It’s been 11 long years since we last heard from hip hop trio, De La Soul and even longer since the timeless hit “Me, Myself and I” off 3 Feet High and Rising was released.
If you didn’t know, 3 Feet High and Rising is an iconic hip hop record that transformed the hip hop (and music) game forever thanks to not only it’s creativity, but also because of the hot water the group got in from the heavy sampling they did on the record which led to the legislation of artists being required to clear the samples that they use. In a funny twist, the group has taken their sampling talents to their upcoming project, And The Anonymous Nobody, which will be fully funded by the fans themselves through their Kickstarter campaign in which they were insanely able to exceed their goal of $110,000 in less than 24 hours. The campaign is still in full effect with no sign of slowing down as they are currently at the time of this writing, at $420,588, with 19 full days to go before the campaign comes to a close. That’s nearly half a million dollars. Mind blown. That’s impressive for a group who has been off the scene for so long – but the love for De La Soul runs deep in hip hop and music lovers everywhere.
I actually had the blessing to speak with Dave Jolicouer of De La Soul about their decision to get back into the studio and record a new album in which he candidly told me that getting back in the studio was just a natural feeling for them, “We’re always recording, we’re always just recording at home sending each other songs, beats and tid bits. I think somewhere along the way a concept began to kind of come together.” That concept happens to be the concept of sampling their own records. When I first heard about this project, I honestly thought they would be accumulating De La Soul favorites such as “Me, Myself, and I”, “Eye Know”, and “Potholes In My Lawn” and mixing them how producer Noah “40” Shebib effortlessly samples records for Drake (think “Legend”/“So Anxious”), with the group rapping over that. Nope. The group has actually been touring all over the world with a band for the last 10 years and with the suggestion of one of the guys from the band, they decided to get into the studio to have some fun. What resulted from those sessions is an incredible 200 hours of recorded material from which they decided to sample from. “Sampling our own music honestly just came from listening to the band play and create music”, says Dave.
He continues, “[We] got together in the studio and just started working on music and not really having a direction or anything like that. But things started coming together. The sound and the feel. Things just started to sound right. And obviously a concept of sampling from what the musicians were doing came about and we were like ‘Wow, I think we have something now.’ We are never a group to force anything. We just let things happen organically and then when it feels like it’s coming together and coming [to be] something more concrete, then we pursue the idea of a record.”
The next step, naturally is getting this new material to the fans, and that’s where Kickstarter comes in. With the suggestion of a friend, the group decided to do a little research on the crowdfunding idea and decided to jump on it to avoid dealing with those pesky record companies. “We didn’t want to jump back into a label deal or feel like we were part of a corporation that would be policing what we are doing or intruding in our art and in our creativity. So Kickstarter just seem like the best route,” says Dave. And in this day and age with celebrities being so accessible and current artists being able to connect with their loyal fans with ease, the move just made perfect sense, almost like it was destined to be: “Fans being a part of what we’re doing and supporting what we’re doing and giving us a platform and funding to possibly make a project a reality,” he explains. Those supporters certainly did come through for the group and showed out. Exceeding their goal in less than 24 hours, the love being shown to De La Soul has been overwhelming says Dave, “We kind of felt like we would accomplish the goal but for it to happen so fast and how it’s continued so far it’s a great feeling. It gives you an energy, it gives you a confidence and even more confidence that the people are ready and they have trust in what we’re doing and we’re gonna get it done.”
While the group is in the studio working on those 200 hours of musical recordings searching for a magical moment to “Sample, loop, chop up, filter, create, [and] create new compositions,” Dave describes the creative process as one with no real direction. They are allowing the music guide them in the right direction and letting each track evolve on its own. “It is going to be influenced by what is happening on those tracks. It is in the direction of what the music lends,” Dave describes. Thus, And The Anonymous Nobody, will essentially be influenced by the moment and if it’s a rock and roll sound so be it, “We are touching everything to tell you the truth. Rock and roll, jazz, funk, ska, country western. We are touching on a bit of everything so this album will sound interesting musically.” According to their Kickstarter, that description seems pretty accurate considering they will be collaborating with the likes of David Albarn of Gorillaz and turn up king 2 Chainz. Sounds pretty dope already.
