Updating Stetsasonic's jazz-cum-hip hop template with Prince Paul's intricately constructed sampledelia, 1989's Three Feet High and Rising significantly broadened the horizons of hip hop -- and all sample-based music, for that matter; perhaps even more important, the group's quirky sense of humor and pacifist preoccupations made the music safe for the college set. Sure, Prince Paul's musical aesthetic was shattered when the Turtles sued him for copyright violation and forever changed the course of hip hop, and De La's vision of hippies and hip-hoppers congealing never happened (even the group rejected much of the loopy idealism on its classic sophomore LP, De La Soul Is Dead), but for a few wonderful years, this trio was the future.
While no longer on the genre's cutting edge, De La has released a string of consistently satisfying albums throughout the past decade and its live shows still shimmer with a tight, confident energy. Recently, the members teamed up with Sean Paul for last year's infectious "Shoomp"; appeared with Mos Def and Q-Tip on the remix of N.E.R.D.'s "She Wants to Move"; and announced plans to release a live album, Live at Tramps, NYC, on Rhino this month. Be prepared to revisit "yesterday's tomorrow" when De La Soul returns to S.F. next week.