Label: Tommy Boy

3 Feet High and Rising was so strange and different from any other hip-hop album before it that it had to have come from outer space. (In fact the original concept for the album involved music being transmitted from Mars by three microphone plugs). Things made a little more sense (at least to New Yorkers, at the time) when you learned that De La—Posdnous, Trugoy the Dove and Pasemaster Mase, aka Plug One, Plug Two and Plug Three—were from Amityville, the racially mixed town on Long Island’s South Shore known for its infamous “Horror House.”

Together with producer Prince Paul, a high school classmate who’d already gained hip-hop fame as the DJ for Brooklyn’s Stetsasonic, De La made it cool to be weird in hip-hop—so long as the artistry and cultural credibility were on point, too. With its sublimely random samples (The Turtles, Johnny Cash, French library records), the original hip-hop skits (involving a not-quite-explainable gameshow whose host asked questions like “How many times did the Batmobile catch a flat?”) and the special sort of rambunctious energy you only get from young friends who spend all their time hanging out and making music together, 3 Feet High and Rising elevated bugging out to the level of high art.