Joe Budden Breaks Down In Tears Discussing De La Soul’s Economic Plight (Video)
One of the biggest stories in Hip-Hop over the last week has surrounded De La Soul. As the Long Island, New York trio celebrated a milestone anniversary for 1989 debut, 3 Feet High And Rising, they went public regarding a battle with a former record label, Tommy Boy.
The group’s first six albums, all released through Tom Silverman’s label, were said to be arriving on streaming platforms on Friday (March 1). Those plans were halted, following De La Soul telling the public of their unhappiness with the terms. After learning of the proposed royalty splits, Posdnuos, Dave, and Maseo shared with fans that they would receive 10% of the revenue from streams and digital purchases. After a revealing Sway In The Morning interview, the group further detailed a complicated history with their label home between 1988 and 2002. Specifically, the trio alleged that the mishandling of its early and acclaimed catalog compromised the members’ livelihoods. Moreover, the three men revealed that they had attempted to purchase their catalog from Warner Music Group over the 15 years between 2002 and 2017 to no avail. At that time, Tommy Boy’s founder, Tom Silverman, re-acquired the catalog.
Late last week, Tommy Boy announced that it plans to renegotiate terms with De La Soul before digitally releasing 3 Feet High And Rising, 1991’s De La Soul Is Dead, 1993’s Buhloone-Mindstate, 1996’s Stakes Is High, 2000’s Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump, and 2001’s AOI: Bionix.
One advocate in favor of De La Soul is Joe Budden. The retired MC from Jersey City, New Jersey never worked with the group. However, on his Revolt show State Of The Culture, Budden was moved to tears from witnessing the predicament in which the group finds itself.
“Just listening [about this situation] is f*ckin’ me up,” Joe Budden said on the most recent episode of his show, at 1:18:00. The co-founder of Slaughterhouse got visibly emotional, before asking co-host Scottie Beam to speak before he gathered his thoughts. Moments later, Joe admits, “I’m teary because that sh*t is depressing to hear. It’s depressing to hear, but they sell us depression. And when you think of all the stories being the same for this amount of years…like when you look at De La [Soul] telling you about their battle from 30 years ago, and 2 Chainz’ [Rap Or Go To The League] album came out just last week saying, ‘we can just rap or play ball,’ it’s just sad. I was really angry when I was watching that [Sway In The Morning] interview, and they said [that] Tommy Boy gave f*ck-deals to everybody, but it was the only place that [they] could have creative control.’ That price…that exchange, there’s something off in that exchange. Unfortunately, I identify with it too well, ’cause Def Jam was a piece of sh*t, but I thought I’d be able to say what I wanted to say. For this to be happening to one of the greatest albums ever made, at some point it has to get away from the business side, and it has to get to, ‘Well, how do we sleep at night?'”
Moments later, Joe continues, “[It is] bad enough [De La Soul] was only getting 10% [of the revenue]. Bad enough we can re-purpose all of your sh*t in perpetuity. And now we’re at a point where we’re in a streaming era—see, this is the slap by the industry. We’re in the streaming era. These kids don’t even know who the f*ck De La Soul is, so there would be some work to be done even when you put it on the streaming service. And y’all don’t wanna pay ’em now?…If we’re not gonna take care of some of our forefathers or some of the people that preceded us, then what type of hope is that to leave to a ni**a like me? To a H.E.R? To an Offset? To any of these f*ckin’ kids,” Joe says, visibly crying. “I gotta cry, ’cause when I see these legendary ni**as, they look f*cked up. De La Soul didn’t look so great, and it’s hurting how I’m viewing these artists. I’m having a hard time looking at these artists [as] the geniuses they are because of the business practices that have been in the music industry since the beginning of f*cking time…I’m a little sick of talking about it with not enough action. So what the f*ck is gonna happen? Salute to [JAY-Z].” Budden applauds Tidal for refusing to stream the catalog before De La Soul’s frustrations were resolved. He admits that he considered asking his podcast’s platform, Spotify, to do the same.
Co-host Remy Ma agrees, from her experiences. She laments the 360-deals where labels assumed shares of touring and merchandise, in exchange for releasing music. Additionally, she explains the battles artists face in finding adequate legal representation, a claim that Joe relates to, before calling the music industry “predatory.”
As De La Soul and Tommy Boy renegotiate, the group paused to celebrate 30 years of 3 Feet High and Rising. It is one of those enduring debut albums in Hip-Hop whose influence seems to become more appreciated the more time passes. For the Long Island, New York trio, the album introduced them as markedly singular. They had a firm grasp on individuality and quirk, an appreciation for skits and bright colors and an affinity for love, peace and knowledge of self.
