De La Soul’s 3 Feet High And Rising vs. Stetsasonic’s In Full Gear. What’s Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.
The next two albums in Finding The GOAT mark a one year transition for a mastermind producer. In Stetsasonic, Prince Paul clawed his way up from group DJ to turntablist to producer. After In Full Gear, Paul Huston got to work with his Long Island, New York friends De La Soul. With a style completely different than Stet’, 3 Feet High And Rising planted flowers in some of Hip-Hop’s most fertile creative soil. One album is a band toying with musicality and message. The other is a platinum debut from two teens and a 20 year-old that saw the world at large very differently than their music peers. Both acts challenged the status quo, and redefined group dynamics in Hip-Hop. Label-mates with the same production, these artists have experienced very different commercial and critical receptions, as well as historic trajectories. But numbers and perception can be skewed. Your vote settles the score here (click one, then click vote).
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3 Feet High And Rising by De La Soul
Through their 1989 debut album, De La Soul expanded the creative walls of Hip-Hop. Posdnuos (a/k/a Posdnous), Trugoy The Dove (l/k/a Dave), and DJ Maseo spoke in an abstract language. They made songs that were much more Dr. Seuss than Donald Goines. Yet, 3 Feet High And Rising was unafraid to tackle sex, poverty, drug addiction, and angst—even if the laymen missed it. The De La trio operated a way that existed on several frequencies. For those simply looking for musical escape, Prince Paul’s mosaic samples, veering from Parliament to Hall & Oates, Steely Dan to Schoolhouse Rock was a spaceship. For Heads looking for social commentary presented through inventive songwriting and skillful verse, DA Inner Soul Y’all had it locked. In many cases, the heaviest subject matter was met with the most alluring music. As new artists, De La Soul did not to take themselves too seriously, rather joining their producer in meticulous detail for their art.
Few 1980s LPs are as emphatically album-like as 3 Feet… With the skits and sequencing, the Long Island, New Yorkers made a work that challenged hit-seekers and distracted listeners alike. Although the masterfully cohesive LP is a sum of many parts, its singles still succeeded. “Buddy” was the perfect companion/sequel to Jungle Brothers’ “Jimbrowski,” as “Eye Know” was one of the more complex, and realistic accounts of pining courtship. Few outfits in the group-driven ’80s had two MCs cooperating as well as Plug 1 and Plug 2. This pair never upstaged one another—a truism of the next 25 years. Instead, they enhanced each other’s verses. At a time when Hip-Hop was in puberty, De La Soul’s debut album drew from life’s wonder years, honing in on the imagery, the innocence (and loss of), and the many joys of growing up.
Album Number: 1
Released: March 3, 1989
Label: Tommy Boy/Warner Bros. Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #24 (certified gold, June 1989; certified platinum April, 2000)
Song Guests: Q-Tip, Jungle Brothers (Mike Gee, Afrika Baby Bam), Al Watts, Don Newkirk
Song Producers: (self), Prince Paul, Qualiall
In Full Gear by Stetsasonic
One of Hip-Hop’s original bands, Stetsasonic made a huge progression into their second album. While 1986’s On Fire waxed complex grooves and enhanced the party, 1988’s In Full Gear had plenty to say. With lead MC Daddy “O” demonstrating tremendous growth with Rap’s emphasis on concept, this album famously combated Jazz, Soul, and other sampled critics. “Talkin’ All That Jazz” was uplifting music for producers (especially the group’s burgeoning DJ/producer, Prince Paul), and a tour de force for the generation gap. “We’re The Band” told the story of Stet’, with Daddy’s mahogany voice unflinchingly in step with the beat. The Brooklyn, New York-based collective was highly experimental. The album celebrated the instrumental (with Paul at the helm), and also toyed with other styles (see: the 2 Live Crew-mixed “Miami Bass” and Dancehall play “The Odad”). Not all of the trail-blazing translated, but Stetsasonic embraced being spontaneous.
Stetsasonic shared the weight, musically. With four in-house producers (Daddy “O,” Wise, DBC, Prince Paul), In Full Gear lived up to its name. However, on the mic—In Full Gear would put primarily Daddy “O'”s rhymes into center. “Freedom Or Death” applied Spoken Word and Last Poets-style rhyming, with Glenn Bolton’s impassioned cadence. “Sally” engaged Delite nicely, in one of the finer examples in the 1980s “songs about girls by name” canon. The rehearsed routine, and ensemble effort made Stetsasonic shine. In the album’s 17 tracks and three remixes, that was a recurring quality. In the years between the Cold Crush Brothers and Jurassic 5, Stetsasonic utilized the group energy as effectively as any. Stet released three albums in their Tommy Boy Records run. In Full Gear is the most versatile. For a group that refused to play to the mainstream, Daddy “O” and company had a grit, a fire, and a collective self-assurance that would influence many acts to come.
Album Number: 2
Released: 1988 (unknown)
Label: Tommy Boy Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): N/A
Song Guests: Force M.D.’s, Assim Muhammed, The Fury, Marauder, Alvin Moody, Bret Silverman, Robert Aaron, Finesse, TLC, Robert Coulter, Kid Wonder,
Song Producers: (self), Vincent F. Bell. Dimitri From Paris
So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.
Related: See Round 1 (The 1980s) of Ambrosia For Heads’ Finding The GOAT: The Albums