De La Soul’s 3 Feet High And Rising vs. Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique. Which Is 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.

De La Soul’s 3 Feet High And Rising and Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique are forever associated together. These are the two albums that took the art of sampling, and patterned intricate quilts out of others’ records. Both 1989 albums, these are two iconic LPs that could never be made today, and yet they are instrumental in both New York City Hip-Hop groups’ last 25 years of success and continued greatness. Beyond the kitchen-sink approach to chopping down records, each of these platinum works has concept, awe-striking lyrics, and unrivaled levels of originality. Two of the greatest and most revolutionary 1980s Hip-Hop efforts square off with only one going forth. Which will it be? (Click one then click “vote”).


3 Feet High And Rising by De La Soul

– First Round Winner (against In Full Gear by Stetsasonic, 91% to 9%)

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


Paul’s Boutique by Beastie Boys

– First Round Winner (against He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, 64% to 36%)

Few artists in the history of Hip-Hop have undergone a bigger transformation between albums as the Beastie Boys. The bad boys of Def Jam led off with Licensed To Ill, the LP that would eventually be the first (and only) 1980s Rap album to reach diamond status. While many artists would have crutched the same formula, Ad-Rock, Mike D, MCA and DJ Hurricane relocated to Hollywood, California, they vacated Def Jam and Rick Rubin, and they traded the beer-splashing for “cheeba” and “dust.” 1989’s Paul’s Boutique found The Beasties maintaining their distinct vocal tones, MC flows, and pop culture sensibility, but in a full creative kaleidoscope. The album’s inspiration was a ficticiously-named Downtown thrift store—the perfect gestalt symbol for what the group was doing lyrically, musically, and stylistically.

Teaming with Delicious Vinyl Records hit-makers the Dust Brothers, Paul’s Boutique deployed a reported 105 samples, joining De La Soul’s 3 Feet High And Rising (released four months prior) to help cement a production/DJ culture onto itself. In veiled terms, the Beasties were still B-boys, and still bass-loving, drum-savvy Punkers. “Car Thief” threw chin music at the style jackers, while “Shake Your Rump” and “3 Minute Rule” plugged into the early ’80s brand of MC’ing with a psychedelic edge. Ricochet rhyme schemes were still at the center of the trio’s approach and charm. Thematically and sonically, Paul’s Boutique encouraged mind elevation, celebrated originality, and seamlessly connected “1970s cool” with 1990s creative freedom. The Beasties exited Paul’s Boutique as another one-and-done approach with the ’80s, only adding to its distinction. This LP reached music lovers well beyond Rap and Rare Groove circles, and the guys who three years prior opened for Madonna, showed that they were really out to channel Trouble Funk, Led Zeppelin, and The Funky 4+1.

Album Number: 2
Released: July 25, 1989
Label: Capitol Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #4 (certified gold, September 1989; certified platinum, April 1995; certified 2x platinum, January 1999)
Song Guests: DJ Hurricane, DJ E.Z. Mike
Song Producers: (self), Dust Brothers (E.Z. Mike and King Gizmo), Mario “C” Caldato, Jr.

So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.

Related: Ambrosia For Heads’ Finding The GOAT: The Albums