In an unprecedented show of love (as well as good marketing) for this Valentine’s Day, legendary Hip-Hop group De La Soul is currently allowing any and everyone who registers with the group’s website the chance to download almost their entire catalog for free.
Visting wearedelasoul.com (good address format there) and simply providing your first name and e-mail address allows you to choose from a selection of De La’s first six albums — 3Ft High and Rising, De La Soul is Dead, Buhloone Mindstate, Stakes is High, AOI: Mosaic Thump, AOI: Bionix — and the group’s Remixes, Instrumentals & Rarities collection. This availability is temporary, starting today at 10 a.m. Chicago time and lasting 25 hours until 11 a.m. Saturday.
Speaking to Rolling Stone earlier this week, Posdunous (Plug 1) explained that the move was being made in part to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of 3Ft High and Rising, one of the most heralded rap albums of all time. At the same time the release helps bring one of Hip-Hop’s greatest series of albums directly to fans who haven’t been able to stream or buy the music due to issues of ownership and sample clearance. The De La catalog is not available on any large scale music subscription service or even on iTunes.
Also this move helps further a surprising period of new relevance for the group, who has already been able to bask in the success of DJ Maseo’s son, Tre, being a Heisman Trophy candidate for Auburn this year and helping lead the Tigers to the BCS National Championship Game. Brent Musburger even shouted them out after a signature score by Tre late in that game.
As for what makes De La, De La — the music — they are releasing both an EP and a new LP this year and apparently will be rapping over beats from J Dilla, DJ Premier and Pete Rock on these projects. Feel that? That’s your backpack getting tighter.
As the downloading is concerned, I’ve done the registering and can say that the process is relatively easy. After a moderate wait, you are sent individual links to each album you choose on the website, although I did select all seven albums and I didn’t receive a link to the Remixes, Instumentals & Rarities. Still, to receive the other albums for free in one swoop directly from the guys that made them keeps me from wanting to complain.
“It’s been too long where our fans haven’t had access to everything. This is our way of showing them how much we love them,” Pos told Rolling Stone.
I am certainly one of those fans. I wasn’t old enough to take music seriously when I first heard the group, but just like anyone with ears I heard “Me, Myself and I” in ’89 and since then they’ve remained as a marker of excellence and consistency and artistic integrity in Hip-Hop when the art form has continuously sacrificed such things to establish itself as the foundational structure of 21st Century pop culture.
As things got bigger and flashier, De La put in work to distance itself from the colorful aura it gave off at the beginning of their careers (and thrust upon them, they’d argue, longer than they’d like) veering more towards more workman and everyday personas that actually were more in line with who they were growing up in working class Long Island and that fit more as they grew into husbands and fathers.
And they always represented for the culture because people of all backgrounds always messed with De La. 3Ft helped prove once and for all that Hip-Hop could be an album art form and it was a constant entry point into the music for fans of other music genres to get into rapping on records and to see what kind of wild and inventive things you can do with production in rap music. I’m also continually amazed that they’ve never broken up or even really taken a break, whereas their brothers in A Tribe Called Quest manufactured enough drama to fill a motion picture.
Overtime, De La has been labeled at times as grumps or reductionists, unable to keep up in eras that were jiggy, blinged and swagged but throughout, whether it was Stakes is High or the perfect Grind Date album (understandably not involved with this giveaway as it was not part of their recordings for Tommy Boy Records and is available for sale or stream), De La gave a grounded and thorough alternative to those who sold themselves and the culture out to the highest bidder.
There would never be any selling out as far as De La is concerned and that’s why today feels so good and so right. If you’ve listened to them once or 1,000 times, go hit up their site today and take this gift.
Selections from the De La Soul Catalog
3 Ft High and Rising — Of course, everyone knows “Me, Myself and I” but this section is to put those who don’t know onto some other choice cuts from this catalog to check out should you do the download.
To get a full sense of how game-changing this album and that era was, listen to Native Tongues posse track “Buddy,” still as slick a subtle a come-on song as the game has had. Cause in the end, aren’t we all just looking for a little buddy? And don’t expect the smoother video remix with Queen Latifah and them, this is more fellas putting fellas onto game with a dope Commodores sample.
De La Soul is Dead — Arguably the best De La album, definitely the most stunningly diverse sonically and most biting lyrically and comedically. They came out hard on the album with “Oodles of O’s“. May not sound like a hard title but tell them that and you risk lunches of punches upon your head.
Buhloone Mindstate — Somewhat of a concept album, dealing with the concept of going pop and selling out the culture and the people who were responsible for getting you to a certain place. “Breakadawn” and “Ego Trippin (Part Two)” are two of the best singles of the ’90s but “Patti Dookie” is the album’s centerpiece, driving home its concept with Guru and legendary James Brown band members Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis.
Stakes is High — To heads of a certain age, open to feeling jaded about the growing commercialism and emotional vapidity that persisted in mainstream Hip-Hop, this whole album was a major statement, something to ride to and formulate your philosophy on what “real” Hip-Hop is.
The title track is the most memorable song, of course, and the respective features with Common (“The Bizness”) and Mos Def (“Big Brother Beat”) gave them some of their widest audiences at the time and solidified them as second-generation Native Tongues, but I’ma give props to “Dinninit” with a catchy use of onomatopoeia for the hook and a smooth-as-hell sample of Milt Jackson.
Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump — By this point, with four years in between this and Stakes, the Plugs started to show some wear as far as their impact on the culture was concerned, but they still had some jams on this album, topped by the Chaka Khan-assisted “All Good.” I always loved “With Me,” which straight freaked Marvin’s “After the Dance” — one of the group’s greatest self-productions.
Art Official Intelligence: Bionix — Just a year later they swung for the fences on this one, trying a lot of interesting things and self-referential stuff that tried to tie in their legacy with where they were looking ahead too — “Held Down” and “Trying People” are two of the most emotionally naked tracks to be put on one rap album and “Baby Phat” was a fine single, showing foresight to the kind of big-girl lovin’ that’s all across the internet now (go hit up @postbigfines on Twitter for the clearest example).
I’ve always liked the title track, “Bionix.” De La does statement tracks well and Pos’ lyrical sequence denouncing simple set reppin’ for the artistic bangin’ of Guru and Premier was one of those “yeah, he’s the most underrated MC there is” moments.
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