Posdnuos and Maseo spoke at length with Billboard‘s Carl Lamarre about their debut. Maseo shares that each of three members of the group had different life plans in play, but it became apparent their music was going to take them further. “[Posdnuos] was getting ready to head off to college, Dave was [heading to] architecture school, and I was getting ready to graduate and go to the military,” he says before mentioning the excitement about hearing DJ Red Alert play “Potholes In My Lawn” on the radio.
Plug 1 recalls the early days of recording the landmark LP. “The studio we were using to record that album was called Calliope Studios. It was a loft. It didn’t feel like a studio. Out the window you could see the Empire State Building. It felt like a home,” he recalls. He shouts out producer Prince Paul, who he says “did a great job setting our mind up to just have fun.” For his part, Mase’ remembers studio cameos from Stetsasonic’s Daddy-O, Keith Sweat, MC Lyte and others.
The spontaneous atmosphere of the studio birthed what would prove to be one of 3 Feet High And Rising‘s most popular tracks, “Buddy.” As Pos’ recalls, “The day Jungle [Brothers] came through, they just happen to come through on the day we were forming what would become ‘Buddy.’ We didn’t plan for them to be one that record. That was just the day they came by and chilled. In the spirit of what Paul had placed in our minds, we were like, ‘Hey, you wanna get on this record?’ If they had came the day before, they would have been on ‘Ghetto Thang.’ It was just always a lot of fun.”
Maseo says one of the many things that made 3 Feet special at the time of its release was the creative freedom Tommy Boy gave them at the time. “A lot of the records that went on radio were organic and radio picked up on it coming out of the club and the street,” he says before sharing a story of how “Me, Myself & I” became a radio favorite. He says the use of Funkadelic’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep” as a major sample in the song was something he only warmed up to after seeing the crowd react to the 1979 cut when Jazzy J threw it on at a Universal Zulu Nation party. “I hit Dave and said, ‘That’s the one,'” he recounts.
Pos’ adds a similar sentiment, saying he was concerned about using such a “masterpiece” of a song in a sample. “I was a big fan of that record and even in my mind at that period of time, there were just certain things you shouldn’t touch,” he says. “I just didn’t think taking ‘Knee Deep’ was dope to me, but at the same time, me and Dave said we just wanna f*ck off on the rhymes, we’re going to take Jungle Brothers’ cadence ‘Black Is Black’ how they were rhyming, and f*ck it off. God was having too much fun with us and said, ‘I’m going to make this your biggest record.’”
Maseo shares some sincere reflections about the lingering effects his group’s introductory album had, not just on Hip-Hop music. “It shifted culture,” he says. “It’s in the Library Of Congress. It’s a part of American history. It’s one of the records that opened up a new business for lawyers in the world of sampling. It’s a historical piece.” He then makes a comment which switches the tone of the interview. Of 3 Feet he says, “It has missed the relevant wave of the digital era. Moments and times where I look at people like Missy Elliott when she performed ‘Work It’ maybe 15 years after it was out at a football game and it had a million plus downloads after she did that one performance. We have had more performances like that over the course of our career and we never had the opportunity to benefit from that media.”
With that statement, Maseo touched on a nerve connecting to the ongoing legal battles with the group’s former label, Tommy Boy. The two members confirmed receiving approximately $13,000 a piece in the late ’80s as an album advance.
Additionally, Mase’ declared his concerns surrounding his debut on streaming platforms. He says a sample claim happened recently. “We don’t know what Tommy Boy has cleared and not cleared and they’re looking to release this record recklessly on the administrative side, which would still be at a demise to us.” He continues, “Because based on how it’s been dealt with in the past, we paid 50% of whatever they choose to settle for.”
However, Maseo did offer a snapshot of what he wants in renegotiation. “Regardless of what [Tom Silverman] wants to give us, the type of business since Tommy Boy’s demise has been nothing but partnerships and better. Why would I do anything less? I know my value. And now, with the slap in the face of not even trying to come to the table, I think I deserve a lot more than that now. I was being more than fair then. What’s really fair now is ownership. That’s what’s really fair.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Plug One and Mase formally announced that their upcoming album, produced by DJ Premier and Pete Rock, will arrive through a partnership with Nas’ Mass Appeal Records imprint.
Additional Reporting by Bandini.