De La Soul
kron by meshack, img by animalchan
I know it sounds very cliche, but these guys need no introduction. De La Soul is the name, you know the game. Makers of good and honest Hip Hop that has weathered the test of time. They've been in it long enough; 4 albums in over 10 years and a hardcore worldwide fan base that spans from the UK to Japan. They've done everything but sell-out. And don't expect them to with their new project that's rumored to be a triple CD with hella collabo's with all kinds of artists. What you are about to read is my best effort to unlock the secrets of De La Soul, a group that's been HISTORICALLY SIGNIFICANT.
KRONICK: I'm gonna start off with a kinda serious question. What do you guys think of the "N" word (Nigger, Nigga, etc.)? And what place does it have in the Hip Hop culture?
POS: It's just a word, man. Just a word. The rap culture is not really any different from what goes on in everyday life, as well as just urban youth and people accepting the word. It's bound to be reflected in the rap music because rap music is just a little bitty piece of what goes on in real life. So if the kids didn't accept it, it wouldn't be in rap. And it's not like it's only said in the rap community, it's in the communities that we come from... period. I mean honestly, for me, I don't care. Yeah, there's a lot of reasons why you shouldn't use it, but that ain't gonna stop anyone from using it. Our people have used it as a term of endearment, or yet people haven't even used it as a term of endearment, it's just something they grew up hearing. My man calls his man that, so they gonna go ahead and do it too. Not really taking the time to understand where it came from and why it's there.
KRONICK: In Europe and Japan and other places overseas, it seems like they really embrace you guys a lot. We did an interview with the Propellerheads and they couldn't stop talking about you guys. It seems like they give you more love than the heads in the US. You don't even have to have an album out, and the shows are sold out.
MASE: For a long time now we've been able to go overseas and tour, and tour without even having any new material out. I think that's something that alot of Americans don't do even when they do have material out. They should go out there and share some of that love that they're getting from record sales and things of that nature and really put on a good performance. I think we were able to go over there and leave them with a really nice impression. Because at one time we weren't as great as we are, you know what I'm sayin? We went overseas our first year with the 3 Feet High And Rising album, and we bombed. They hated us. But we was able to go back on the second album and put on a good show. And from that point on we was always confident on enhancing our shows. Everytime we came out with a new album we was amped, always wanted to go and tour and put on a really good performance. Going overseas and knowing that they don't really get American groups like we get 'em all the time coming through speratically doing shows. On top of that when we come over the shows are pretty expensive too. So by us playing and us putting on the show that we put on, people show love for us. We've been able to retain that love for a while now. I think that's where a lot of the excitement comes from overseas.
POS: We also perform at alot of places that not all artist will go. Like they'll go to London, but they won't go to Burmingham or other parts of England. We've always been performing... all over. Not just Paris, we go to the other parts of France.
MASE: We go into the untapped markets. You know what I'm sayin'? We go to where people can't afford to come to Paris and go to where they are. We've always made that initiative with whoever our agent is out there. People are impressed by that, people appreciate that, and we in turn appreciate people coming out to check us. It's a give and take, and that's why we pretty much have a strong relationship with the U.K. and Japan. This is our careers, this is our lives. In order to maintain credibility and maintain financial wellness we had to go to where the people were really anticipating us, and that was overseas. But now this cycle of what's going on in America is finally coming around. I honestly think that in this next millenium, not just us but a lot of other groups, got a chance to do some different shit again and really blow.
KRONICK: Hip Hop has changed alot since your last album. Many artist adapt to the change by reinventing themselves. Are you guys gonna reinvent yourselves on this next album?
POS: We didn't fully go into reinventing the attitude, the style, the look. I think mainly with us right now it's the sound. The sound is just growing each and every time. I mean we honestly don't shun away from any ideas that we all have, and any experience that we might encounter from each and every album. And that's why we never had a problem with having all this growth happen between albums and on albums. This album is the same thing, it just embraces everything we did from 3 Feet High And Rising to Space. And it's even going further, because here it is it's gonna be a triple album. So we have that much more material, not no greatest hits album. No old songs. It's an all new record with like 15 cuts per album. So we have that much more room to get busy, to create, to experiment, to do stuff with artists we've always wanted to work with.
MASE: This is the most experimental album so far. Between the three of us we pretty much got the freedom to do pretty much what we wanted to do.
POS: We really had a good realtionship, as far as with Tommy Boy on that. They never really held us back from doing that. Right now with this album it's coming together really well. It goes from everywhere. We got the joint with Busta, the joint with Sinead O' Connor, the joint with Camp Lo, the joint with Beth from Portishead. It's like it's all over.
