On Wednesday, the Library of Congress announced its plans to add 25 individual recordings to its National Recording Registry. Among them was De La Soul's debut 1989 album 3 Feet High and Rising.
The Long Island rap trio's record is the second rap LP to be added to the registry—Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet was added in 2004. De La Soul is also the fourth rap group to make the list. Tupac Shakur's "Dear Mama" was added to the registry in 2009 and Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" was added in 2002.
The Library of Congress has over 3 million albums in its collection but not all of them are part of its National Recording Registry. According to Matthew Barton, the Library's Curator of Recorded Sound, field recordings and albums are selected for inclusion into the National Recording Registry based on their cultural significance and general excellence. Recordings must also be at least 10 years old to meet preservation criteria.
"It's really, really good," Barton said of the album. "De La Soul really brought a new sound and sensibility into it—both in their actual rapping, their delivery, but also in the sounds and samples that they worked with. That album is full of television samples and they sample...Steely Dan and Mayor LaGuardia reading the funnies on WNYC."
(Click below to hear the 1945 Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia audio clip sampled in "The Magic Number." Mayor LaGuardia was speaking to children during a newspaper deliveryman strike on July 8, 1945. The De La Soul sample comes at 4:35.)
De La Soul ran into legal trouble shortly after the album's release when the 60's pop group The Turtles noticed a sample of its 1969 hit "You Showed Me" in De La Soul's "Transmitting Live from Mars" on 3 Feet High and Rising.
Twenty years later, sampling another artist's original work is still a point of contention in the eyes of the law. But Wayne Marshall, an ethnomusicologist who blogs at wayneandwax.com, says that De La Soul's album's inclusion in the Registry may be a sign of a cultural shift.
"To put this into the National Recording Registry lends it with a kind of legitimacy and affirms it as a great American piece of art," Marshall said, "which is interesting when you consider that you can't buy this album on iTunes."
Watch a video of De La Soul performing "Me, Myself and I" below, another song on 3 Feet High and Rising, on the Arsenio Hall Show in 1989.
Here's more old school footage of the trio.
And here's De La Soul in the '90s.
What's your favorite De La Soul song? Let us know by leaving a comment below. Also, thanks to the NYC Municipal Archives for the LaGuardia audio.