Remembering Trugoy The Dove

Requiem For A Dove: Remembering Trugoy

Published Mon, February 13, 2023 at 4:00 PM EST

The loss of Dave "Trugoy" Jolicoeur has gutted Hip-Hop fans everywhere. De La Soul has been a Hip-Hop mainstay for almost 35 years, and the loss of "The Dove" means that, however his bandmates Posdnous and Maseo decide to move forward, De La Soul as we all knew it is no more.

As a longtime devotee of the Native Tongues, the death of Trugoy The Dove is heartbreaking. De La Soul has long been a symbol of consistency for me; having discovered the trio around the time that "Me, Myself & I" was becoming a regularly featured video on MTV.

I connected with De La Soul more than anything else in Hip-Hop up to that point—and I loved Hip-Hop. As a kid, I'd been curiously fixated on the political fire of Public Enemy and danced to hits by chart-toppers like MC Hammer and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince at countless birthday parties; but De La was the first thing in rap that I directly related to. They seemed laid-back and goofy, unapologetically weird and kind of artsy.

They reminded me of my friends and I—and they were my introduction to the Native Tongues. Posdnous, Maseo and Trugoy made it clear that Hip-Hop didn't have one voice or perspective, and I found my touchstone for creativity in albums like 3 Feet High & Rising and De La Soul Is Dead.

But none of that is unusual. De La Soul was a touchstone for so many. Their Native Tongue brethren, A Tribe Called Quest, benefitted from the path De La blazed with their debut album; followers like Del the Funkee Homosapien and The Pharcyde clearly took a page from what De La had done first; artists like Digable Planets and The Roots were also cut from the same jazz-rap cloth that the trio from Long Island stitched from the very beginnings of their career. De La Soul is as influential on that side of the Hip-Hop family tree as N.W.A. is on theirs.

Trugoy was an irreplaceable part of what made De La Soul special. Their greatest strength was in their unity, and Dave is one-third of that creative whole.

Unlike the vocal dynamic between A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip and Phife, (who always embodied opposites—Tip's low-key cool and Phife's hyped-up energy), the relationship between rhymers Pos and Trugoy was always a kind of cerebral kismet connection. They rhymed in ways that seemed to flow from the same brain; moving from the oddball musings of their early work to the more clear-eyed pontificating they'd become known for later.

Trugoy was always one of Hip-Hop's most thoughtful lyricists, rarely getting acknowledged as such—largely due to De La Soul's famed singularity. They were always more recognized as a unit, despite the fact that both Pos and Dave have been among the most consistently brilliant lyricists to ever rhyme.

Dave became even more obviously laid-back on latter day De La masterworks like Art.Official.Intelligence: Mosaic Thump and The Grind Date, but his effortless-bordering-on-amiable style never hid just how skilled he was on the microphone.

And he wasn't averse to taking shots, as indicated on 1996's perfect "Stakes As High," when he famously rattled off rap cliches he'd grown sick of ("Sick of half-ass awards shows/Sick of name brand clothes."); or on the same album's "Itzsoweezee (HOT)," when he chided mafioso rap fantasies ("See them Cubans don't care what y'all niggas do/Colombians ain't never ran with your crew.")

As Plug Two, he took an almost inherently deferential position to Pos, but it never felt like Trugoy was anyone's sidekick. Quite the contrary, these were two emcees on equal footing, even if Pos sometimes seemed to be the group's unofficial "frontman." And Dave seemed to get the most shine away from the umbrella of De La.

One of Trugoy's best non-De La Soul moments is on the Camp Lo album track "B-Side to Hollywood," which gives him room to kick bars alongside Geechie Suede and Sonny Cheeba. The trio sounds all at home together, as Dave handles the hook and kicks rhymes about Rickety Rocket and Honey Combs cereal.

He delivers the laid-back hook on Tribe's classic "Award Tour," and it's Trugoy who rips the mic apart on the chart-topping "Feel Good, Inc" by Gorillaz, spazzing out over the funky track with Maseo's maniacal laugh serving as a calling card.

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Our focus was never anything else but the music. Of course, again, we are earning a living and we want to do business accordingly and reap from all that we’ve created. But at the same time, the creation of it was first and foremost important. We weren’t running to do commercials and movies and running to be in L.A. and hang out in Hollywood or whatever the case may be. A lot of our peers were running around because it seemed bigger than life and it seemed like it was taking them to different places and then ignoring the music aspect of it all. Ignoring the bond between band members, the legacy you’re building, and the fans who support you. Those things were always more important to us. Even if it was through fear."

- Dave A.K.A. Trugoy The Dove (KICKSTARTER interview, 2016)

Dave had been open about his health in recent years, though it did little to dull the shock of his passing. He'd made it public in the opening moments of the music video for De La Soul's "Royalty Capes" from De La's and The Anonymous Nobody...; he was battling congestive heart failure and it was affecting his ability to perform.

Just a week prior to his death, De La Soul performed as part of a medley of rap classics at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards celebrated 50 years of Hip-Hop. But Trugoy wasn't with the group. He died just a week after the show.

The 2016 video for De La Soul's "Memory Of...(Us)" has always been bittersweet, but it's perhaps even more so now. In the clip, Estelle (who also provides vocal on the track) plays a bride on her wedding day, thinking back on the complications of their relationship.

There's a shot of a tuxedoed Dave walking off on a lonely road, back to the camera. It's a pensive moment, and is completed with a somber shot of all three members of De La Soul standing in their tuxes after the wedding ceremony, before television static cuts through the moment. "Time can't be replaced," Estelle sings on the breezy, wistful hook.

I cried like a baby after getting word that we'd lost Trugoy. I cried like I'd lost a family member. It wasn't unlike the pain of similar losses Native Tongues fans have endured in recent years; from MF DOOM to Don Newkirk to, most obviously, Phife Dawg. Life does and always will go on, but I can't imagine De La Soul without Trugoy The Dove.

And I can't imagine Hip-Hop without De La Soul.

This post was updated May 23, 2023.

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