David Jude Jolicoeur, known widely as Trugoy the Dove and one of the founding members of the Long Island hip hop trio De La Soul, has died. He was 54.
His representative Tony Ferguson confirmed the reports Sunday. No other information was immediately available.
In recent years, Jolicoeur, had said he was battling congestive heart failure and wore a LifeVest defibrillator machine. De La Soul was part of the hip-hop tribute at the Grammy Awards last week, but Trugoy was not onstage with his fellow bandmates.
Tributes poured in on social media shortly after the news broke Sunday.
“Dave! It was a honor to share so many stages with you,” wrote rapper Big Daddy Kane on Instagram.
Rapper Erick Sermon posted on Instagram that “This one hurts. From Long Island from one of the best rap groups in Hiphop # Delasoul #plug2 Dave has passed away you will be missed… RIP.”
Young Guru added, “Rest in peace my brother. You were loved. @plugwondelasoul I love you brother we are here for you. Smiles I love you bro. This is crazy” and DJ Semtex wrote that it was “heart wrenching news.”
“Luke Cage” showrunner and hip-hop journalist Cheo Hodari Coker wrote on Twitter that, “You don’t understand what De La Soul means to me. Their existence said to me, a black geek from Connecticut that yes, hip-hop belongs to you too, and Trugoy was the balance, McCartney to Pos Lennon, Keith to his Mick. This is a huge loss.”
Jolicoeur was born in Brooklyn but raised in the Amityville area of Long Island, where he met Vincent Mason (Pasemaster Mase) and Kelvin Mercer (Posdnuos) and the three decided to form a rap group, with each taking on distinctive names. Trugoy, Jolicoeur said, was backwards for “yogurt.” More recently he’d been going by Dave.
De La Soul’s debut studio album “3 Feet High and Rising,” produced by Prince Paul, was released in 1989 by Tommy Boy Records and praised for being a more light-hearted and positive counterpart to more charged rap offerings like N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton” and Public Enemy’s “It Takes a Nation of Millions” released just one year prior.
Sampling everyone from Johnny Cash and Steely Dan to Hall & Oates, De La Soul signaled the beginning of alternative hip-hop. In Rolling Stone, critic Michael Azerrad called it the first “psychedelic hip-hop record.” Some even called them a hippie group, though the members didn’t quite like that.
In 2010, “3 Feet High and Rising” was added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for its historic significance.
“It’s a hip-hop masterpiece for the era in which it was released,” Jolicoeur told Billboard earlier this year. “I think the element of that time of what was taking place in music, hip-hop, and our culture, I think it welcomed that and opened up minds and spirits to see and try new different things. … I think the innocence that we had back then was brave, but we were in a time where innocence was so cool. Not sampling James Brown, but sampling Liberace; I think it was shocking (when) we came out (that) we sampled Liberace. I don’t know if it’d impact the same way (now).”
They followed with “De La Soul Is Dead,” in 1991, which was a bit darker and more divisive with critics, and “Stakes is High,” in 1996.
De La Soul released eight albums and in March were going to make their streaming service debut, on Spotify, Apple Music and others after a long battle with Tommy Boy Records about legal and publishing matters. The 2021 acquisition of Tommy Boy Records by Reservoir, with masters from the likes of De La Soul, Queen Latifah and Naughty By Nature, helped move things along and the full catalog was set to debut on March 3.
“You think that you own your stuff and that now it’s on cruise control, waiting for the checks to come in. But it is not that way at all. There’s a lot to do,” Jolicoeur told Billboard. “You do need collaborators, you do need help, you do need to rework back into the system and not necessarily be the lone commissioner of this project. You need allies, you need companies to work with, you need people to hire, and we learned a big lesson from that. It definitely wasn’t just, “We got our masters back!” It ain’t that.”
Over the years, the group was nominated for six Grammy Awards, winning one for Best Pop Vocal Collaboration for the Gorillaz song “Feel Good Inc.”
During the pandemic, he said, there were talks of solo albums and branching out — which weren’t new.
“We support each other in those ideas, but at the same time, I think the magic really happens when it’s the three of us,” he said. “I’m not trying to crack that formula, and I don’t think anyone else is, either.”
Asked what advice he would give to groups about how to stay together, he said you have to fight, but remember you’re fighting for the team.
“Sometimes it’s about money, but then there’s an element of: We don’t get along because we haven’t been honest with each other. Get through that honesty, move on, and keep going — because it feels good going. Fight it out, get it all out, and come back knowing that you’re fighting for the team,” he said.
In a story published Feb. 12, 2023, The Associated Press erroneously spelled the first name of Erick Sermon. It was updated Feb. 13 to correct.