What can be said about De La Soul that has not already been said? For decades, fans of music and fellow creators have championed the group based in Amityville, N.Y. as creative visionaries and pioneers of sample-based hip-hop. In recent history, De La Soul received a resurgence in popularity among younger listeners once their classic track, “The Magic Number,” was featured in “Spider-Man – No Way Home.” While the accolades and praise that De La Soul’s music has garnered over decades is impressive, the vast majority of their back-catalog has remained unavailable to stream online. This stems back to the record contract De La Soul signed with their original record label, Tommy Boy Records, in the late 80s. While the volatile relationship between De La Soul and Tommy Boy Records has been well documented.
As of March 3, 2023, the entirety of De La Soul’s back-catalog is now available for listening across all major streaming services. This comes as a result of Tommy Boy Records being bought out by Reservoir Media in 2021, an event I covered for Horseshoe Magazine in September 2021. Two years later, De La Soul has achieved the ability to feature their music alongside fellow pioneers of their era such as Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, and many more. That said, the achievement remains bittersweet for both the group and fans at large.
On February 12, 2023, De La Soul’s David Jolicoeur (A.K.A. Trugoy the Dove) died at the age of 54. While no cause of death was reported, his death happened a mere two weeks before De La Soul’s catalog was set to debut on streaming services. While the group had fought for their creative freedom as a team of three, only two of the group’s members remained alive to reap the efforts of their long battle. The remaining De La Soul members Kelvin Mercier (A.K.A. Posdunous) and Vincent Mason (A.K.A. DJ Maseo) were joined by a fleet of special guests, friends and fans at New York City’s Webster Hall on March 2 to celebrate their bandmate’s life and definitive release of their music.
The March 2 event was billed as “The DA.I.S.Y. Experience” in reference to an acronym (Da Inner Sound, Y’all) that De La Soul introduced to listeners in 1989 on “3 Feet High and Rising.” While the evening consisted of various tributes to the life of David Jolicoeur and performances from Posdunous and DJ Maseo, the amount of hip-hop icons that appeared as special guests was a true marvel. Guests of the evening included Common, Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, Black Thought from The Roots and Chuck D from Public Enemy. The fleet of hip-hop trailblazers that came together to celebrate the music of De La Soul and life of Trugoy the Dove serves as further confirmation for how important the group is to music history. After all the hardships De La Soul has gone through in their past, seeing the group celebrate a full-release of their music in the company of an all-star group of friends and collaborators is truly heartwarming. A rebroadcast of “The DA.I.S.Y. Experience” is available here.
Since De La Soul’s entire catalog has never been available to stream before, there are now 119 songs that are brand new to streaming platforms. So, where exactly should someone who is unfamiliar with their work begin? Personally, it feels most natural to start at the very beginning: their groundbreaking and wholly unique debut album, “3 Feet High and Rising.” While the aforementioned track “The Magic Number” is a fantastic opening tune, you would be remiss to not dig deeper into the album to find great tracks such as “Eye Know,” “Tread Water” and “Potholes In My Lawn.”
Having a baseline understanding for where De La Soul began with “3 Feet High and Rising” will provide you with a deeper appreciation for their subsequent albums. To me, all four records the group released in the 90s are masterworks in their own ways. Their sophomore record, “De La Soul Is Dead”, shows the group maturing in regard to technical execution and artistic concept. Tracks such as “Oodles of O’s” and “Keepin’ the Faith” are true standout tracks and serve as an indication for the jazzier direction the band would adopt for their equally excellent “Buhloone Mindstate” and “Stakes Is High” records. Whether it be the “Buhloone Mindstate” highlight “I Am I Be” or the titular track of “Stakes Is High”, De La Soul’s sprawling body of work is sure to have something that any appreciator of music can call their own.
As a devoted fan that has traveled countless miles hunting for second hand copies of their albums, seeing their music finally achieve the status and accessibility it has always deserved was heartwarming and genuinely fulfilling. While I have no direct connection to any members of De La Soul, I understand how frustrating it can be to have one’s artistic vision compromised, or held back due to bad business. Watching De La Soul fearlessly advocate for their music, art and vision for decades has been both inspirational and educational for an artist such as myself. If there is anything to take away from De La Soul’s journey, it is to advocate for your art and your beliefs no matter the circumstances.
You can join in celebrating De La Soul’s newfound freedom by checking out their new website, complete with physical reissues of their entire discography and streaming links, here.