De La Soul Fights to Get Their Classic Back Catalog Released on Digital Platforms
De La Soul has an impressive catalog of classic albums including 3 Feet High & Rising, De La Soul Is Dead and Stakes Is High, but unfortunately, none of them are available on digital services.
In an interview with the New York Times, the legendary rap trio of Dave (David Jolicoeur), Posdunos (Kelvin Mercer) and Maseo (Vincent Mason) explained that they have tried to get their music online for their fans. It’s been a frustrating and long battle for them that has no resolution in sight.
"We’re in the Library of Congress, but we’re not on iTunes,” said Pos, adding that when the group interacts with fans in person or online, they always ask the same question: “Yo, where’s the old stuff?”
The problem lies within Warner Music Group, which controls the group’s catalog, and their unwillingness to license their music because of legal issues regarding the samples used on De La Soul's classic albums. When it comes to getting those samples cleared, it can be costly and time consuming.
“My understanding is that due to allegedly uncleared samples, Warners has been uncomfortable or unwilling to license a lot of the De La Soul stuff,” said Ms. Mannis-Gardner, a sample-clearance agent who has worked with De La Soul. “It becomes difficult opening these cans of worms — were things possibly cleared with a handshake?”
In a statement, a rep for Rhino, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group, explained to NYTimes why De La's back catalog are not on digital services.
“De La Soul is one of hip-hop’s seminal acts, and we’d love for their music to reach audiences on digital platforms around the world," said the rep. "But we don’t believe it is possible to clear all of the samples for digital use, and we wouldn’t want to release the albums other than in their complete, original forms. We understand this is very frustrating for the artists and the fans; it is frustrating for us, too.”
That frustration led De La Soul to create their new project And the Anonymous Nobody, a sampled-free album funded by a Kickstarter campaign. The trio spent three years recording over 200 hours of live instrumentation with their touring band Rhythm Roots Allstars. De La then curated the music and came up with 17 tracks of unadulterated hip-hop music for the project, which hits stores on Aug. 19.
Given the success of its Kickstarter campaign, De La Soul hasn’t ruled out the idea of crowdfunding to free its catalog from the shackles of Warner Music Group.
“Maybe that’s what’s next,” said Dave. “This music has to be addressed and released. It has to. When? We’ll see. But somewhere it’s going to happen.”