“Welcome to the Daisy Age”: Uncovering the Legacy of 3 Feet High and Rising
How did an infamous British punk artist collective help De La Soul propel hip-hop to higher heights?
Aug 10, 2023
How did you come to work with De La Soul?
We knew a music video director named Mark Pennington, and one day he asked us to art direct a music video for Information Society, an electro-pop band from Minneapolis that was signed to Tommy Boy Records. The video we did was very successful, and it got repeat play on MTV. Everyone was happy with our contribution. And then Tommy Boy sent us a 12-inch by a new band they signed called De La Soul; the 12-inch was “Plug Tunin’.”
We saw De La Soul play at Payday, one of these one-night clubs that moved around the Lower East Side. We were involved in hip-hop because hip-hop in the States was a bit like punk, which I had experienced when I was younger in London. So, we went to see De La Soul, and they had this thing, the Daisy Age, and they were at odds with the prevalent kind of hip-hop image, which was very macho, boasting about cars and girls, and also had a violent edge to it. But De La Soul weren’t into all that. Also, at the time in London, it was the beginning of Acid House, which had a totally new identity compared to what had come before.
“There weren’t any consequences and everyone was young and making it up as they went along.”
We did a video for De La Soul and shot it on Super 8 out in Amityville, Long Island. When we got around to doing the album cover artwork, we had them come over to our loft, which was then on Grand Street downtown. You’ve got to remember, it was no big deal. There weren’t any consequences and everyone was young and making it up as they went along. So we laid them down on the floor of our studio and photographed them with their heads touching like a triangle. And that was it. And then we printed it 12 × 12", the size of a record sleeve. I was rediscovering psychedelic graphics and, having been influenced by that, we laid acetate over these images and drew flowers and the lettering of the band’s name and the name of the album, 3 Feet High and Rising. And then we chose a variant from out of many. The whole visual identity of the Daisy Age was born, and it never left them.
At the time, the cartoon-like lettering and the flowers were odd because they created an identity and a moment which was at odds with groups like Public Enemy and EPMD, and more aligned with the collective called the Native Tongues, which also included A Tribe Called Quest, the Jungle Brothers, and others.
Physically making the artwork had a lot to do with Posca paint pens, which were a new thing. They allowed us to apply this really dense liquid paint, but with a marker pen. This drawing with them on clear acetate gives a very smooth line. The result was really bright, very poppy, and I put a British twist onto music that was coming out of Long Island.
The record company and everyone else was very happy with it. Then the record exploded on what was then called college radio. What this meant is they were played on white radio, which was new for a hip-hop band. You had Run-DMC play with Aerosmith, but hip-hop was just not played on white radio. College radio was a bit more experimental, but it was white, and they embraced De La Soul and that album.
And De La Soul crossed over, which meant they sold a fucking lot of records compared to what they would have done if they were stuck with the hip-hop market. At the time, hip-hop wasn’t the dominant music, but this thing out of New York released on independent record labels. It was the equivalent of what punk was back in the day. And De La Soul are one of the first hip-hop acts that became big in all markets, and I guess the artwork helped establish their identity, and the identity helped. Some people have written that it wasn’t threatening, but that wasn’t our intention in creating it.
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