The Daily Telegraph
Rapper with De La Soul, the trio who gave hip-hop a new mood
DAVID JOLICOEUR, widely known as Trugoy the Dove, who has died aged 54 after suffering from long-term heart problems, was a rapper who co-founded De La Soul, the trio who took hip-hop in a new direction in the late 1980s, veering away from the darkness and anger of bands like NWA and Public Enemy into a more playful, laidback and whimsical groove, brimming with wit and “positive vibes”.
When they made their 1989 debut album 3 Feet High and Rising, NWA had recently released Straight Outta Compton and Public Enemy It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, both combative works that threw down the gauntlet to white America. De La Soul, for their part, proclaimed “the Daisy Age” (standing for “Da Inner Sound, Y’all”), in which humour was paramount. They were fans of Monty Python, Benny Hill and the Goodies, and admitted that they liked “being silly and having fun”.
Musically, up until then rap had largely drawn for its samples on soul and funk from the 1960s and 1970s, with a heavy emphasis on James Brown, but Jolicoeur and Co widened the palette to artists like Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash and Billy Joel. Emphasis moved from big beats to melodies and mind-bending samples.
Jolicoeur was proud of their singular stance. “We motivated artists who came after us to not be afraid to be themselves,” he said in 2012. “It was OK to say, ‘I don’t fight every day and sell drugs.’ ”
David Jude Jolicoeur was born on September 21 1968 in Brooklyn to Haitianamerican parents but grew up in Long Island. At high school he met Vincent Mason and Kelvin Mercer, his future bandmates, and Paul Huston, who would become their producer.
They would each adopt several noms de guerre, which generally involved plays on their real names: Mason became known as Maseo or PA Pasemaster Mase, and Mercer as Posdnuos (“Sounds op” backwards); Jolicoeur became Trugoy the Dove – “Dove” because he was a peaceable soul, and Trugoy being “yogurt” backwards (“I eat it a lot,” he explained). Huston would become Prince Paul.
They would also use the handles Plug 1, Plug 2 and Plug 3, a reference to their first single, Plug Tunin’, and latterly Jolicoeur also went by the name of Dave.
The band took a more relaxed approach to the promotional side than most of their hip-hop peers. “We weren’t running to do commercials and movies and running to be in LA and hang out in Hollywood,” Jolicoeur recalled. They became part of a loose collective, Native Tongues, alongside the likes of A Tribe Called Quest and Queen Latifah, dedicated to positivity: “Bottom line, it was just having fun,” said Jolicoeur. 3 Feet High and Rising used dozens of samples, including clips from TV shows and French language lessons: this eclectic approach, though sonically fascinating, caused endless problems thanks to their label, Tommy Boy, failing to clear the samples legally.
When they thought they were done with recording 3 Feet High, Tommy Boy said they needed one more track, something “poppy”. Sampling Funkadelic’s 1979 classic (Not Just) Knee Deep, they came up with their biggest hit, Me Myself and I, their only US No 1. They became known as the “hippies of hip-hop” over a string of successful albums.
Their influence spread to such luminaries as Damon Albarn. When Blur were recording their Think Tank album the singer fixed inspirational Post-it notes on the wall, one of which read: “Sound like De La Soul”; underneath, his partner Suzi Winstanley added: “In your dreams!” He later recruited them to work with Gorillaz.
But for all their influence, their career was blighted by their failure to secure rights to their samples, and their six classic albums are only just becoming available on streaming services. In 2016, the band grumbled: “We’re in the Library of Congress, but we’re not on itunes.”