I also inquired Dave about how De La Soul planned on using this project to connect to the fickle millennial generation. I know a lot of this generation may not understand the affect this group has had on the hip hop culture and just on the music industry period. I feel like it is important for this connection to be made or at least understood by all those 90’s babies (myself included) who absolutely love the 90’s. Dave hit the nail on the head answering, “I think this project connects with the younger generation because I think they want something more as well and I think we are giving them that.” It’s true. Our generation loves new, innovative sounds – anything but normal. From the sounds of it, De La Soul’s project is just that. When conceptualizing And The Anonymous Nobody, it wasn’t about just getting the hottest artist out to collaborate with, “I don’t think we are going to sit down and be like okay let’s get Big Sean on the record or we got to find out if Drake can do a track with us. We love those artists, but I think there are other ways to connect to the younger folks out there and I think that is through innovation, creativity, and just good music and I think kids, I don’t want to say that they are stuck on just one thing. I think they’re willing to explore and I think this album is of exploration.”
With the radio and music industry so compelled to jam down our throats the same songs by different artists, the idea of sampling your own music sounds refreshing. Hip hop is going through an interesting period currently, so I asked Dave how he felt about it and his answer was more positive than most, “Hip Hop is beautiful. I think the current state is amazing. I love the fact that there is always a balance.” He even gives props to Odd Future and Kendrick for their contributions, “You have groups like, as of late, Odd Future, Kendrick Lamar or Chance the Rapper, all these other artists that give it a balance. It’s good to have both. There is no good and bad. It’s good to have both. Just a balance of what’s happening and maybe what’s not on the radar and I am happy to see that.”
Technology definitely has played a role in this shift where it is easier for music lovers to pick and choose what’s hot. It’s not enough to be signed to a major with cool visuals anymore. We don’t care as a generation. This can be attributed to the emergence of technology such as crowdfunding and music streaming services such as Spotify and Jay Z’s latest venture Tidal, allowing artists to have creative control over not only their image but their music as well and how much money they can make from their art. No A&R telling you what to do – which is why a lot of major artists are choosing to stay independent while signing distribution deals and using Kickstarter to fund their projects like De La Soul has chosen to do. I asked if De La Soul will be taking advantage of the streaming services available out right now since there are so few De La Soul tracks available to stream and he says as long as it makes for De La Soul first, “I think that all those platforms are great as long as it’s truly fair to artists. If it’s just a bunch of BS, another way to make money and get people to listen to music. Same old deal – the artist is getting the same old rate then we’re not interested. From this point on in with our careers we’ve been given freedom and if it works for De La and in our realm and our freedom.”
Independence and freedom is an important concept for De La Soul, as it should be for all musical artists, “Its about really having our independence to do it the way we want to do it and reap all that we feel that we should. This is our art, we created this – this is not product. It might be a product to the listening person or the public as a whole, but if you respect your art, if you’re the one sitting down writing, creating, playing the music that you have on your product, you’re not just going to sign up for the okie-doke, just because it’s cool.” With that being said, fans can be rest assured that no short cuts will be taken with this project. Early September is set as the release date but if it’s finished sooner, the group will happily oblige, “We’re hoping we can do it earlier than September, but September is the expected date. I don’t know the exact date but if we get it done early we will get it to the fans early.”
In wrapping up our conversation, I had to ask, how has De La Soul has stayed intact for so long while continuing to make incredible music in an industry so cut throat? Dave simply replied: “Music is a high for us and there’s nobody else I want to do drugs with other than my group. That’s the simplistic way to put it. It is a high and I get high with my family. I need that high.”
I like to get high to music myself, I mean music is my high as well. Make sure you guys keep up with De La Soul on Twitter (@WeAreDeLaSoul) and head over to Kickstarter and donate something. Although you won’t be able to have a dinner date with De La Soul or have a chance to cop the original old-school boom box from Dave‘s personal collection (Soul-ed out), you still have a chance to get the digital album for $15 and a physical copy for $25. If you’re really bout it and in the LA area, for $50 bucks you can attend their listening party and meet & greet among a lot of other cool perks the group is kindly giving out. What are you waiting for?