De La Soul is an American hip hop trio formed in 1987 on Long Island, New York. The band is best known for their eclectic sampling, quirky lyrics, and their contributions to the evolution of the jazz rap and alternative hip hop subgenres. The members are Kelvin Mercer (Posdnuos, Mercenary, Plug Wonder Why, Plug One), David Jude Jolicoeur (Trugoy the Dove, Dave, Plug Two) and Vincent Mason (P.A. Pasemaster Mase, Maseo, Plug Three). The three formed the group in high school and caught the attention of producer Paul Huston (Prince Paul) with a demo tape of the song "Plug Tunin'." Prince Paul was also sometimes referred to as Plug Four. The Plug names are alleged to come from the numbers that each bandmate's microphone was labeled on the soundboard. Posdnuos was always plugged into plug one, Trugoy was plugged into plug two, and so forth.
With its playful wordplay, innovative sampling, and witty skits, the band's debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising, has been hailed as a hip-hop masterpiece. It is also the band's biggest commercial success to date, with their subsequent albums selling progressively less, despite receiving high praise from critics. A measure of 3 Feet High and Rising's cross-over appeal was the fact that it was voted Album of the Year by NME Magazine, a title better known for its taste in guitar-based music. De La Soul has influenced numerous other hip hop artists such as Camp Lo, The Black Eyed Peas, and Digable Planets. They were also influential in the early stages of rapper/actor Mos Def's career, and are a core part of the Spitkicker collective. They are the second longest standing Native Tongues Posse group, after the Jungle Brothers.
In 1996, they appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation CD, America is Dying Slowly, alongside Biz Markie, Wu-Tang Clan, and Fat Joe, among many other prominent hip hop artists. The CD, meant to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic among African American men, was heralded as "a masterpiece" by The Source magazine.
In 2006, the group won a Grammy for their collaboration with Gorillaz on the single "Feel Good Inc."