On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN welcomed De La Soul to chat about getting their catalog back, new music, and the recent loss of Trugoy, among other topics.
Born and raised in Long Island, New York, members Posdnuos, Trugoy, and Maseo came together in the late ’80s to form De La Soul. Their 1989 debut studio album, 3 Feet High and Rising, heralded the arrival of a fresh and unique voice in hip hop. The album was lauded for its creative sampling, whimsical lyrics, and distinct ethos that defined the trio as pioneers in the genre. Its success led to a Grammy nomination and certified platinum status, cementing the album’s reputation as one of hip hop’s greatest.
In the years that followed, the group demonstrated an impressive consistency, dropping critically acclaimed albums like De La Soul Is Dead, Buhloone Mindstate, and Stakes Is High. Their musical contributions helped define the alternative hip hop genre, inspiring countless artists in the process. Furthermore, their 2004 album The Grind Date, was a commercial success and earned several Grammy nominations for the song “Feel Good Inc,” a collaboration with British band Gorillaz.
Despite their undisputed influence and numerous accolades, De La Soul faced significant struggles concerning the ownership and digital distribution rights of their music catalog with their former label, Tommy Boy Records. However, in 2021, Reservoir Media acquired the rights to De La Soul’s catalog, allowing the trio to regain primary ownership. In more recent news, Trugoy died at the age of 54 from congestive heart failure in February.
To help give fans a recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine facts we learned from the De La Soul “Drink Champs” installment. Check them out below, and watch the full episode here.
1. On regaining the rights to their music
After decades of disputing with their former label, Tommy Boy Records, De La Soul finally regained their masters in 2021 when Reservoir Media brokered a $100 million deal for Tommy Boy’s catalog. As a result, their first six albums were released on streaming platforms in 2023, coinciding with the 34th anniversary of their debut. A situation that many artists can relate to, Maseo opened up about getting their catalog back after several decades.
He said it played out pretty successfully. “What ended up happening, Tom Silverman ended up selling the entire Tommy Boy catalog to a company called Reservoir Media — which our friend, sister, person who’s been our partner in hip hop and looked out for all of us… big up Faith — her and her partners made the deal right,” Maseo explained.
2. On JAY-Z and TIDAL supporting them by refusing to stream their records
During the years of dispute with Tommy Boy Records, De La Soul faced a major challenge as the label was set to receive 90 percent of streaming revenue while the group would only get 10 percent. The artists urged fans to support their albums not released through Tommy Boy. TIDAL and JAY-Z showed love by refusing to stream De La Soul’s catalog until the issues with Tommy Boy were resolved, prompting other streaming services to do the same.
“It was a real unique situation based on what we exposed to the world by fighting for our world. [‘Drink Champs’] helped, JAY helped, Questlove and Black Thought. JAY-Z decided to not… He had Elliott Wilson call up and was like, ‘Yo, what y’all want to do? Do y’all want to stream it or not stream it?’ We were like, ‘Don’t stream it,’ and he decided not to stream it. That set the tone for Spotify not to do it, Apple Music not to do it because TIDAL didn’t do it,” Pos explained.
3. On collaborating with Nike on an SB Dunk Low
In 2005, the legendary group collaborated with Nike to design the SB Dunk Low “De La Soul,” a low-top remix of a high-top colorway. The design featured a brown suede upper with a green elephant print and vinyl graphic overlays inspired by the cover of their debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising. Being one of the many times that hip hop has crossed over into sneakers and streetwear, Posdnuos opened up about the collaboration.
“We happened to be at The Magic. We was doing something with LRG, just walking through the arena where they had all the booths set up, ran into people over there at Nike. This brother, Robbie Jeffers, who was working for them,” Posdnuos stated. “I think he was working between Stüssy and Nike, and we had a show out there. There’s this street fair they usually do, we had them come through, and he just happened to mention, ‘Would you be down to do a Dunk?’ We was like, ‘Of course!’”
