De La Soul finally get streaming debut

As hip-hop celebrates its 50th year in 2023, it’s imperative that the pioneering music of De La Soul is widely available, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
De La Soul finally get streaming debut

After 30 years, the back catalogue of hip hop legends De La Soul is finally cleared for online streaming.

2023 started off with some good news for music fans, when it was announced recently that the legendary music catalogue of hip-hop icons De La Soul would finally be coming to streaming platforms for the first time. As hip-hop celebrates its 50th year in 2023, it’s imperative that the pioneering music of De La Soul, is widely available, but up until now, so much of it had been caught up in a muddy legal quagmire.

Their debut album, 3 Feet High & Rising, helped instigate a new wave of hip-hop in the late 80s, and groups like De La Soul were pivotal in bringing a young, fresh and new approach to the genre.

It was sample heavy and very eclectic, as was its follow up, De la Soul is Dead, and indeed their under-rated third album, Buhloone Mindstate. De La Soul eventually went for a slightly more restrained approach to samples on the excellent Stakes is High, (including a Jay Dee produced title track), but this whole early era of their catalogue has only been available in physical formats until now.

Lots of us have all of these albums and CDs, but many others don’t, and in the era of streaming, it’s criminal that new generations have not been able to access the music until now.

It’s all set to change on March 3, and their first six albums will be coming to a streaming platform near you, backed by a big promo campaign and a re-release of vinyl, CD and tape editions too. It’s been a torturous legal process, complicated by a tricky relationship with their former label, Tommy Boy, but, happily, it’s finally resolved.

I was a teen when these records first dropped, and they helped open my mind to the endless possibilities of hip-hop.

Their wide musical palette meant that nothing was off limits when it came to sampling, but ultimately it helped instigate a bitter sweet situation in an era where lawyers came gunning for rappers.

Sample based music has made not just hip-hop but most other electronic styles very innovative over the years, and De La Soul and their producer, Prince Paul, were some of the best creative minds anywhere.

De La Soul themselves turned their back on the more softer ‘hippy’ approach on subsequent albums, which were much more hard hitting lyrically, but all of these records stand up well 30 odd years on.

The group got so tangled up in the legal mess that they eventually decided to adopt an innovative approach to their kick starter funded And the Anonymous Nobody album in 2016, where they live recorded tons of material with amazing musicians that they then resampled themselves.

Ultimately though, the sample-based music proved more popular, and in a genre like hip-hop, I believe sampling is one of its most important cornerstones. I teach youngsters music on weekdays and we often start off with sampling as it’s fun and very accessible. It often adds a trigger to ideas and it’s a great way to educate people about different music genres and history.

I learnt pretty much everything I know about music through studying the backs of record sleeves and listening to sampled records, and it opened me up to an amazing journey through jazz, soul and other genres.

Many of the older artists, some of who were initially suspicious about hip-hop, eventually warmed to it, and it helped bring them a new fanbase too.

Most importantly, many of them got paid too, and it’s cool when the legal obstacles can be overcome; as in the case of De La Soul and others!

The music world takes hip-hop a lot more seriously as an art-form 30 years on, and it’s older cats such as De La Soul, Queen Latifah, Chuck D, Ice T, LL Cool J get lots of respect.

The music which was once seen as a novelty has become the most globally successful genre on the planet and it’s history and heritage will be rightly celebrated in 2023.

Sampling is a lot more accessible these days and the kids I teach can do things on a phone or on much more powerful equipment that is cheaper than any that was available in the 80s.

The creativity remains paramount and those youngster chopping up Jersey or Afro samples on TikTok have that original spirit and love for the music that Prince Paul and De La Soul brought to the world. The possibilities remain endless!

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