De La Soul’s Play-by-Play of Their Early Career is a Hip-Hop Goldmine (Audio)
As part of Atlanta’s A3C festival, De La Soul not only performed, but also sat down with Cipha Sounds and Pete Rosenberg for an immersive interview on the Juan Epstein Podcast. For more than an hour, the Plugs recounted tales from their earliest days and along the way dropped names and anecdotes that would entice any self-described Hip-Hop fiend. From memories of Biz Markie visiting their high school (“some schools had Pizza Fridays, we had Biz Thursdays), to a young Russell Simmons telling them he wanted to sign them based solely on a performance of “Plug Tunin'” (“I want to sign you! I’m on your d**k!”), this conversation brings a new level of meaning to Throwback Thursday.
Also touched upon are how the three Long Islanders met (summer school, 1985), the difference in early examples of Hip-Hop on Long Island versus in the city (“we didn’t do it in the park, we did it in the basement”), their earliest musical influences (“what was to the left…Ultramagnetic MCs, KRS-One…”), the original vision for “Buddy” (“the JBs weren’t even supposed to be on it”), their first out-of-state show (“we went to Texas, and you’d think we went to Mars”), their first tour (with Slick Rick, N.W.A., Too $hort, and more), partying with N.W.A. (“can all the ladies please leave the room?”), and their dreams of performing at the Apollo.
Much of the unearthed history shared in the interview involves the backstory of the group’s demo, which was shopped around to a handful of labels by Prince Paul, whose integral role in their early development is underscored with great reverence throughout the re-telling. Around the 18:30 mark, the hosts introduce the topic by asking the fellas what was on the demo itself, but the story goes much deeper than that. The group shares that their demo was in the form of a cassette tape and a notebook, but none of it could have ever happened without Paul, who was already signed to Tommy Boy Records at the time. “Once he [Maseo] let Paul hear what we were listening to, he loved it,” Posdnuos shares…I guess Paul felt a connection to how we were putting together music.” Maseo goes on to say that “he was in a group where he couldn’t really express the ideas he had…he couldn’t really bring that quirky, diverse flavor we know him for.” A few minutes later, around 24:42, the story of label-shopping comes into play. As Pos mentions, “Everyone wanted to sign De La…I guess we just felt the comfort [at Tommy Boy] and Paul being there. And he’s kinda, like, becoming someone we really respect, he’s like a big brother.”
For many, many more jewels (did you know they performed with Tito Puente?), check out their full interview, which begins around the 8:20 mark.