Our man AG sits down with Plug Two, one-third of the legendary De La Soul, to talk music past, music present and, of course, shoes, starting with the group’s collaboration with Nike SB.
Glory, glory, hallelu/ Glory for Plug One and Two/ But that glory’s been denied...
— “Me, Myself and I,” De La Soul
In an era in which hip-hop has veered off the original path from the late 1970’s, it’s refreshing to see De La Soul making power moves 17 years after the release of their classic debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising.
When I first heard of De La Soul, I was a student at Faith Christian Academy, sitting somewhere near Brandon King’s desk, borrowing colored pencils and whatnot. Nevertheless, the year was somewhere around 1989, and while I was enamored by Public Enemy and all of their glory, it was their brethren from Long Island, De La Soul that were carving their own mark in history with the song Me, Myself, and I and a brand new style of music.
De La Soul, along with The Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah and Monie Love, formed a collaborative super-group called Native Tongues, and this along with groups such as Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, and Poor Righteous Teachers elevated hip-hop to a new level of pride, self-respect and political awareness. To say that they are pioneers is an understatement. They displayed their talent, flexed a new style and never changed for anyone.
The Setup: Our man AG (left) with his man Oronde Garrett, who helped arrange this interview with De La Soul’s Plug Two (pictured up top and below).
In 2004, with the release of the highly successful album The Grind Date, De La Soul continued to make hits. Most recently they teamed with Nike, Inc. and the Nike SB group to produce two of the hottest Nike Dunks—the De La Soul High and the De La Soul Low.
On Monday, January 9, 2006 I called my good friend Oronde Garrett as we have been playing phone tag since the New Year. After catching up and a few jokes, he casually mentioned how he has made good business acquaintances with Biz Markie and Trugoy the Dove, also known as Plug Two of De La Soul. My mind immediately went into journalistic panic and I asked him to set up an interview with Plug Two A.S.A.P. and an interview with the Biz for a later date. Oronde called me back with the time and date, and I then made two phone calls... one to Ian Callender and his camera, and the other to Retrokid to tell him what I had just stumbled upon.
So on Thursday, January 12, I had an opportunity to catch up with Plug Two at Central Board Shop (CentralBoardShop.com) in Waldorf, Maryland. Ironically, Central Board Shop is the one place I called to purchase the De La Soul High, so now I sit with one-third of the legendary group and the rest, as they say, is history.
AG: How did the collabo with Nike SB come about?
Plug Two: The collaboration began with just an encounter with one of the guys that just so happen to be a part of the Nike SB division. I believe it was at one of the MAGIC shows. And from that point, we began a working relationship... inviting him out to shows and stuff like that. And he was like, ”Yo, I definitely want to do something with you guys.” For us, whatever we didn’t do before we would like to give it a shot. Just the idea of creating a sneaker was a challenge for us, so when we were speaking to a couple of people at the SB department, we were like, “Yeah, why not,” and it just started snowballing from there.
Why did you use the 3 Feet High And Rising album cover?
I mean, we wanted to do something classic. You know, if anything that’s our classic album. And we made it something different... plus the colors in it and everything. [We wanted to take] it to that level of just trying something totally different. Actually it was an accident, using that part of it on the shoe that big. It was actually supposed to be a square Velcro, and we wanted to do a different album cover with the Velcro so you could take the square off. The guys misunderstood what we were saying and just did the whole back end of it like that. When it turned out like that and we saw it, we were like, “Yeah, let’s keep it that way, it’s hot!”
The Message: Plug Two drops so much knowledge that AG needs to plug his brain to keep the overflow from busting out.
When did you really get into sneakers?
I been into sneakers ever since you wanted to have the same adidas that RUN DMC had. I think there is a culture that is way deeper than I am. I’m just into classic shoes. I’m into shoes that I remember seeing ’heads, older ’heads... especially back in the day when I was a youngin’, you know, rockin’ and wanting a pair and couldn’t afford them or my family couldn’t afford them. I’m into those sneakers that I just like from my era. Lactose, Capers, Dapper Dan; you know, all that. I’m into those sneakers from back in the days, and me and Pose (Plug One), even in school we were the dudes that were into wearing what everyone else wasn’t wearing. So you typically weren’t wearing PUMAS, adidas, or Nike for that sake. Since we started off as youngin’s we been into sneakers.
