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, Black Eyed Peas, and Digable Planets. They were also instrumental in the early stages of rapper/actor Mos Def's career, and are a core part of the Spitkicker collective. They are the longest standing Native Tongues Posse group, after the Jungle Brothers.
The single "Me, Myself and I" became a huge hit, further cementing the group's popularity. However, the sixties pop group The Turtles sued De La Soul for using a sample from their 1969 hit "You Showed Me" for the track "Transmitting Live from Mars", despite the fact that The Turtles didn't actually write the original song..
Lyrically, much of 3 Feet High and Rising focused on striving for peace and harmony — a message that was slowly fading from the rap community in the late 1980s. 3 Feet High and Rising also introduced De La Soul's concept of the "D.A.I.S.Y. Age" (an acronym standing for "da inner sound, y'all"). As a result, audiences were quick to peg the members of De La Soul as a species of hippie. This stereotype greatly agitated the group's members, as they always envisioned their career as a constantly changing style; this frustration would influence their next recording sessions. In the press kit for 3 Feet High and Rising, the members explained their stage names: Trugoy when reversed spells yogurt, because he likes yogurt, and Posdnuos spelled backwards is "sound sop".
Also as a bonus treat for those who dig in the crates, on the Plug Tunin' single, the LP featured a young Chi-ALi. Known as Jeff at that time. However, you were only able to listen to the hidden tracks by placing the needle into the correct grove, on the record.
The cover of the album features a broken daisy flower pot, symbolizing the death of the "D.A.I.S.Y. Age" and the imagery that went along with it. The album spawned several singles, including the dark "Millie Pulled A Pistol on Santa," a tale of a young girl who could no longer take the sexual abuse from her father, and the lead single "Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)," a story about the people who used De La's recent fame to try and launch their own careers.
De La collaborated with the Black Sheep on "Fanatic Of The B Word," Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest on "A Roller Skating Jam Named "Saturdays"", and Prince Paul makes an appearance on the mic in "Pass the Plugs" with a verse of his own. The album also more prominently featured Vincent Mason as a rapper, providing verses of his own on "Bitties in the BK Lounge," "Afro Connections at a Hi-5," and "Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)."
Though it received mixed reviews and did not sell as well as 3 Feet High and Rising it eventually became a cult classic and was recognized as being underrated and underappreciated by a increasingly fuckle public. "Score" magazine listed the album as one of their top 100 Hip Hop albums of all time, stating that "it's true genius is rarely understood". There are several major differences between the CD version of this album and the other formats, as the tracks "Johnny's Dead AKA Vincent Mason," "My Brother's a Basehead," "Kicked Out the House," and "Who Do U Worship?" are only available on the CD. The limited edition double vinyl promotional copies of the album distributed to the media before the official release did not feature these.
In 2003, the song "Oodles of O's" was featured on the soundtrack for Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4.
In 1994, 500 copies of a promotional EP called Clear Lake Audiotorium were released on clear vinyl and CD. The 6 track EP contained edited versions of tracks off of Buhloone Mindstate but also featured the tracks "Sh.Fe.MC's" (Shocking Female MC's) which was a collaboration with A Tribe Called Quest, and "Stix & Stonz" which featured old-school hip hop artists Grandmaster Caz, Tito of Fearless Four, Whipper Whip, LA Sunshine and Superstar. The EP was widely bootlegged afterwards.
1996's Stakes Is High was the first album not produced by Prince Paul, with overall production credits given solely to the trio, and again, was met with mixed results and poor sales. The title track and first single, produced by Jay Dee, was not a hit, but second single Itsoweezee (HOT), with only Dave on vocals, did fare better due to its creative music video. The album spawned a third single 4 More featuring Zhane which failed to chart. The album did provide a launching pad for future star rapper and actor Mos Def, who appeared on the track "Big Brother Beat." The album also featured collaborations with Common (Sense), Truth Enola, and the Jazzyfatnastees.
In the summer of 2002 the De La Soul toured with Cake, Modest Mouse, The Flaming Lips, Kinky, and the Hackensaw Boys during the Unlimited Sunshine Tour. The band was briefly featured in the video game PaRappa the Rapper 2 with the song "Say "I Gotta Believe!"" (with Double) and also appeared on the soundtrack to the game.
In 2006, De La released a mixtape of new and old songs, entitled The Impossible: Mission TV Series - Pt. 1, on its AOI Records label. De La Soul collaborated with the athletic sneaker giant, Nike, to produce two versions of the Nike Dunk under their skateboarding division, Nike SB. The sneakers were an instant hit, and sold out at most retail stores that carried them.
The band is currently working on their third Art Official Intelligence disc, AOI III.