David Jolicoeur of De La Soul, the rap trio that expanded the stylistic vocabulary of hip-hop in the 1980s and ’90s with eclectic samples and offbeat humor, becoming MTV staples and cult heroes of the genre, has died. He was 54.
His death was confirmed on Sunday by the group’s publicist, Tony Ferguson, who did not specify a cause, or any further details about where or when Mr. Jolicoeur died. In recent years, Mr. Jolicoeur openly discussed a struggle with congestive heart failure, including in a music video for the group’s song “Royalty Capes.”
De La Soul arrived with the album “3 Feet High and Rising” in 1989, a time when hip-hop was still new to the mainstream, and its public face was confrontational, with groups like Public Enemy and N.W.A speaking out about the racism, police violence and neglect faced by Black communities in America. By contrast, De La Soul — three middle-class young men from Long Island — presented themselves with hippie floral designs and a music video set in a high school for their song “Me Myself and I.”
Mr. Jolicoeur — whose original stage name in the group was Trugoy the Dove, but later went simply by Dave — had the first lines of the track, riffing on a fairy tale. “Mirror mirror on the wall/Tell me mirror, what is wrong?” he rapped. “Can it be my De La clothes/Or is it just my De La song?”
That album, with singles also including “Say No Go” and “Eye Know,” reached only as high as No. 24 on the Billboard 200 chart, but it was an instant classic that pointed to new directions in hip-hop. Later albums included “De La Soul Is Dead” (1991), “Buhloone Mindstate” (1993) and “Stakes Is High” (1996).
The group’s fortunes were complicated by legal problems involving its samples. “Three Feet High,” produced by Prince Paul, contained pieces of more than 60 other recordings, including not only Funkadelic and Ohio Players grooves but oddities like sounds from old TV shows and recordings of French lessons.
Those samples became the bane of the group. One, of the 1968 Turtles hit “You Showed Me,” had not been cleared properly, and the Turtles sued; it was settled out of court.
Ongoing legal problems with sample clearances prevented the group from releasing its music in digital form, effectively blocking the trio from music’s most important marketplace in the 21st century. Recently, the group finally cleared those samples and was preparing to release its music in digital form in March.