David Jolicoeur, a.k.a. Trugoy the Dove, passed away recently, which was right when De La Soul’s groundbreaking record 3 Feet High and Rising was in the process of being re-released. In an unintended, but fitting, tribute to the Dove the first single released was the standout track The Magic Number being re-released as a 7″ record. De La Soul along with Tribe Called Quest spearheaded the jazzy Langston Hughes style hip hop of the late 80s and 90s, which alongside bands like N.W.A. showcased the genre’s diversity. Think about it…Straight Outta Compton, 3 Feet High and Rising and The Low End Theory all come out a couple years of each other.
The jazzy funk loop and vinyl cracks and pops sets The Magic Number apart other hip hop tracks at the time. De La Soul sounds like a group of friends sitting in a smoke filled jazz improv with Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, but with the same hard hitting scratches and samples the band will be known for. Musically, there is not a lot to the track, but expert samples of Johnny Cash and others gives the track a feeling of unbridled joy.
Joy is what really makes this track great. You can feel the love between the band and the love they have for the hip hop soul community. De La Soul always had a beat poet / Harlem Renaissance vibe to it, which I loved and acted as a foil to groups like N.W.A or Public Enemy. The hip hop hippies of De La Soul were taking their lead from Dove and would later move into more socially activist lyrics. However, the bright flowery clothes and love aesthetic comes through on this track.
Dove’s and the group’s lasting impact is in how it expanded hip hop’s vocabulary and style. Hip hop could not be pigeon holed, but became a big tent where the entire hip hop community can share the love. There was room for everyone and groups like the Roots would take this jazzy eccentric vocab bar style to 11 with great success. We will all miss Dove and the music he would have continued to produce, but The Magic Number shows him at his hip hop free love best.
Listen to The Magic Number
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