Twenty years (!) after the release of its debut, the clever and eclectic 3 Feet High and Rising, hip-hop trio De La Soul prove they're still relevant with a new release on iTunes and an album planned for later this year. Xpress talked to band member Posdnuos about the forefathers of hip-hop, the future of music in a digital age and the pros and cons of touring for two decades.
Xpress: You guys just put out a new album, Are you In? How has the response been?
Pos: It's been good. A lot of people obviously were happy to see us doing something, and they thought it was interesting to be doing it with Nike. Once they got the understanding behind it … a continuous journey of 45 minutes of music, and all new music. Its all blended together like we would normally do music anyway. It was really up our alley and a challenge that we were willing to do. So far, fans they let us know they love it, people who knew of De La Soul. The response has been real positive.
So, this album is distributed exclusively on iTunes, right?
Yes, this is something that we did exclusively with Nike and iTunes. We've been working on our own album and we're looking at putting that out soon. We're definitely trying to continue to have music come out, and in a much quicker fashion.
How do you think the digital distribution of music has changed the way you produce and sell music?
It's just what technology is. It's helped for a lot of people to cut out the middleman. You've got your own music up and as long people know that it's there, their hands can go directly to it in a matter of seconds. It's people like, say, my children, where that's all they know. They don't know the whole going to the store and physically picking up a copy, they know about going online, so it's about being a part of what goes on in today's world. It's excellent for a lot of older groups who've been around, who may not be on labels anymore, and it's excellent for a lot of independent groups who may not be on a label, but they can now build up their criteria by dealing with the fans directly.
What direction would you like to see music go in the next five to 10 years?
I'd like more creativity to be added to it. I think the business standpoint has been the most powerful portion of the music. When I look at some of more forefathers in the hip-hop world, the godfathers of this, they don't have what they deserve because they did it for just the art and they had people around them who took advantage of that.
I think now, everyone is about their business. It's great to have Lil' Wayne, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest or whoever can realize, 'You know what, I'm not going to just walk in this place unless I'm going to take advantage of it,' but now, it's just taken away from the inspiration of great music. You have people standing at the parties, and they'll see Puff sitting over in the corner, see Lil Wayne in the corner, see Jay Z in the VIP, and they see De La Soul on the floor but no one wants to jump on the mic and have fun because they all know they can get paid for it. I think that's what's missing now, because it's all about the business and not about the creativity.
You've been playing for over 20 years now, do you still enjoy going on tour and playing live shows?
Definitely. I mean, sometimes it can get a little trying, because sometimes you want to go home and get in the studio, or have some time to just chill with your kids, but it's definitely a part of us. It's our way of connecting right away with our listeners and people who have been supporting us throughout our 21 years. It's always fun to see people saying our words. You can look at someone and see that they're nearly our age, and right next to them is some young 18-year-old kid who might've gotten into us when he was 10, and he was listening to Stakes Is High. It's just great to still be able to be out here doing what we do.
Do you know what the time frame will be on your next album release?
We're already like seven songs deep. We're continuing to finish this tour that we're doing, that runs until September 5th, then we'll go to Australia, and then most likely drop the album at the top of the year. Check out their new album, Are You In?, at www.myspace.com/delasoul.
Patrick Conant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
who: De La Soul, with Rapper Big Pooh
what: Eclectic hip-hop
where: The Orange Peel
when: Sunday, Aug. 9 (9 p.m. $25/$27. www.theorangepeel.net)