MASE: Our confidence level is high right now. No one is second guessing what they want to do. Especially this time around also because we invested in studio equipment in the house because we've been doing all the recording at home. When I'm working at home I wake up in my underwear with an idea and go right to the board. It's the best feeling.
KRONICK: I work at home too. I find that sometimes it's hard to wake up and get yourself motivated to work when you're at home though.
MASE: Yeah, but we love it. We love doin' this, I can't even front. I hear you though. But bills are a hell of a motivator, and kids are a motivator.
POS: But definately I do agree with you. When you have equipment in your house, at any given time you got access to it. But sometimes with something so close you feel like maybe you didn't take advantage of it. But that hasn't been the case with us.
MASE: I'm not gonna lie. That has been the case for us, but it hasn't been the case for us simultaneously. Like if one is slacking, the other one will pick up the weight, holding it down. I think that compliments what's going on here is three people involved on this project, along with other people that we employ as well for the project. So when one is down the other is up. Everybody is there to troubleshoot and pick up each other's weight untill that person gets his drive back into it. It always kinda works that way. Right now I'm really amped to be at the crib everyday waking up making beats. I've been like that for the past 3 months now, to where I can say Dave has really been chillin'. He's been chillin' and trying to clear up some things on the personal level. Personal things do come into play, to where it will effect your creativity. Every man do need his time away from the music to get involved with things that's personally interacting in his life, especially at this stage in the game. We're in our late 20's and 30's.
POS: We're old men. I just turned 30 last week.
MASE: With the three of us it's a comfortable relationship. We brothers, man. Troubleshooting has always been a big part of De La. Since the begining of our careers. People shitin' on us, and we just kept working through it. I think we adapted to that so well that when it comes down to the three of us, it ain't no real problem for our man to pick up the weight and make shit happen. Like I can say for the Stakes Is High project, Dave made it happen. The whole project damn near. And with this new album being a trilogy, the three of us are holding down our weight pretty well. Everyone is comfortable in their element in regards to making this material.
KRONICK: You mentioned earlier that you were gonna have the girl from Portishead on your new album. She's a huge megastar. Even though your guys are large, do you ever get starstruck? Or vice versa, do any of the artists that you work with get starstruck by you?
POS: Yeah. All the time. Like we did this joint with Sinead O' Connor and she was like, "yo, I love you guys. I'm the biggest De La fan. I'm down for whatever." Not that it's unfortunate, but realistically, you'll get less problems from people like that who sold more records than from a rapper who just came our last year. But it's u nderstandable from where they come from, and their self-esteem, and what they're trying to project on themselves. I mean, whatever. Right now we got a lot of people who really respect what we do and are willing to work with us. No problem. I mean, we got a joint with Al Green.
MASE: Even for people like Al Green who might not really know about De La Soul, people in his camp are like, "yo, you need to work with these cats". So that's a good feeling that people in his camp are supporting cats like us.
KRONICK: What ever happened to that girl Shorty No Mas and who is that guy Truth Enola?
POS: Shorty... I actually run into Shorty every now and then. She is actually working with Jazzy Jeff and his camp in Philly. She's from Philly. She's also working with the Beatminerz and Primo. She's doing her thing. It's just at the time when she was down with us, our schedules just didn't permit for us to get down. She was rolling with us on tour for that third album Bahloon Mind State. We were supposed to produce her whole entire album. At the time it didn't look like that could happen. At one point she was gonna get signed to Violater Records. Then we couldn't do the entire album so Chris Lighty reniged on our contract. That was unfortunate. But she's been really keeping busy and improving on how she gets down, rhyme-wise. So hopefully soon it will come out.
MASE: And as far as Enola, I'm currently in litigation with him right now trying to get him signed to my new label Bear Mountain Records. He's been around us for about 8 years. All potential artists for the most part really just gotta get the wind behind thier back and make it happen for themselves. People can't really make it happen for them. And some people fall into where they don't know if it can really happen for them. They still pinching themselves wondering if they dreaming. And a few people are starting to wake up, such as Enola. But when you start to mess with the industry and you see how certain things are so superficial, for a person like him it's hard for him to adapt to that. But I think he's learned that if he wants to make this his career, there's gonna be a lot of things about his job that he's not gonna like. But at the end of the day you gotta do what it's worth to you. He's now finally realizing that and we're at this point now to where I'm signing him to my label. He actually came up throught he winds of Dave, which is Trugoy. He was a big inspiration on the Stakes Is High album.
