De La Soul Explain How The Fans Have Allowed Them To Make An Album Unlike Any Other
In late 2015, legendary Long Island, New York trio De La Soul announced the name of their forthcoming studio album as well as its featured guests, artwork, and backstory. The album made headlines even before that, thanks to the unusual way in which it was being put together and the overwhelming success which it experienced within such parameters. With confirmed guests as varied in sound as Little Dragon and 2 Chainz, it will be the group’s eighth studio album, the first since 2004’s The Grind Date as well as the group’s first fully crowdfunded project in its 25-year history. Having broken Kickstarter’s record for projects in similar scope (it’s the first fully-funded studio album from a Rap group), And the Anonymous Nobody was most recently given an April release date and while more specific information is pending, there is no doubt this will be one of 2016’s most highly anticipated LPs. New information about the album’s content has been shared, and as Rolling Stone‘s Christopher R. Weingarten suggests, it will be historic for more than just its funding.
“Inside De La Soul’s Experimental, Crowd-Funded Comeback Record” is equal parts album preview and artist interview, as Weingarten shares not only details about many of the album’s tracks, but also the thoughts of Kelvin “Posdnous” Mercer and Dave “Trugoy” Jolicoeur. As Weingarten explains, the new album was “recorded with a live band, Los Angeles’ Rhythm Roots All-Stars, and then manipulated later with producer Dave West,” something not as feasible within the constraints of traditional methods of recording and financing. As an example, he points to the Little Dragon-assisted “Dawn,” which he describes as “an avant-indie opus full of plucked string counterpoints which goes nearly five minutes before anyone from this legendary rap group actually … raps.” As Mercer posits, “We couldn’t do that on a regular label…They may think it’s beautiful but then it’s like, ‘Okay, so, there’s no chorus. For maybe the first three minutes of the record, you’re nowhere to be found.'”
The bold approach with which the group is formulating the musical content is shaped in part by that same boldness with respect to releasing the album itself. “The idea of signing [to] a label was a bit scary…We’ve been, obviously, on a label for about 20 years or so and then got moved and kicked around in the whole WEA system, and then ended up on Sanctuary. They really didn’t support [The Grind Date]. So just the idea of putting our project and what we create in someone else’s hands … is a scary thing,” Dave articulates. Anonymous Nobody will be put out by the group’s AOI imprint, a name familiar to De La Heads thanks 2000’s Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump and 2001’s AOI Bionix.
Such a leap of faith is proving to pay off, particularly because of the intimate relationship between fan and artist in a crowd-funding framework. Among the many perks backers of the album have been promised, Weingarten describes “One of the more whimsical tiers,” which came in the form of the “Sneaker Pimpin'” reward; “two lucky fans got to spend the day shopping in New York with the group’s resident sneakerhead, Posdnous,” he writes. “They were both from Australia, so I was just, like, honestly blown away,” Pos says of the experience. “You’re spending your money to fly from Australia just to hang out with me for a few hours?” Interactions like these will likely create a unique atmosphere around the recording of an album that is unlikely to be repeated, but perhaps that is part of the magic surrounding the release.
Also magic? Contributions from the Gorillaz and Blur’s Damon Albarn, The Talking Heads’ David Byrne, Jill Scott, Usher, Snoop Dogg, and others. Byrne assisted the group on “Snoopies,” which Weingarten describes as mixing some Kraftwerkian bumps, psych-Dilla breakdowns and cut-up vocals with Byrne in the globalism philosopher mode of 1988’s ‘Nothing But Flowers.’” Another term used to describe the album include – as Nas is quoted having said – “some avant-garde shit,” and Posdnuos agrees. “I think we’re comfortable in just feeling that we don’t fit.”