In Actor. Writer. Whatever (Essays On My Rise To The Top Of The Bottom Of The Entertainment Industry), a revealing collection about life as a New York City creative, Mellini Kantayya tells all about trying to “make it” in the big city. In an essay nestled in the second half of the book, “Did I Peak Too Soon?,” Kantayya invokes the legendary De La Soul to illustrate her point about the potential dangers of reaching one’s artistic zenith too early in a career. It may come as no surprise that she enlists the group given their platinum 1989 debut album 3 Feet High and Rising. She lauds the youthful energy that emanates from the project, where an undeniably green Posdnuos, Maseo, and Trugoy were sort of running blind, shooting in the dark for their first studio experience, but pulled it together with producer Prince Paul for an impressive 24-track industry introduction. In the chapter, which is excerpted below for you to check out, she doesn’t exactly go on to analyze the rest of De La’s catalogue, but nevertheless hints at the possibility that they are an example of a group that came out with a bang and kept on banging. While the Native Tongues rhymers remained on the underground as mainstream sounds transitioned into the Puff and ‘Pac era, they maintained a unique style that matured right along with their birthdays, all the way through this year. Kantayya spoke with Posdnuos (AKA Plug One) about 3 Feet High… for Soundtrack Series and he admits to a self-consciousness that appeared only after their first studio success:
Kantayya: …in the language of critics, 3 Feet High and Rising was “experimental,” but to listeners it feels less like an experiment and more like play. Producer Prince Paul [Paul Huston] has reported that these were some of the most productive, creative, and entertaining sessions he ever worked on.What was your experience of working on that album when you were so young? Is it different from how you approach work now?
Posdnuos: The experience is unmatchable. It was our very first time putting music down in a professional studio. Up until that point, we rhymed into a mike we were holding in a corner of a room. It was our first time rhyming in a booth, first time mixing and pressing knobs on a mixing board, etcetera. Everything was magic as well as fun. The vibe of the studio—Calliope—felt like we were home—opposed to being in a sterile and cold studio environment, so that played a part in how we comfortably made music and came up with ideas while there. There were no rules because we didn’t know them. Now, we have just as much fun but there is a box we jump out of to be “out of the box.” We have a sense of when we make something it won’t be or will be liked or played by this or that person or radio station. We didn’t pay attention to that way back when.
Click through to read an exclusive excerpt of “Did I Peak Too Soon” –>