In the nearly-30 years since the debut of the hip-hop group, De La Soul, their contributions to the genre remain relevant to this day. It was their 1989 debut album “3 Feet High and Rising” that redefined what it meant to be an artist in the world of rap.
Filled with complex sample-based tracks and some of the earliest uses of skits on a hip-hop album, De La Soul cemented their place as a great force in the pantheon of 80s music. Yet, many modern hip-hop fans are unaware of the sheer brilliance and influence the group had on the music that they champion.
De La Soul’s tumultuous relationship with their record label, Tommy Boy Records, has kept their music off of all major streaming services. Their original contract lacks mention of any provisions concerning streaming service distribution as streaming services did not exist back in the 1980s.
Fortunately for fans, in 2019, the word got out that Tommy Boy Records and De La Soul had discussed streaming service distribution terms and planned to release their entire catalog on streaming services worldwide. However, this was all put to an abrupt stop once the group explained the nature of the deal they “agreed” to. Instead of receiving the majority of the profits from streaming their music, De La Soul was set to only receive 10% of the earnings. Once going public with this news, their fanbase took to social media to demand change. “#standwithdelasoul” trended across social media platforms, forcing Tommy Boy Records to shelve its digital rollout of De La Soul’s music. While fans effectively prevented the group from being subjected to the unfair terms of the deal, they were once again restricted to access to their catalog. Many believed this was the end of the De La Soul vs. Tommy Boy saga until shocking news broke out in July of this year.
On Jun. 3, Tommy Boy Records was acquired by Reservoir Music for $100 million, in one of the most lucrative deals in modern music history. By closing this deal with Tommy Boy Records owner Tom Silverman, Reservoir Music bought the rights for the catalogs of numerous artists such as Coolio, Queen Latifah, House of Pain, and others. However, many remained curious about the prospects of De La Soul’s catalog. Shortly after the announcement of the deal, the group took to Instagram to celebrate the news, teasing that something important was to come.
On Aug. 10, 2021, the news many had been waiting for was finally announced. The three members of De La Soul (Kelvin Mercer, David Jude Jolicoeur, and Vincent Mason) announced via an Instagram live stream that they had struck a fair deal with Reservoir Music, guaranteeing their full catalog will debut on streaming services in Nov. 2021.
After years of legal trouble, De La Soul will be free and available for all to stream! That being said, for those unfamiliar with De La Soul, where should you start? Which albums or songs should you listen to first?
Unquestionably, De La Soul’s debut album “3 Feet High and Rising” is the way to be introduced to the group. As alluded to, it is hard to express how fresh and innovative that album was for the time it was released. To simply put it, modern hip-hop would not sound the same if it wasn’t for this album.
Throughout the album, De La Soul uses skits of a game show host asking the group trivia questions to keep things moving along in an entertaining and unique way. When it comes to the individual songs, you will find some of the best hip-hop the 80s had to offer. From the anti-drug use anthem “Say No Go” to the Steely Dan sample-based “Eye Know”, the diverse pallet of sound offered on “3 Feet High and Rising” is guaranteed to have something for everybody. I implore you to give the album a listen when it hits streaming services this November. Your ears and soul will thank you for it.
If the playful and free-spirited nature of “3 Feet High and Rising” is not your thing, allow me to suggest De La Soul’s 1996 first self-produced album, “Stakes is High.” “Stakes is High” sees the group enter the territory of boom-bap and jazz rap. Upon first listen, the roots of the sound would shape modern-day emcees such as Kendrick Lamar, Anderson. Paak, and MF DOOM are ever-present throughout. Compared to the group’s debut album, “Stakes is High” is grittier, heavier, and more lyrically focused. The lyrical wizardry of De La Soul’s three emcees takes center stage on this album, which differentiates itself from the sample-based masterwork that is “3 Feet High and Rising.” Songs such as “Supa Emcees.” “Breaks” and “Long Island Degrees” still sound like the future of hip-hop. These songs are as fresh today as they were in 1996. No disrespect intended to their sophomore album “De La Soul is Dead” or their third album “Buhloone Mindstate”, but I believe the two albums I have suggested will show you what De La Soul is capable of in the shortest amount of time.
Even if hip-hop is not your forte, I encourage you to take part in the celebration of three fearless artists regaining control over what is rightfully theirs. De La Soul is back and will continue to rise through the ranks of hip-hop for many years to come.