At 11 a.m. ET today the beloved hip-hop group De La Soul will make its entire catalog available for free download on its website for a 25-hour window, to close at noon Saturday.* For Pos, Dave, and Maseo this giveaway celebrates the upcoming 25th anniversary of their legendary 1989 debut, 3 Feet High and Rising; for the rest of us it’s just the best Valentine’s gift we’ll probably ever receive. In commemoration of this event here are 10 holiday-appropriate (and chronologically-ordered) De La tracks to bump this V-Day, be it on your own, with the one you love, or just the one you’re with.
“Eye Know” (1989)
In matters of the heart it’s sometimes best to lay your cards on the table: “Eye Know” is one of the best love songs ever written, period, and I almost feel guilty for putting nine songs after it. Steely Dan has never sounded so warm, and neither has rap.
“Talkin’ Bout Hey Love” (1991)
De La followed up 3 Feet High with the pitch-dark, controversial, and totally brilliant De La Soul Is Dead. This he-said-she-said exchange over a knockout Stevie Wonder sample is a sneakily affecting rumination on maturity, commitment, and the pros and (mostly) cons of both.
“I Am I Be” (1993)
Most connoisseurs hold 1993’s Buhloone Mindstate to be De La Soul’s finest album through-and-through, a serious, fully adult and staggeringly complex collection of music. “I Am I Be” is a masterpiece of existential melancholy, and for many on this holiday there’s no more appropriate emotion.
Not a love song in any conventional sense, but the dazzling wordplay and sample of Michael Jackson’s “I Can’t Help It” carry their own breathless romance. Plus, you’ll probably need this pick-me-up in between “I Am I Be” and what comes next.
“Fallin’” (with Teenage Fanclub, 1993)
The best track on the cultish footnote that was the Judgment Night soundtrack, an album-length pairing of rock bands with rap groups with mostly forgotten results. But “Fallin’” has endured as a gorgeous, impossibly sad and ferociously adored gem of De La’s catalog. To paraphrase Smokey Robinson, you gotta slow-dance to keep from crying.
“Betta Listen” (1996)
The level of consistency that De La maintained from 3 Feet High through 1996’s Stakes Is High was so insanely lofty that its majesty only became apparent in looking back—at the time it just seemed like the normal way of things. This sexed-up ode to cat-and-mouse games is as buzzed and funky as an impromptu dance-floor hookup.
“More Than U Know” (Prince Paul ft. De La Soul, 1999)
A highlight of Prince Paul’s generally fantastic A Prince Among Thieves, “More Than U Know” found De La reuniting with the producer of their youth for what’s either a strikingly elaborate metaphor for dependency (chemical, romantic, otherwise) or a strikingly unelaborate excuse to complain about airline travel (n.b.: real talk). In 1999 this beat sounded throwback; in 2014 it just sounds timeless.
“Oooh.” (ft. Redman, 2000)
Happy Valentine’s Day to me, because I’ve been head-over-heels in love with this song for fourteen years. Not particularly mushy, though Redman’s incredible choruses have a certain rough chivalry to them.
“If It Wasn’t For You” (Handsome Boy Modeling School ft. De La Soul, 2004)
The de facto opener on Prince Paul and Dan the Automator’s sophomore effort White People, “If It Wasn’t For You” pays homage to love in all its forms, some expected and others less so. A devilishly clever and oddly heartwarming piece of music.
“Pushin’ Aside, Pushin’ Along” (First Serve, 2012)
In the spring of 2012 Pos and Dave re-emerged alongside French production team 2 & 4 with De La Soul’s Plug 1 & Plug 2 Present First Serve, a mischievously opaque concept album (as if these dudes made other kinds) about a pair of kids with eyes on the rap game. “Pushin’ Aside” was the album’s standout, a hooky and bone-rattling Valentine to hip-hop itself. As a quarter-century of De La Soul has reminded us time and again, there are few things more worthy of our unconditional love.
*Correction, Feb. 14, 2014: This post originally suggested that the free download would be available until 1 p.m. Saturday. The window is set to close at noon.
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