Native Tongues Were Buddies But Were They Really Family? De La Soul Speaks (Video)
Out of all the collectives in Hip-Hop, few are more revered or complicated than Native Tongues. The group of artists was loosely composed of Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Black Sheep, Chi-Ali and others, with several offspring stemming from that core. Over the years, however, the very nature of the existence of the affiliation has been called into question at times.
Last year, when speaking to Vlad TV, Dave from De La Soul said “It’s kinda funny how people create this big thing about Native Tongues, when in reality, it really only stems off of one record—nothin’ more than that.” He added that it is a “true friendship,” but downplayed the musical fruits of the collective union. That record was the remix to the original song, “Buddy,” from De La’s 1989 3 Feet High And Rising album.
Dave, Posdnuos and Maseo, as well as producers Prince Paul and Skeff Anselm recently spoke with Mass Appeal about the history of the Native Tongues, and how the “Buddy (Remix)” came into existence. Prince Paul, who was a mentor to the group, and Posdnuos begin by putting their affinity for other members of Native Tongues in perspective. “De La really had this affinity for the Jungle Brothers,” says Paul. “Like, they really were into them, like ‘Yo, they’re like us.'” Pos weighs in, but says their respect for Jungle Brothers was no different than how they felt about several other acts. “We were all just happy to be involved with the music,” Pos says. “Coming in and signing with Tommy Boy, we immediately started being around people like Milk and Giz (from Audio Two), and MC Lyte, so Jungle wasn’t any different. When we had a show in Boston and performed with Jungle Brothers, we let each other know how much we loved each other’s music.”
As they continue, it becomes clear that the “Buddy” record was pure happenstance. “After that [Boston] show,” say Pos. “We was like ‘Hey, man. We have a studio session at some, whatever date. Just come by.’ And, it just happened to be the day we were doing ‘Buddy.’…If we were doing ‘De La Orgy,’ I don’t know. They probably would have been on that skit.”
Prince Paul then speaks on how A Tribe Called Quest became involved with the record, noting that Jungle Brothers were friendly with Q-Tip. From there, Pos says “it just kept growing.” Similarly to the scene that Skeff Anselm recently recalled to Ambrosia For Heads regarding the recording of “Scenario,” Prince Paul says there was no competition in the recording of “Buddy.” “In making Buddy, I cannot recall even anybody like ‘Aww. These lines are better than mine. I gotta…’ It was one common goal just to make music, and everybody was helping each other. You couldn’t get more of a community feeling.”
The lack of competitiveness extended to the road, as De La saw the buzz for ATCQ building faster than theirs and ceded their headlining spot to their fellow Natives. “When we went on that college tour, De La, they was the headliners,” says Skeff. “Maybe 4, 5 cities in, Tribe came on after De La. Tribe was smashin’ it, and [De La] basically came and said ‘you guys gotta be the headliners for this tour.” Both Prince Paul and Red Alert concur with his recollection.
Some competitive spirits may have surfaced in later years. On De La Soul’s 1993 song “I Am Be” from Buhloon Mindstate, Posdnuos rapped “Faker than a fist of kids, speakin that they’re black. When they’re just niggas trying to be Greek, or some tongues who lied and said ‘We’ll be natives to the end.’ Nowadays we don’t even speak. I guess we got our own life to live, or is it because we want our own kingdom to rule?” In the same DJ Vlad interview referenced above, Pos said “I can honestly say I regret writing it.” Years later, on 1996’s “Stakes Is High,” he would make it clear all fences had been mended, when he emphatically rapped “Man, life can get all up in your ass. Baby, you betta work it out. Let me tell you what it’s all about. A skin not considered equal. A meteor has more right than my people, who be wastin’ time screaming who they’ve hated. That’s why the Native Tongues has officially been re-inSTATED.”
So, were the Native Tongues crew or not? In this instance, it seems to be a case of art becoming bigger than what the artists intended. Whether or not De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers and so many other revered artists intended to be permanently affiliated when they laid their verses to wax that night “Buddy” was recorded, they made an indelible mark on Hip-Hop and will forever be family.