How was the Native Tongues formed?
As a lot of our encounters and relationship, it was just meeting people and in some fashion having the same ideologies as per creativity, whether it’s designing or music. In the Native Tongues case, it’s obviously music. Doing a show with Jungle Brothers out in Boston, and from that point on, it was like, “Yo, we love that song y’all got, ‘Jimbrownski,’ and we trying to do a song ‘Jenifa, Oh Jenny,’” and inviting them into the studio. It just moved on from that part. Meeting Q-Tip when we went to go see [The Jungle Brothers] and then [Queen] Latifah getting signed to our label and the Beatnuts doing beat with Afrika and it just became friends. That’s what it basically is: Native Tongues is a circle of friends that had like minds in music.
The Man, The Shoe, The Music: Plug Two with the fruits of De La Soul’s collaboration with Nike SB — the De La Dunk Low (technically the Dunk Low Pro SB in White/Yellow) and High (technically the Dunk High Pro SB in Baroque Brown/Altitude Green) — and the group’s enormously influential debut release, 3 Feet High And Rising.
Are there any artists today that you would say are the new breed of hip-hop like how De La Soul was in 1989?
I think there is a new breed. A lot of times—and these are people that I love—a lot of people may think that people like Common and Mos Def, those are supposed to be the new Native Tongues. Those are counterparts of ours who definitely share the same ideas and I respect and love their music, and have been a part of their creations, but I think there are other groups out there who kind of like define what De La is about really more. You know, creativity and taking it to that level of “I don’t care what’s going on out there.” Perfect example, like an MF Doom, that more defines what De La was back then, where it’s like “who cares what’s hot and what topics are hot? I’m going to do my own thing.” He’s the only dude out there with a mask on, making rhymes about cereal.
How did De La Soul partner with Gorillaz for Feel Good Inc.?
That was through a mutual friend. A friend of ours [was] saying that they thought it would be a good idea to do something with De La, and they were like, “We love them and those are our favorites”... We just hooked up a date to just chill with them. Went out to London for like five days and just hung out. It wasn’t really based on “pay me, and I’ll do this song with you,” it was more of “let’s just hang out for awhile.”
What are your thoughts of the shoe now that it is out and has instantly become a rare and hard-to-find collector’s item?
I think it’s... I mean, I love the idea that we did something that definitely says De La. I’m glad that we got involved in a venture that wasn’t going to be the new De La sneaker that you could find in Athlete’s Foot everywhere, Foot Locker and you know, just blown out and just over-saturated. I like that it’s a limited amount. It’s looks great! It looks unique. It looks like what De La would do. I mean, I’m satisfied; from drawing board to actual tangible sneakers, I’m proud of it. I’m real proud of it.
Spike Lee makes a guest appearance on the song Church. Talk about the group’s relationship with Mars Blackmon.
For us, that was a bit of comedy that we injected into what we were doing. Going up in that time in that era, seeing a filmmaker like Spike Lee who can put a bit of who he is, the zany side... it was something that just reminded us of something we were doing back in the days. Spike has always been a fan of what we have done, we worked with him on a couple of occasions, and we invited him down to work with us. It was just like having a friend come through that you haven’t seen in awhile.
The Lens: Ian Callender, the man behind all the snaps you see here, swears that he hears sweet music when he holds the De La Dunk to his ear.
Which of the De La Soul Dunks do you prefer?
Well, honestly, the green and brown hightops. I like hightops, period. When we sat down and thought of the sneaker ideas, we wanted to do a sneaker that we knew we would run and go buy in the store. We felt that we had to do a white, and we didn’t want to make it that complicated. But I lean more toward the hightop brown joint ’cause I know this is something that I would definitely buy. I’d appreciate it if it was Eric B. & Rakim’s album cover on it, but like style-wise I like this a lot, from the different appliqués on it to the elephant print to the nubuck... I like this a lot.
And you thought De La Soul was just a dope sneaker... shame on you!
Peace to De La Soul, true hip-hop fans, Chris Warren and the good people at Central Board Shop, and an extra shout of peace to Nike SB!