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De La Soul made rap history as one of the first groups to go against the hip-hop grain of macho braggadocio, hectoring social comment and mammoth beats, all while winning respect and acclaim from inside and outside of the hip-hop community. With its middle-class suburban Long Island roots, light rhythms, laid-back raps, thoughtfully irreverent lyrics, esoteric sampling, and quasi-hippie attitude, De La Soul paved the way for a steady stream of adventurous "alternative" rap groups (A Tribe Called Quest, P.M. Dawn, Basehead, and Digable Planets).
De La Soul began as three high school friends whose stage names reflected their sense of whimsical in-jokery: through backward spelling David Jolicoeur became "Trugoy the Dove" (yogurt, his favorite food, spelled backwards); Kelvin Mercer derived "Posdnuos" (his nickname as a high school DJ, "Sound-Sop"). Their first demo, "Plug Tunin'," attracted the attention of Paul "Prince Paul" Houston, of local rap group Stetsasonic. He played the tape for colleagues on New York's rap scene.