Music News

The Hippie-fying Of Hip-Hop

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DE LA SOUL RAPPERS Posdnuos (a.k.a. Plug One) and Trugoy the Dove (alias Plug Two) hate more than anything to be called hippies. Probably as much as Morton Downey Jr. hates the hype surrounding his hurt-thyself campaign.

"If only we could have a giant blimp pass over the earth and flash the message WE'RE NOT HIPPIES," Pos whined to New York magazine a few months back. "We don't mind if people say, `You remind us of the hippie days, of Sixties things,' because there is some of that in our music.'"

As for the evidence, Posdnuos (Soundsop spelled backwards) and Trugoy (Yogurt spelled backwards) may as well catch the next Lear out to Haight-Ashbury, Woodstock, or wherever the Dead is playing this week.

Take a glance inside the album cover. You'll find peace signs and daisies printed everywhere. (Pos and Dove have also been known to carve peace signs into their hair.)

Cue up side one, track twelve, "Tread Water." De La Soul's been getting its inspiration either from "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," from Alice in Wonderland, or from wherever the artists of those works got their inspiration. In "Tread Water," a crocodile wearing daisies in his hat talks to the Soul. Come to think of it, so do less sartorially splendid squirrels, fish and monkeys.

Considering the Doolittling that takes place between Mr. Squirrel and the Dove (who claimed his mother first gave him the nickname because he was so peaceful as a boy), Greenpeace may just want to think about making "Tread Water" its theme song: "My population's dying/And we're all in tune to doom/Like a daisy, I need water/I need chestnuts to consume/ `Mr. Squirrel,' I said, `I'm sorry/But the problem can't be solved/If there's no one here to help/And no one to get involved.'"

Before the song is over, Posdnuos has turned Mr. Monkey on to De La Soul, and Mr. M has rewarded him handsomely with some positive philosophy called "da inner sound y'all." Also known as D.A.I.S.Y.

Now try side two, track four, "De La Orgee." This song will immediately take the baby-boomer set back to the last time they flopped around in the same room with eight naked friends. Moans galore, "De La Orgee" is a most curious composition considering today's viral death penalty for free love.

Or how about side two, track six, "Description." Plug Two: "I am Trugoy/A dove-like boy." Plug One: "I love peace/Well, at least/I think we/Need some." Granny (a De La flunkie): "I need peace for me." China and Jette (two other De La flunkies): "We're crazy/For daisies."

And side two, track ten, "D.A.I.S.Y. Age." Self-explanatory.

SO DE LA SOUL SHOWS UP last Sunday at the Celebrity Theatre, and if you've called them hippies, maybe you feel bad about it. Fashion-wise, it's perhaps more accurate to label them boho-beat-beach bum-hippie wanna-be's. Posdnuos strides on stage looking like a mad intellectual-artiste, sporting round specs, a black beret-like cap, a white t-shirt, baggy Bermuda shorts, earthtone Rockport-style shoes, a daisy pin and the all-important peace sign medallion hanging from a chain around his neck. Trugoy makes the scene in a reggae-fied tam, a red-and-beige shirt, Bermudas, red socks and more earth-toned shoes. And deejay Pasemaster Mase? Beige--shorts and jacket.

During its too-brief half-hour set, the group runs through 3 Feet High and Rising's longer, radio-ready material: "The Magic Number," "Plug Tunin'," "Potholes in My Lawn," "Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin's Revenge)," "Eye Know." Mase spins samples from prehistoric R&B, Otis Redding, and Steely Dan, and De La ascends to the trippy heights of Parliament-Funkadelic heaven.

Before the Soul lights into the anti-drug "Say No Go," Pos and Dove grow quiet and deliver a peaceful no-no message, cluck-clucking away. The laid-back approach seems more akin to reggae than rap, the M.C.'s seemingly leaning back on their heels, not pressing forward on their toes, when passing out the admonishments. They save the most popular song in the set, one that has little or nothing to do with politics or social consciousness, for last. The crowd stays on its feet for the incendiary disco rap, "Me, Myself and I."

But lest anyone forget, Posdnuos is proudly wearing a peace sign on his chest. And when "Me" finishes, he blurts out the punch line that defines the politics of rap in 1989 as succinctly as "Party for your right to fight" did last year:

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David Koen