On this day in music history: May 14, 1991 – &…

On this day in music history: May 14, 1991 – “De La Soul Is Dead”, the second album by De La Soul is released. Produced by Prince Paul and De La Soul, it is recorded at Calliope Studios in New York City from Mid 1990 – Early 1991. After the groundbreaking success of their landmark debut album “3 Feet High And Rising”, De La Soul consciously and deliberately move away from the sound and image established on that album, when beginning work on the follow up. Shaking off being labeled “hippies” by the music press and many fans for stretching the boundaries of hip hop on the first album, De La declares that the “D.A.I.S.Y. ("Da Inner Sound Y’all”) Age is over on their sophomore release “De La Soul Is Dead”. The group drive the point home further by featuring an illustration of an overturned and broken flowerpot of daisies on the front cover. Once again working with producer and DJ Prince Paul, the songs are linked together by a series of skits featuring Jeff, the character introduced on the earlier non album B-sides “Brainwashed Follower Of Fashion” and “The Mack Daddy On The Left”, finding a tape of De La’s album discarded in the trash. Jeff is beat up and robbed of the tape by a pair of bullies (played by DJ Maseo and Mista Lawnge of Black Sheep). The skit portions of the album are followed by a turn the page tone taken from a children’s “listen and read” record, ending on an sardonic and ironic note with the bullies throwing the tape back in the trash. Musically, it is as diverse and eclectic as the first, but with more of an emphasis on R&B, funk and jazz samples. The subject matter of the songs themselves run a wide gamut, from the group lampooning wannabe rappers looking to get put on (“Ring, Ring, Ring (Ha Ha Hey)” (#3 Rap, #22 R&B), to the more serious topic of child sexual abuse (“Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa”).  It spins off three singles including “A Rollerskating Jam Called Saturdays” (#6 Club Play, #43 R&B) and “Keepin’ The Faith” (the double A-side flip to “Millie”). Clocking in at over seventy three and a half minutes, Tommy Boy services the album to radio and club DJ’s as a special double vinyl pressing (stock pressings are pressed on a single LP, and suffer from greatly diminished sound quality), packaged in a custom double pocket sleeve, and limited to 2,000 individually numbered copies. In time this promo pressing has become a sought after collector’s item, and has been widely bootlegged. The label reissues the vinyl on double vinyl in 2008, but uses the standard cover art featured on the commercial release. “De La Soul Is Dead” peaks at number number twenty four on the Billboard R&B album chart, number twenty six on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.