De La Soul | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising is for my money the landmark hip-hop album of '89, a captivating tapestry of sound, color, and rhythm that makes the vast majority of gold-bedecked MCs seem pretty lame by comparison. Like other hiphoppers, De La Soul raid the pop/rock past for grooves and other fragments to reassemble into new music, but they open the genre up to a much wider range of sounds (I discern samples of, among others, Ben E. King, Jimi Hendrix, Hall and Oates, a French language instruction record, and some cowboy yodeler), moods, and subject matter than anyone else to date. 3 Feet High and Rising may be the first hip-hop record that, while danceable, actually makes you want to sit down and pay close attention. Calling it "psychedelic rap" is too easy and misleading: the richness of the music and warm, earthy poetic density of the rhymes (rife with arcane references to "daisies," "jennies," "twizzlers," etc) are the product of a group that has created a miniature universe of its own. Indeed, 3 Feet High and Rising--like the best work of Captain Beefheart, George Clinton, Sun Ra, and Frank Zappa--is not so much an album you listen to as a place you visit. This weekend De La Soul shares a bill with Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, and the redoubtable L.L. Cool J. Tonight, 8 PM, Rosemont Horizon, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont; 635-6600.

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