De La Soul Reveals The Date To Stream Their Back Catalog
UPDATE: Hours after De La Soul revealed plans to release their first six albums on digital streaming platforms on March 3, 2023, more information released surrounding their recent work with Prince Paul. In speaking with William E. Ketchum III for Billboard, Posdnuos shared, “We definitely want to get something done with [Prince] Paul. What Paul was just referring to [in 2022 Instagram posts] was the work he was putting in and helping us with the older catalog. So it’s not like we were working on new projects, but we’ve all discussed that as well. With [DJ Premier] and Pete Rock, it’s the same thing. We were so drawn into what to do with this [release of the older material]. And then if there’s times where if we don’t have a lot on our table, we were like, ‘Let’s get up.'” Presumably, Prince Paul, J-Zone, the late Don Newkirk and others helped construct De La Soul songs with instrumentation, instead of relying on samples that may have long derailed the digital releases. In 1999, EPMD re-recorded a number of songs for the duo’s Greatest Hits package (a bonus CD to Out Of Business), due to licensing issues.
Longtime Prince Paul engineer Scotty Hard confirmed that speculation on January 4, in a Twitter exchange with journalist/podcaster Shawn Setaro:
Yes there were some replays that had to be done for clearance purposes. We challenge you to find them!! I spent over 4 months doing it with the man Prince Paul himself along with the members of the band. Set to be released on 3/3/23. It’s the Magic Number!!
— Scotty Hard (@scottyhardmusic) January 4, 2023
Plug 1 continued, “But maybe Preem had too much to do, or then Pete was running the world doing what he had to do. We were just so at a point – and I know De La is [at that point] – of just wanting it to sound the way it needs to sound. So we was willing to keep trying to put in the work to get the right music. We have a few, and we just need a few more. [sighs] I really want that to come out, God willing. Me and Preem actually spoke about two weeks ago when I was in New York. ‘Come through, let’s try to cook some stuff up.’ So hopefully we can get that done soon. A Gangsta Grillz with [DJ] Drama would hit too, I would love to do that. So there’s a lot of things that I would love to see done. With new music, for me, it’s always about new along with what’s classic, what’s timeless.”
The Billboard piece also confirmed that De La Soul will re-release the physical catalog too, including CDs, cassettes, vinyl, and additional merchandise.
ORIGINAL JANUARY 3 STORY: For more than a decade, Hip-Hop fans have requested that De La Soul’s music be authorized and available for listening on digital streaming platforms. In the mid-2010s, De La Soul made its catalog available for free download during a one-day window. By the late 2010s, the Long Island, New York trio alleged that its back catalog was being mishandled by Tom Silverman and his Tommy Boy label, which first signed De La Soul 30 years earlier. That partial discography includes De La’s first six studio albums as well as B-sides, live material, and remixes. That catalog, which Silverman had reacquired from Warner Bros., was reportedly rife with copyright issues surrounding uncleared samples on albums including 1989’s 3 Feet High And Rising and 1991’s De La Soul Is Dead.
In early 2019, things escalated. As Tommy Boy announced plans to bring its De La Soul catalog to streaming (in conjunction with 3 Feet High‘s 30th-anniversary), the group pushed back. That February, the trio shared that roughly 90% of revenue would go to its former label, while the creators of the music received the remaining 10%. De La later said that Silverman and Tommy Boy were unhappy with the group sharing the information, sending both parties into further negotiations. De La Soul, who left Tommy Boy after its Warner catalog sale in the early 2000s, explained a number of frustrations with the seminal Hip-Hop, R&B, and Dance label—as well as its namesake founder. Posdnuos, Dave, and Maseo appeared on Sway In The Morning and Drink Champs to discuss their position. Joe Budden was moved to tears at his post on State Of The Culture.
Beyond fair compensation, De La Soul argued that they should own their music—which had changed hands several times since they created it. The trio had independently released music since 2004, maintaining ownership and creative control of a catalog that included 2016’s Grammy-nominated and the Anonymous Nobody. Many in Hip-Hop called to boycott and symbolicly cancel Tommy Boy, a storied label that had released iconic music by Digital Underground, House Of Pain, Coolio, Naughty By Nature, Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force, and more.
However, by March of 2020, De La Soul’s pre-2004 music was still absent from DSPs—and the world faced bigger problems.
Then, in August 2021, things changed. In an Instagram Live video, De La Soul announced that they had acquired their masters. Tommy Boy had sold its assets to Reservoir Media Group for a reported price of $100 million. That company, led by famed Hip-Hop record executive Faith Newman, was instrumental to returning De La’s first six albums to its creators. “We’re very happy that we’re able to get the music out for all our fans to hear, and for us to hear,” said Posdnuous at the time. Dave added, “We’re trying to get the whole catalog out. There’s a lot of back work that needs to be done, so that’s why it’s taking a little time to get that out, but we’re trying to look to release music from our catalog this year.” The plan was to strategically re-release 3 Feet High And Rising, De La Soul Is Dead, Buhloone Mindstate, Stakes Is High, Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump, and AOI: Bionix.
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Despite the announcement, none of De La’s Tommy Boy catalog hit streaming in 2021 or 2022. However, opening up 2023, things are changing. For the first time, De La is offers a specific release date. On Tuesday morning (January 3), Dave posted multiple Instagram posts revealing that on March 3, 2023, De La Soul will be on Spotify, Amazon Music, and presumably other digital streaming platforms.
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In Times Square, Amazon Music ran ads announcing the development.
While De La Soul did not release group music in 2022, they reunited with Prince Paul for a project. Paul, a Stetsasonic member, brought De La to Tommy Boy in 1988. He went on to produce the group’s first three albums in a decorated, Grammy Award-winning career. Paul provided sampling innovation, as well as pioneering skit work alongside De La’s groundbreaking approach to wordplay and subject matter. Paul confirmed the rumors on social media, as well as acknowledging that J-Zone, the late Don Newkirk (who died in November), and others have been involved.
For years, De La has also claimed that album produced by DJ Premier and Pete Rock is in the works. Heads can hear Posdnuos on Diamond D’s “FLYING HIGH,” which is presently included on the official Ambrosia For Heads playlist.
#BonusBeat: In 2021, following De La Soul’s acquisition announcement, Ambrosia For Heads’ What’s The Headline podcast dedicated an entire episode to the group’s journey to own their music, including some inside perspectives: