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  • Writer's pictureJamie Varley

Proud I'm Proud of What I Am



The Album

3 Feet High and Rising


In the late eighties, hip hop – an art form just years removed from its conception at block parties in the Bronx – came of age. The culture and sounds of hip hop hit their stride with a newfound maturity and innovation unlike anything seen in the juvenile years of breakbeats and monosyllabic rhyme schemes.


The rhymes were changing: Rakim ushered in verses interwoven with complex rhyme schemes and wordplay, Big Daddy Kane brought bars dripping with swagger and machismo, and Kool G Rap elevated battle rap from staccato boasts and brags into lines that hit with the weight of a freight train. The beats were changing: Run-DMC and Beastie Boys packed stadiums through their energetic rhymes set over Rick Rubin’s rock-n-roll tracks, EPMD’s funk samples were far evolved from simpler kicks and snares of years before, and the pioneers of West Coast hip hop like Ice-T and Too-$hort were experimenting with a sun-tinged groove that would later form into delicious G-Funk that dominated the next decade of hip hop. Most noticeably, the subject matter was changing: rap became less of a social activity but a radical art form, with groups like Public Enemy, NWA, and Boogie Down Productions giving disenfranchised and agonized youth in the fringes of society a voice and a platform not available to generations prior.


And then came De La Soul, delivering a revelatory masterpiece examining the multitudes of the black experience and the defining the apogee of creativity in hip hop.


The trio of Posdnuous, Trugoy The Dove, and Mase met in high school and began recording cassette tapes with low quality equipment after school in their parents’ living rooms. Their quirky humour and spirited imagination bled through to their tape deck demos, which caught the attention of emerging producer Prince Paul. Paul had just hit it big with the group Stetsasonic, but feeling inspired by the freedom and unconformity found with the posse of introverted poets drew Paul to the group, who turned out to be the missing piece to establish the zany and kaleidoscopic background needed for De La Soul to flourish.


Violence and anger were traded in for left field references and inside jokes. Assault rifles and leather jackets were swapped for Dashikis and peace signs. And flowers were everywhere. So many flowers.


The concept of 3 Feet High and Rising centred around a game show about lord knows what, with styles that they proclaimed originated on mars (in 2004, “Potholes in My Lawn” was the first hip hop song played on Mars by NASA's Opportunity Rover). Themes touched on love (“Eye Know”), pride (“Me Myself and I”), drugs (“Say No Go”), and unoriginality (“Potholes”). Each song was packed to the brim with humour, originality, colour, and spirit, resulting in a hip hop album unlike anything at the time.


All of a sudden, hip hop had a new energy through a newfound positivity and celebration in being oneself. This didn’t take away from the gravitas of hip hop’s new responsibility for social change, but provided the youth a new form of peaceful protest: unconformity. De La Soul taught children that they no longer had to fit the rules and requirements that society placed on them, but they could be successful and have a lot of fun doing it by being true to themselves.


For many, the idea of self-pride and confidence was as freeing as the paradigms that Public Enemy rapped about breaking. While the physical shackles that held so much of the black community behind bars was addressed by protest music and gangsta rap, the enduring generational shackles of fearing one’s heritage and twisting one’s history were tackled by De La Soul and others of their ilk over the coming years. Black youths could finally be themselves and nobody could stop them, empowering a generation of individualistic, unique, and powerful young audiences.


 

The Food

Watermelon Tartare & The Sour Empress



Watermelon tartare is a take on steak tartare, with raw beef and egg foregone for watermelon, cotton candy grape, kiwi, strawberry, lemon and mint. Sweet pureed lemon and strawberry add sugary bursts coating the summery fruits in a delicious syrup.


The Sour Empress is a take on a citrussy gin fizz made with eye catching Empress Gin – a perfectly simple cocktail that radiates beautiful, vibrant hues.


3oz of grapefruit juice are poured over ice, followed by 1.5oz of Empress Gin and topped with club soda and an edible flower. For the love of the layers, do not stir!


 

The Experience



The more you think about steak tartare, the more contradictions you begin to see. The classic French dish is as refined as it is feral, centred around the rawness and purity of unaltered animal flesh and vessels of reproduction - life and death.


How can something in high culture be based on such primality? The sober reality is devastation and dominance are the essential building blocks in ruling culture – the ones who write the menus. In fact, the origin of steak tartare dates back to Genghis Khan’s Mongol army – the Tatars were a band of mounted nomads within the vast war party - who scholars estimate killed over 40 million people during their reign, or an astounding 11% of the world’s population.


While the original dish is said to represent “freshness, vitality and health”, the ingredients do not align with modern ideals of health in the larger context of the worldwide ecosystem. Instead, a mélange of sweet fruits was selected for a modern take, bursting off the plate with vibrant colours and rewarding the body with the rich vitamins found in their nectary flesh. Instead of raw meat and raw egg, both of which have notoriously caused health problems and contribute to habitat destruction, ethical and undisputedly nourishing ingredients are used in this bright and refreshing salad.


This dish breaks the mould by bending established rules. Watermelon tartare pokes holes in the dated ethics that the cultural hegemony ironically establishes as healthy and vital through a dish that harms no one and benefits all, emotionally and physically. A similar push towards counterculture was established by De La Soul on 3 Feet High. While their music was not pushy or confrontational like that of Public Enemy, De La made protest music, nonetheless. By not fearing your true self and celebrating authenticity and individualism, De La Soul unlocked a confidence for too many who had been told how to act or who to be. The harmony in their words made more noise than the sound of any bullet, letting us know that the only person whose opinions you have to listen to are your own – that you can be anybody who you wanted to be.


In a world with bizarre norms established with dated and flawed principles, the cultivation of peace and authenticity has never been more important. Whether it be destruction of our communities, our histories, our bodies, or our planet, we must look within to decide how we want to live, as living the truest existence is the only way to empower our communities and incite change.



 

Now you tease my Plug One style

And my Plug One spectacles

You say Plug One and Two are hippies

No, we're not, that's pure Plug bull

Always pushing that we've formed an image

There's no need to lie

When it comes to being Plug One

It's just me myself and I

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