Trugoy the Dove (1968-2023)

Feb 13, 2023 | R.I.P.

(Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images)

By Jem Aswad, A.D. Amorosi | Variety

De La Soul cofounder Dave Jolicoeur, better known as Trugoy the Dove, has died at the age of 54, a rep for the group has confirmed to Variety. Details were not immediately available, but he has suffered from health issues for several years and in 2018 said Jolicoeur — pictured above, far right, in 2014 — had been battling congestive heart failure.

Sadly, his death comes just weeks before the pioneering hip-hop group’s key catalog will finally become available on streaming services. Their 1989 album, “3 Feet High and Rising,” is universally recognized as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, but has been held back from streaming services due to longstanding legal battles over sample clearances and other matters. The group in many ways was a guinea pig for laws around sampling, which was a new field at the time of the album’s release, but quickly became one as the owners of the rights to songs sampled on the album sued the group and its label at the time, Tommy Boy Records.

The lawsuits unquestionably slowed down the group’s career, although they have continued to release albums ever since and were also featured on Gorillaz’s 2005 smash single “Feel Good Inc.” The Tommy Boy catalog was acquired in 2021 by Reservoir Media, which announced last month that the group’s albums “3 Feet High and Rising,” “De La Soul Is Dead,” “Buhloone Mindstate,” “Stakes Is High” and “Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump” and “AOI: Bionix” will be available on streaming services for the first time legally on March 3.

The group’s influence was recognized at the Grammy Awards last weekend during the Questlove-helmed all-star hip-hop celebration with a brief performance of “Buddy,” a song from ‘3 Feet High,” although Posdnos (Kevin Mercer) was the only group member to perform.

Its song “The Magic Number,” also from “3 Feet High,” was featured in the 2021 blockbuster film “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” yet the catalog was still not available on streaming services at the time, frustrating fans and costing the group significant streaming royalties, but the situation did shed more light on their legal struggles.

David Jude Jolicoeur was born September 21, 1968, in Brooklyn, New York. Raised near East Massapequa on Long Island, it was there that Joliceour befriended Mercer (Posdonus) and Vincent Lamont Mason Jr. (Maseo) with Jolicoeur becoming known as “Trugoy” for his love of yogurt (spelled backwards).

Upon forming De La Soul in high school, the rappers hastily recorded a demo of “Plug Tunin’,” one of their earliest tracks, which caught the attention of Stetsasonic member and then-bourgeoning hip-hop producer Prince Paul.

Together with Paul and fellow “Native Tongue” clique friends such as A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip and Jungle Brothers (both of whom performed on “Buddy”), De La Soul crafted its first album, “3 Feet High and Rising,” into an aural masterpiece. Their whimsically poetic, sample-heavy, collage-like brand of hip-hop and humorous skits was winningly psychedelic and against the grain of the often violent and/or misogynist lyrical tropes common in the era’s rap songs.

For all of its smart integration of samples from the likes of Steely Dan, Parliament-Funkadelic and Hall & Oates, it was the innovation of “3 Feet” that cost the trio dearly, as one of the sampled artists in question –  the Turtles, whose “You Showed Me” was used without permission for De La’s “Transmitting Live from Mars” –  sued the band and its Tommy Boy label, and won. Not only did this decision impact De La Soul’s winning trajectory, but that of hip-hop as well: From that moment on, copyright owners would fight fiercely to be compensated for the use of their music.

Delayed until such clearances were ascertained, De La Soul’s second album, “De La Soul Is Dead” (which reportedly had a large number of samples removed before release) was as melodic and hippie-ish as “3 Feet,” but darker in tone and lyric — a hardness reflected in the dense grooves of 1993’s “Buhloone Mindstate” and its R&B-driven “Breakadawn” single.

After a 1994 promo-only EP “Clear Lake Audiotorium” featuring “Sh.Fe.MC’s” (Shocking Female MC’s) with A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul broke ties with producer Prince Paul for the first time, and got behind the boards of their own new album, “Stakes Is High” (1996). Here, De La Soul not only got their sense of humor back, but welcomed collaborations with Common, Mos Def and Jazzyfatnastees.

Taking the rest of the 1990s off as recording artists, De La Soul came back in a big way at the top of the 21st Century with a cleverly-titled, promised three volume set titled “Art Official Intelligence.” Only its first two discs in the series, “Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump” (2000) and “AOI: Bionix” (2001) dropped before the project was abandoned due to rumored struggles with Tommy Boy Records.

After disagreements between Tommy Boy and Warner Bros., De La Soul moved to Sanctuary/BMG and released “The Grind Date.” While that 2004 album didn’t dent the charts, it was De La’s 2005 collaboration with Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz on the hit single “Feel Good Inc.,” that became a career high for the rap trio, winning a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Collaboration (the rap trio’s first).

Maintaining a relationship with Gorillaz during live tours and on additional tracks such as “Momentz” on Gorillaz’ 2017 album “Humanz,” De La Soul recorded “Plug 1 & Plug 2 Present… First Serve” in 2012 for the PIAS label, and released its last, full album, “And the Anonymous Nobody…” in 2016 through the auspices of a Kickstarter fundraiser and a release on their A.O.I. label through Kobalt – all while continuing the dispute for its back catalog with Tommy Boy.

Shortly before the announcement of its catalog being released on all streamers in January 2023, De La Soul reportedly finished recording its tenth studio album featuring production from Pete Rock and DJ Premier, with a promised 2023 release on Mass Appeal Records.