4. On releasing an album via Nas’ Mass Appeal Records
In 2016, Mass Appeal debuted its documentary De La Soul Is Not Dead, delving deep into the group’s New York roots. The 29-minute clip explores their beginnings, battles with sample clearances, Prince Paul’s departure, and much more. As revealed in their conversation with NO.R.E. and EFN, De La Soul is piecing together a project that not only includes posthumous bars from Trugoy but contributions from Pete Rock and DJ Premier.
“It’s still in play, we just gotta get it done. It’s something we hope to get done. There weren’t a lot of rhymes that Dave completed because it was a Pete Rock and Premier joint, The Premium Soul and The Rock. We got some stuff done, not enough, and hopefully, we can just pull it all together,” Pos noted.
5. On Art Official Intelligence 3 being in the works
After a 22-year hiatus following the release of AOI: Bionix, De La Soul announced they’re working on the final installment of their Art Official Intelligence series. AOI: Bionix was the last album to be released on Tommy Boy Records before the label became inactive in 2002. According to Maseo, many of the vocals for the third installment were recorded prior to the untimely death of Trugoy.
Maseo broke the news, saying, “The third installment is being worked on as we speak, for real. It was supposed to be a DJ-related record anyway, I’m getting it done. Now that everyone has one and two, I can get three out there.”
6. On collaborating with Jungle Brothers for “Buddy”
Released in 1989, “Buddy” is a standout single from the group’s debut album. The song is noted for its assembly of guest rappers from the Native Tongues collective, including members of the Jungle Brothers and Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest. When asked about the record, Pos told N.O.R.E. and EFN that the song was made on a whim.
“Jungle just showed up that day. If they would’ve showed up the day after, they could’ve been on ‘Ghetto Thing.’ They just showed up the day we was working on that record, literally. It wasn’t like a planned thing,” Pos shared. He continued, “We kind of made it to where, yeah, y’all talked about Jimmy, we talked about Jenny. When Jimmy and Jenny get together, what is it? It’s buddy. So that’s how that record kind of came together.”
7. On Trugoy the Dove’s death
An integral part of the trio’s unique sound, Trugoy the Dove contributed significantly to De La Soul’s artistic identity with his distinctive lyrical style. His untimely passing in February was felt across the genre, with artists like Chuck D, Maxwell, and A-Trak all paying tribute to him. During the interview, Maseo broke down in tears while Pos explained what happened.
“We knew, been knowing about it since The Grind Date album. There was certain things he could’ve done or was told to do and what point he could be doing it. At one point, you just get comfortable and ‘OK, I’m doing what the doc told me to do, I’m on point,’ and sometimes you want to fall off your health regimen,” Pos stated. “We all talked three days before we lost this brother like, ‘We gotta get this right.’ I didn’t see this s**t coming, I’m being honest.”
8. On Plug 1 & Plug 2 Present… First Serve
For their eighth studio album, Plug 1 & Plug 2 Present… First Serve, Pos and Trugoy took on the monikers Plug 1 and Plug 2, respectively. The 16-track project contains several standout cuts such as “The Work” and “We Made It,” to name a few. When asked about the concept behind Plug 1 & Plug 2, Pos explained, “It was just a chant. It was almost like a count when people ‘bout to rhyme. Plug 1 & Plug 2, and that’s just what it was. ‘Plug Tunin’ was a routine. It wasn’t really about it being a song. It was a routine that he would do.”
9. On Tommy Boy Records founder Tom Silverman
As mentioned, the trio’s history with Tom Silverman is marked by a protracted legal dispute over the rights to their music. The standoff seemed insurmountable until 2021, although Maseo admitted that he spoke with the label owner in 2019 before De La Soul made an appearance on “Sway in the Morning.” He shared his experience, saying, ‘I spoke to him the actual day we started the boycott. It was that morning before we went up to ‘Sway.’ I really don’t want to talk about it.”
Maseo added his thoughts on Silverman, however. “He’s not really a good person, but I always knew that. I knew that from the type of business that he does. He is who he is. Once I understood that many, many years ago, all I did was do what he been did to him,” he asserted.
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