A Season of Songs, Day 75: Plug Tunin

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

Today’s song is “Plug Tunin” by De La Soul off their 1989 debut album “3 Feet High and Rising”.

Hands won’t sweat cause there’s no threat
Mic will stay dry while pitchin’ so loose
Rhymes aren’t fables but stable to be on time
Cause they’re marketed and labeled sticker ‘Posdnuos’
This pitch will fit with every consumer
Microphone loosed in cycles, start blooming
Profit and cost should never be lost
All due to a clue of a naughty noise called
Plug Tunin’

I think in high school I would have heard some De La Soul and been familiar with them, mostly as they were a member of the Native Tongue family of hip-hop acts with the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Leaders of the New School and Black Sheep.  I don’t know if there was any particular reason why, but I never bought “3 Feet High and Rising” at the time.  I became familiar with the song “Me, Myself and I”, but beyond that I didn’t really ever listen to the album or listen to De La Soul at all until sometime later in the mid-90’s.

At some point I got a cassette copy of “De La Soul Is Dead”, probably a few years after it came out.  Used copy maybe?  No recollection of how it came into my life, but it did.  “De La Soul Is Dead” was the album that sold me on De La Soul. There’s not too many standout tracks on the album (I guess “A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturday'” and “Bitties in the BK Lounge” are the 2 that always come to mind first), but overall it is just a solid fun record from start to finish. And it has skits on the album that aren’t complete throwaways, that are pretty funny and actually add something to the record; something that I can’t say for many/most hip-hop records that have ongoing skits between tracks.

It was years after moving to Pittsburgh that I would then finally invest in a copy of “3 Feet High and Rising” and finally get to enjoy the full record.  Once again, just a great start to finish record.  This album definitely has a couple songs that stand out – “Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin’s Revenge)”, “Potholes in my Lawn”, “Magic Number” and of course, “Me, Myself and I”.

De La Soul have a inventiveness and experimental nature to their song structure and rhyme schemes that keep things interesting, mixed with a playfulness that keeps things fun, all at the same time without seeming to try too hard.  Looking at the lyrics to “Plug Tunin”, you see both rhyming within lines and then the individual lines rhyming.  The flow structure is a bit more of a staccato poetry flow compared with many of their contemporaries (i.e. the smooth, jazzy flow of Tribe or the booming delivery of Public Enemy).  At times their lyrics are a bit more thoughtful, calculated with an intellectual flair but then sometimes they can be totally childish and silly (see “Bitties in the BK Lounge”).  I think that’s what makes their albums all such solid listens — there is a variety of textures and sounds that keep things interesting.

Last year De La Soul made all of their albums available for free download.  I finally took that opportunity to download “Buhloone Mindstate” and “Stakes Is High”.  Both sweet albums.  I think “Stakes is High” is my favorite of those two.  As of this time I think “3 Feet High & Rising” and “De La Soul is Dead” are running about evens for favorite album, with “Stakes is High” behind that and “Buhloone Mindstate” last.  There are plans for a new album in 2015.

New(ish) track (recorded last year?) with Chuck D – available here.  Also, if someone wants to buy me this De La tanktop, I promise to rock it frequently this summer.

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