The third British Top 30 single of the year for De La Soul... 'Eye Know', which is based around Steely Dan's 1978 American hit 'Peg' followed 'Me Myself And I' and 'Say No Go' into the chart... had reached No. 16 by 22nd October 1989.
Sorry it's not the real video, I couldn't find a full version on YouTube. It's not very good anyway. There's no video for the Steely Dan track either, but then you wouldn't have expected one in those days. I thought I should listen to it for research as the only previous time I can recall hearing it was about 22 years ago,being played on the radio by a DJ who evidently relished the opportunity De La Soul had given him. Although my Dad had (and to the best of my knowledge still has) a copy of Aja, and has always been quite keen on Steely Dan, I don't remember him actually playing it much. Maybe it just wasn't the sort of thing that made an impression on a child.
De La Soul were certainly a band I remembered actually hearing and liking though. Naturally at the time I was too young and naive to place them in any sort of musical context or to be any more than subconsciously aware of the source material: the battle between gangsta rap and the jazzier more upbeat version on offer here was totally unknown to me. Of course being a wimp I grew up with more of an affinity for the latter and nowadays the rap section of my record collection is dominated by the positive vibes of Jurassic 5, Ugly Duckling and other non-Now acts. Inevitably, I ultimately acquired the seminal 3 Feet High And Rising, a seminal work in hip-hop history that was famously called the Sgt. Pepper of the genre; it's also been compared to Dark Side Of The Moon, although that's not as close a match to the colourful and humorous style of this album. One way 3 Feet differs from both those precedents is that it produced multiple hit singles: four of them, in fact, which I'm pretty sure was unprecedented for a rap album in the UK and hasn't happened much since either.
The third of those hits, 'Eye Know' isn't quite my favourite but it's still a brilliant single, one of the few attempts at a hip-hop love song that isn't utterly cringe-making. And it has a brilliant swing in its step that - perhaps controversially - I don't hear in the Steely Dan track which is a bit too pedantic to feel really soulful. It doesn't seem at all wrong that they sample the whistle from Otis Redding, and what greater praise could I give?
Also appearing on: Now 15, 61 [with Gorillaz]
Available on: 3 Feet High And Rising