On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82. From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued to it every weekend. Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure to this day. For me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet. And still is (thanks to the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).
In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post. On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40. On June 30, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1.
As Casey used to say on AT40, “And on we go!”
By the Fall of 1988, due to contractual issues with ABC Watermark, Casey Kasem sadly left the show he created in 1970 to start another show, Casey’s Top 40. With no 29-year-old offense intended at AT40’s replacement host, Shadoe Stevens, I listened for one or two weeks after Casey left, and it just wasn’t the same. But for this tribute to Casey, I’m still sticking with the 80s format, and will feature a number of songs from August 1988 through December 1989, or post-Casey on American Top 40. Here’s one of those songs.
De La Soul, the Hip Hop / Rap trio formed Long Island, New York, in 1987 (while still in high school) and are still together 30 years later. Consisting of members Posdnous (real name Kevin Mercer), Dave (David Jude Jolicoeur) and Maseo (Vincent Mason), De La Soul came onto the music scene a couple of years later with their debut album, 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING, and right out of the gate, they were heralded for their impressive contributions to Jazz Rap and Alt-Hip Hop, their fun wordplay and their revolutionary sampling (on this album alone, they sample anything from Daryl Hall & John Oates to Johnny Cash to Steely Dan to The Turtles to Richard Pryor to Liberace to Wilson Pickett to Billy Joel).
3 FEET HIGH AND RISING was one of the most critically-acclaimed albums of 1989, making it onto many publications’ Top 10 lists that year, including ROLLING STONE (#5), MELODY MAKER (#10), plus other notable accolades from SPIN (#7, 100 Greatest Albums, 1985-2005), VILLAGE VOICE (“The Sgt. Pepper of Hip Hop”), NEW MUSIC EXPRESS (NME) (“One of the greatest albums ever made”) and famed music critic Robert Christgau said 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING was “unlike any rap album you or anybody else has heard.”
Another thing that 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING had in its favor was its tone. In 1989, Gangsta Rap was taking off, and De La Soul went in a different direction, a more positive spin on Rap, promoting peace and harmony, as opposed to violence and substance abuse and then some. And, because of it, both De La Soul and the album were well-received. 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING was certified Platinum and spent five weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s R&B / Hip Hop chart. In Robert Christgau’s VILLAGE VOICE review of the album, he said that De La Soul is “New Wave to Public Enemy’s Punk.”
3 FEET HIGH AND RISING was released in mid-March 1989, but it took about three months for the album’s first single, “Me Myself And I,” to reach the BILLBOARD Hot 100. On June 3, 1989, the week it debuted on the Hot 100, it was No. 1 for a week on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart. The following week, it was No. 1 for a week on BILLBOARD’s R&B / Hip Hop chart.
Prior to its Hot 100 debut, “Me Myself And I” was the second song to reach No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s then-new Rap Singles chart. It spent eight weeks at No. 1 on that chart.
“Me Myself And I,” with its quirky video set in a high school guidance office and then a classroom, helped propel the song up the Hot 100, though it was an unusual chart run. Just three weeks on the chart, it jumped from No. 72 to No. 49. But, for whatever reason, the following week, it quickly held the No. 49 position, only to move back up the week after.
QUIRKY FUN FACT: The MTV character, Randee of the Redwoods (played by actor and comedian Jim Turner from 1987 through 1990) appears briefly in the music video for “Me Myself And I.” Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammed of A Tribe Called Quest also make cameo appearances.
In its sixth week on the Hot 100, “Me Myself And I” was already certified Gold (pretty impressive for a song that hadn’t yet reached the Top 40), but retreated back from No. 43 to No. 45. And, once again, the following week, it regained its bullet and climbed back up.
Eight weeks into its chart run, in late July 1989, “Me Myself And I” bounded into the Top 40 at No. 34, but that is where it would peak for one week, and it spent three total weeks in the Top 40. “Me Myself And I” (which incorporates five samples of songs from Funkadelic to Ohio Players) bowed out of the Hot 100 after 17 weeks.
“Me Myself And I” picked up an audience around the globe as well, reaching No. 1 in Holland for two weeks, plus No. 7 in Belgium, No. 16 in Germany, and the Top 30 in the U.K., Austria and Switzerland. It was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance.
The legacy of “Me Myself And I” in the history of Rap / Hip Hop and music altogether continues today. In addition to being featured in commercials and video games, the song is included in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s “500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll.”
De La Soul has now released a total of nine studio albums, including 2016’s AND THE ANONYMOUS NOBODY… album, which featured a number of guest performers, including David Byrne. One reviewer called the album “one of the most thrilling, wide-ranging Rap releases of the year,” and this year, it gave the trio their first Grammy nomination since 2006.
Those who know me know I’m not really into most Rap music, so I never really kept up on De La Soul, but I’m so glad they are still together and still promoting that more peaceful, traditional Hip Hop alternative to Rap from a lot of the (C)rap that’s out there. And, though I don’t really know them, from what I’ve read, they seem like the real deal.
As for “Me Myself And I,” I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like this song. I know folks were into Goth back then and who loved this song. There was just something about it, and still is…
“De La Soul is from the soul / And this fact I can’t deny…”