De La Soul Say “Selling Out” In The ’80s Is Seen As “Extensive Branding” Today (Video)

De La Soul were guests on Sway In The Morning today (June 7). Joining Kaytranada, the Long Island, New York trio discussed their upcoming August 26 album, And The Anonymous Nobody, the genesis of the Native Tongues movement, and why De La Soul may have been pioneers of what it is now called “branding” within Hip-Hop.

While A.T.A.N. is the first studio album from De La in more than a dozen years, the trio has toured extensively throughout the last 27 years. After performing among the headliners at Governor’s Ball this past weekend, the members reflected on why being on stage may be when they are at their happiest. “Performing is the best thing, I think. Once we can’t do that no more, [De La Soul] is completely over,” said Maseo.

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Posdnuos elaborated, explaining that in 1989, De La Soul was introduced to much of the world through a united front of Hip-Hop’s brightest. “We immediately saw from the beginning, as [Maseo] was saying, that we fit into so many different worlds. Like he said, we started on a major tour, like The Nitro Tour, with LL [Cool J], N.W.A., [Big Daddy] Kane, and all them.” However, the then Tommy Boy Records artists also had appeal rocking stages with artists who veered much further from the Rap path. “We went from there to the Fine Young Cannibals’ tour. We saw then that we had music that lent itself to everyone. So that’s what made us realize that we can go all over the world with it. It was easy.”

“We was considered sellin’ out,” chimed in Dave, who said that in the 1980s, the group wanted to be on stage with its Hip-Hop contemporaries. “It was difficult, ’cause we just felt we was just like everybody else.” As 3 Feet High And Rising garnered a gold plaque, the group began appealing to a wider audience, and toured with acts like George Clinton and the late Tito Puente, who opened for De La. “It was kind of hard falling to those alternative slots and not being on a bill for a show with your peers—other Rap artists. [We were] performing with Wendy & Lisa, Bob Dylan, Sinhead O’Connor—we was doin’ [shows] like that.” Dave honed in on the irony of how circumstances have changed since De La Soul was criticized, “Nowadays, you want to sell out. You want to sell out in every format, entity, pocket [that] you can. It’s called ‘branding’ now—extensive branding and extending yourself.”

Sway makes the point, touching upon how Kaytranada—a House-infused Hip-Hop DJ/producer–recently opened for Madonna. In the mid-1980s, the Beastie Boys also opened for the Pop superstar.

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The discussion moved to how And The Anonymous Nobody fills a void the group feels in the Hip-Hop landscape. “We badly in need of a balance; instead of just complaining about it, do something about it. I can honestly say that from conversations with everybody from [De La Soul’s] era, and before our era, [those people] don’t like Hip-Hop no more. They don’t love it no more,” Maseo revealed. Dave added, “That’s sad, ’cause I think there’s a lot to love about it. You can’t be an old-timer, hatin’, just ’cause the young kids got something going on.”

Sway asked the members about what they listen to, especially among new artists. Citing lyricism, Dave championed Big Sean. Pos’ shouts out Tunji Ige, along with Drake and Big Sean. While doing so, the self-proclaimed lifelong Hip-Hop “student” drew a specific parallel from a concept on Masta Ace’s just-released album, The Falling Season. Just as Ace’s main character (a teenage version of himself) is constantly taping the World Famous Supreme Team on song “Total Recall,” Pos’ says he does the same in consuming Hip-Hop online, “That’s how I still feel.”

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Sway asks the three fathers what their music-listening is like around their kids. “My sons actually put me onto Chance The Rapper…as much as I’m diggin’ Murda Mook, and greats like Bumpy Knuckles,” said Maseo—including his late ’80s-era Rap peer and past collaborator. One of Mase’s children is Los Angeles Rams Running Back Tre Mason.

Approaching the 14:00 mark, Sway asks a few Native Tongues questions before closing. Asked who spearheaded the Tongues, Maseo says The Jungle Brothers’ Afrika Baby Bam, A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip, and their own band-mate, Posdnuos. With Pos’ nodding in agreement, Mase’ states that Afrika and Tip initiated, and then eventually Plug 1 took on greater involvement. Pos’ recalls how following the original recording of “Buddy” prompted the extended family to remix the song under the guise of one group.

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Recently, fellow Native Tongue members the Beatnuts recently confirmed the members of The Fabulous Fleas while speaking with the Juan Epstein Podcast. That group included Posdnuos, Q-Tip, Afrika, and Juju. Pos’ reveals another Native Tongues’ sub-group, Kids On Zenith Avenue. This one included Dave, the Jungle Brothers’ Mike Gee, among others. Posdnuos also confirms that 1991 De La Soul Is Dead video single “A Rollerskating Jam Named Saturdays” in fact began as a Fabulous Fleas song—before he allocated it to De La’s five-mic sophomore LP. Notably, that album celebrated its 25th anniversary last month. The group shared an unreleased track and held two candlelight vigils in Manhattan upon its birthday.