Books. p. 191. ISBN 1-932958-01-0. OCLC 70672814.
  22. ^ Rabin, Nathan (March 29, 2002). "Prince Paul: Prince Among Thieves". The A.V. Club. Retrieved July 22, 2021.
  23. ^ Riordan, John (2020). "De La Soul". Music's Cult Artists. Ryland Peters & Small. ISBN 9781912983391.
  24. ^ Witmer, Phil. "Frank Ocean's "Seigfried" Builds on the Beatles' Production Legacy". Noisey.
  25. ^ Rytlewski, Evan (February 17, 2012). "Phasing out the skit: How hip-hop outgrew one of its most frustrating traditions". The A.V. Club. Retrieved July 27, 2022.
  26. ^ "100 Best Albums". The Source. No. 100. January 1998.
  27. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: 3 Feet High and Rising – De La Soul". Rolling Stone. December 11, 2003. Archived from the original on December 20, 2010. Retrieved July 27, 2022.
  28. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. May 31, 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  29. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. September 22, 2020. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  30. ^ Larkin, Colin (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 85. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  31. ^ "100 Greatest Albums". 100 Greatest. April 17, 2005. Channel 4.
  32. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (7 February 2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
  33. ^ Q August 2006, Issue 241
  34. ^ Staff (5 March 2012). "The 100 Best Albums of the 1980s". Slant Magazine.
  35. ^ "Features | Baker's Dozen | Baker's Dozen: UNKLE'S James Lavelle On His 13 Favourite Records". The Quietus. 2011-04-20. Retrieved 2011-08-16.
  36. ^ Q, October 2001
  37. ^ a b "The National Recording Registry 2010." Retrieved from the Library of Congress Web Site on April 8, 2011.
  38. ^ Turner-Williams, Jaelani (2021-12-28). "Gen-Z is Learning About De La Soul Due to 'Spider-Man: No Way Home'". Okayplayer. Retrieved 2022-01-05.
  39. ^ Internet Archive
  40. ^ "allmusic ((( 3 Feet High and Rising > Credits )))". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-10-28.
  41. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  42. ^ "Charts.nz – De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising". Hung Medien. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  43. ^ "De La Soul | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  44. ^ "De La Soul Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  45. ^ "De La Soul Chart History (Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  46. ^ "Spanishcharts.com – De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising". Hung Medien. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  47. ^ "Top Billboard 200 Albums – Year-End 1989". Billboard. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  48. ^ "Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums – Year-End 1989". Billboard. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  49. ^ "American album certifications – De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising". Recording Industry Association of America.

External links[edit]