The 90s hip hop group De La Soul is celebrating its 25th anniversary by allowing its entire catalogue to be downloaded for free. Simply visit the group’s website, wearedelasoul.com, click on the checkboxes of the album or albums you wish to download, enter your first name and email address, and click submit. After the site confirms your email address, it sends you the download links. Apropos of its the 25th anniversary, the free-download celebration only lasts for an 25 hours, from Friday at 11:00 a.m. ET until noon on Saturday.
Widely regarded as one of hip hop’s most influential groups, De La Soul has had difficulties getting much of their music onto digital platforms such as iTunes or other services due to various rights issues, dubbed by some as copyright hysteria, that arose from the trio’s “sampladelic” sound. Group member Posdnuos added that there are other factors for their music being MIA online as well, including some obtuse contract language and the rapid turnover of executives at their record labels. The Valentine’s Day giveaway is their way of making up for that lack of access and, as group member Kelvin Mercer (a/k/a Posdnuos, Plug One) says, it is the group’s way of showing its fans how much they are loved.
The group was iconoclastic in the world of early 90s rap for rejecting the standard iteration of monster beats accompanied by macho and braggadocio-filled lyrics. Instead, the suburban Long Island band presented a quasi-hippie image and used wordplay, wit, esoteric sampling, and irreverent lyrics to win fans both outside and inside the hip hop community. Though they bristled at being labeled hippies, De La Soul were pioneers on the alternative rap movement that was continued on by groups such as A Tribe Called Quest and P.M. Dawn. The group even acknowledges and plays with their intent to push against rap norms in their “Me Myself and I” video. It is set in a hip hop class being taught by one Professor Defbeat, and the trio is being teased by the other students for not conforming to the professor’s definitions of hip hop style. The professor and other students are all wearing jogging suits, expensive sneakers, jewelry, and gold medallions. Ridiculed but refusing to conform to the professor or their fellow students, De La Soul stand up as one and throw their drop slips at Professor Defbeat before exiting the class.
The album that contains that single, 3 Feet High and Rising, is considered a hip hop masterpiece and has been added to The Library of Congress’ collection of preserved works. Posdnuos expressed that the group has been blessed by the honor, but he also expressed frustration at the group’s inability to have their music available for listeners on iTunes. Teaming with producer Prince Paul on that album, De La Soul challenged the norms of the genre and came up with a template for creative and free-thinking hip hop that both inspired and made it easy for others to follow in their footsteps. The trio began as friends in high school and came up with stage names by reversing the letters of nicknames or a favorite food, a reflection of the whimsy and playfulness that would be a trademark of their style.
De La Soul has a couple of upcoming releases. Preemium Soul on the Rocks will be a six-song EP as well as the long overdue full-length album You’re Welcome. A great reminder that it would only be polite at this time to say thank you, De La Soul, for giving it all away (for 24 hours).
By Donna Westlund