De La Soul's Plug 1 & Plug 2 present First Serve
Duck Down Artists
De La Soul's Plug 1 & Plug 2 present First Serve
Duck Down Records
About De La Soul's Plug 1 & Plug 2 present First Serve
DE LA SOUL’S PLUG 1 & PLUG 2 present FIRST SERVE
“It’s funky, it’s hip-hop, it’s disco and it’s classic.” This is De La Soul’s Plug 1 & Plug 2 present ‘First Serve’; a dynamic hip-hop group, an album, a concept, the soundtrack to a movie that has yet to be made and a fable for our times.
‘First Serve’ is many things, but at its heart it is the story of two young boys from Queens, New York with big dreams and larger rhymes. Two friends, Deen Witter (aka Plug 2 / Dave) and Jacob ‘Pop Life’ Barrow (aka Plug 1 / Pos), friends from seventh grade, are by their own admission, “different, but the differences seem to complement everything we do.” Their name comes from their motto “first come, first serve, get what you deserve.”
We pick this story up in late-1990s Queens, with Deen and Jacob finding their way in the unforgiving world of hip hop.
Deen is the outsider, something of a weirdo with his own moral code and his own nickname, ‘the Capricorn Kid’, that nobody else ever uses. A vision in leather gloves and pink glasses, living under the thumb of his formidable mother Eleanor, with a fondness for liquour that often lands him in trouble.
His best friend Jacob Barrow quickly renamed himself ‘Pop Life’, after a childhood obsession with the sound of the bubblewrap popping in his father’s shipping store. And Pop’s life is one that yearns for the finer things; he wants the cars and the bling, dressing like a knock-off Kanye in shades and earrings, suits and sweaters.
Years on the hustle, laying down demos and mixtapes in Deen’s mother’s basement sees them eventually taken under the wing of a flamboyant reformed coke dealer named Ken Du, who took the position as their manager, and shopped their blend of hip-hop around, signing them with high end record label Goon Time, and quickly enjoying their first hit with the bouncy orchestral flourish of ‘Must B The Music’.
But with success comes cracks. Deen would stumble into meetings late drunk and knock over bookcases while Pop would turn up on time, making sure to play the whole show to get the most money to get the biggest car, so he could then trade it in for another bigger car, to get more attention from the girls. In his own different way, he would spiral out of control. Their different quirks and approaches would lead the band to a fractious split. While Pop went off to be a high-rolling solo artist, Deen returned to boozing on the streets of Queens and living with his mother Eleanor. Pop’s parting shot? “Fuck you and your Mom, she looks like Tyler Perry with a wig on!” And that might have been the end of it…
Somewhere in another reality, pulling the strings for the story of our heroes are Pos and Dave from hip-hop legends De La Soul, who were inspired by the approach to do something completely different from acclaimed French production team Chokolate and Khalid, who themselves first met through their love of turntablism. The album concept starts with their story: to fulfil their shared dream of recording a live hip-hop record.
A mutual respect led the Pos and Dave to listen. Says Dave: “They (Chokolate and Khalid) explained to us they would like to have some sort of concept to the album, some sort of thread that pulled it together. Why not do a story? Almost like a movie on wax. From there we just sat down and thought about, as opposed to just the guys from De La collaborating with a set of producers, approaching it as an entirely new thing, almost like a true story.”
To do this Chokolate and Khalid created alter ego 2&4 while the legendary De La Soul boys created Deen and Jacob for their part in this alternate reality. The four of them set about putting their hip-hop fable together in Paris, putting the producers’ live beats and electro flavours to the duo’s rhymes, tying songs to stories where they worked best, and vice versa. The end result is a high-spirited, hilarious journey of hip-hop, skits, and beats where all the action takes place in a hyper-colour, animated world.
The story, as well as the music, was something they could all relate to. “These dudes grew up together,” says Pos. “They’re like family and it’s just unfortunate where the story turned out that they had this break up because of the success and the woman. But at the end of the day I think that they realised that what was important was their friendship. Everything that they are gave them what they got. It was their connection, it was their identity as a group and as friends, and they missed that.”
And the new way of working taught the veterans something new about themselves as well. Dave explains: “What came out of my character (Deen) is who I would probably want to be in real life. The brave part about him is that he doesn’t really give a fuck at all. In comparison to myself, I feel like you gotta care, but this guy just doesn’t. If he makes it big or not he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care if you think he’s cool. If he drives up to a club in a bullshit car that you gotta use a screwdriver to start, he doesn’t care much at all. He cares about doing the right thing, but at the same time he’s a drunk.”
Incidentally, the fabulous, smart-mouthed matriarch Eleanor is played by Dave in a high voice.
So the story plays out – from the ‘Opening Credits’ through to tracks like the funky euphoric ‘We Made It’, the story follows Deen and Jacob’s original success, through the darkly-hung, break-up ode of ‘Clash Symphony’ to their eventual, tender reunion on the irresistible ‘Tennis’– with some of De La’s most irrepressible rhymes in years, and a succession of hilarious skits. The pair find themselves “bound together with a handshake, not a contract.”
We leave them back on top, on a Paris stage with the call-and-response finale, and surely future hit ‘Move ‘Em In, Move ‘Em Out’. Where do they go from here? With a world this vibrant, the possibilities seem endless. There are whispers of sequels, comic books, live action versions of this story… but for now, ‘First Serve’ lives on in the form of some truly awesome beats and rhymes.