Hip-hop aficionados, casual fans, and curious listeners have reason to rejoice. De La Soul’s back catalog is finally available for streaming on numerous streaming platforms. The date chosen to reintroduce their six studio albums, previously absent amongst the plethora of classic hip-hop cuts available to streaming platform users, was March 3rd: the 34th anniversary of the release of their debut album, 3 feet High and Rising.
For the pioneering alternative hip-hop trio, the road has been long and arduous, to say the least.
In September 1997, Capitol records ushered in a new era by releasing Duran Duran’s “Electric Barbarella” on the internet. From that point on, digital music was born; and although fans would go on to rejoice in this new wonderland of limitless access, some artists would go on to wince in pain or hiss in resentment (Lars Ulrich, we’re looking at you).
De La Soul’s Posdnuos, aka Kelvin Mercer, would go on to explain in a 2016 BBC interview that the band’s prolific sampling became the issue, with their 3-feet-high and rising debut album having more than 70 samples alone.
“Our contracts on those early albums said specifically ‘vinyl and cassette…The wording wasn’t vague enough to lend itself to [new] music technology.” Given this unfortunate wording and prolific sampling by the trio, the headache of going through every single song of De La Soul’s six albums in question to clear every sample for release proved to be too much for Warner Bros to be bothered with.
“It’s been a very lengthy, draining process,” says Kelvin Mercer of the whole ordeal.
However, 2021 marked a pivotal change: the acquisition of Tommy Boy Records (who originally owned the rights to De La Soul’s back catalog for 30 years) by music rights company, Reservoir.
With the acquisition, De La Soul was quickly put into talks with Reservoir to get their music out to new and old fans alike. Of note is De La Soul’s newfound attention after their song “The Magic Number” was featured in the most recent Marvel Spiderman installment “Spider-man: No Way Home.”
Despite this incredible victory for the hip-hop pioneers, the news is bittersweet. On February 12th of this year, ⅓ of De La Soul, Dave Jolicoeur, aka Trugoy the Dove, passed away after suffering congestive heart failure. He was 54.