Library of Congress Selects De La Soul Album for National Registry

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Long Island trio De La Soul The Long Island trio De La Soul (De La Soul - 3 Feet High Press Kit)

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, 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.


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Comments [7]

DJ Chee from BK!

Amazing album from an amazing group and the props are well deserved. Check out this best of De La Soul mix:

Jun. 02 2011 05:49 PM
Mary P from downtown

LOVED this album....sound track of my third wind youth (at 35 in the EV)

Apr. 13 2011 02:29 PM

I loved this album 20 years ago and I love it today. I regret that the law got in the way the direction that hip hop was flowing at the time.

Apr. 12 2011 07:56 PM
Patrick Carter from Woodbridge, NJ

The samples De La used did nothing to diminish the value of the original tracks. In many cases, quite the opposite occurred. Fair use doctrine (Sect. 107) used to create historic art. Big ups to plugs 1, 2 and 3!!!

Apr. 07 2011 05:10 PM
Wanett from Brooklyn, NY

I agree that this honor is well deserved! As a longtime fan, I am happy to see them receiving accolades. They are not nearly as universally popular as they should be.

My favorite De la song is from my favorite of their albums. "Patty Duke" from Buhlonne Mindstate.

Apr. 07 2011 11:10 AM

If the album is art, then it's art. But sampling without permission is still theft and should be frowned upon.

Apr. 07 2011 06:59 AM
Robert Welsh from Atlanta, GA

Congrats De La Soul...

As a fan, I'm elated to see the Library of Congress recongize this talented trio that have been making relavent hip-hop music for over 20 years!

It's not like De La was not already a legendary hip-hop group but this is a feather in the NY Yankee fitted Dave is always rocking.

Congrats brothers, the honor is much deserved.

Apr. 06 2011 04:37 PM

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