KRONICK: How did you guys know you were ready to produce your own album when Prince Paul left after the third album?
POS: We've been producing since the first day. It's an unfortunate thing that people just don't recognize that.
MASE: For me personally, that's why I really think we made the move to do things ourselves. People needed to know that we did music from day one. We were wondering why we couldn't venture out a little further in production because people had the preconcieved notion that Prince Paul produced everything, which is not true. And somehow it just worked out. We didn't just X Paul out, but when it came down to doing the Stakes Is High project, it wasn't going according to the way we had anticipated the relationship to be. Paul kinda just filtered himself out.
POS: At the time Paul was busy anyways. He was doing the Gravediggas, he was with RZA all the time, he was doing alot of shit. Like how even Mase was saying, on the second album Paul was even then telling us that we should just handle it ourselves. We were always sorta using him as a crouch. We could always rock it by ourselves, but having him there to sorta run things...
MASE: He was our security blanket, knowing that he was the person who truly introduced us to the studio.
POS: Like being able to relate to the engineer to tell him what we wanted. But by the third album we had already as individuals started venturing out and remixing this, hanging with this person, seeing how people worked, being very close to Tribe (Called Quest) and Jungle (Brothers) seeing how they got down. We had that ability to work and hold it down by ourselves. You know, your pops gotta let go. We can do it ourselves. But like I was saying, unfortunately people never really realized how much we musically put alot of things together for the albums.
MASE: Pos did Plug Tunnin', we did Potholes (In My Lawn).
POS: Paul was like the 4th member. I could do Say No Go and then I put the music together and Mase is like, "that's dope", and he add another beat to it.
MASE: We worked it. We just worked.
POS: We all worked together like a foursome. Dave did Oodles (of O's) and then I would add the Slick Rick sample.
MASE: See, there's a lot of different stuff. Not to say that Paul didn't contribute, because Paul did a lot. He did songs like Tread Water, me and Paul did Me, Myself, and I. Paul did Ring, Ring, Ring. Ummm... everybody did they part.
POS: Without Paul being in the picture what you will see missing, for me personally, is the humor. The way I felt was always that I was the serious one, Mase is the hard rock, Dave is the hard rock but esentric kinda, and Paul is the zanny nigga. So it's like Paul amps Dave to bug out the way he did for (Bitties In The) BK Lounge. You know, Dave would just bug out and Paul would just amp him. I was always the one who wanted to do Millie Pulled A Pistol, that's me. So without Paul amping Dave is how you saw Stakes Is High, which was so serious. Not too much mad bugging out zany loop cartoon going and stuff. That was Paul. And we definately learned alot from him. Even the simple rule that we still live by that even when one person may not feel what this other person is doing when they say it let him do it because you never know what it's gonna turn out to be untill you physically do it. There's a lot of stuff that if we would have just said no right then and there... a lot of incredible things would not have happened.
MASE: Like De La Orgi, Paul was like, "what do you want to do?" We said, "get in the booth and moan."
POS: That's the funniest thing about Paul. Like you'd be saying something to be funny and he'd be like, "no, really. Do that." We was like, "what, you want us to moan?", and he was like, "yeah. Seriously. Do that, do that." Or sometimes we'd just bust out and he wouldn't tell us and he'd have us mic'd up. Paul is the master of improvisational shit. And even with this album, with as many cuts as we have to do, I would love for something to be worked on with him. But like I said, growing up we got into this when I was 17 and I'm 30 now. There's alot of things I know I can hold down for myself and I just do thing differently. A lot of cats sometimes do look at us and be like, "why don't ya'll bug out like in 3 Feet High And Rising?" I'm like ,"Damn! I was 17 years old when we did that. I got 2 kids." It's a different menatality and a different way of looking at things. It's like asking my 7 year old daughter why she don't say ga-ga and goo-goo no more.
MASE: Ya can't recapture the moments no more. You just gotta appreciated them for what they were worth at that time and kinda respect where we're trying to take it to now. I think that most artists can stay current if they really gave their true selves to their music. I give crazy props to Run DMC because they're living legends, but they're not current legends. No one wants to hear Run DMC unless they give that ol' classic rock box or something like that. I think that if they really imployed some of the true things that's going on in thier lives they would be appreciated again. I think that all the shit that Reverend Run is doing right now is kind of a facade. I could be wrong, but it don't look real to me. I'm only using him as an example because I feel like in a lot of respects in regards to success, we tried to be what they are. I think a lot of people have. And here it is: one DJ and two emcees, off of that picture alone. Run DMC is my favorite group, but seeing what Reverened Run is doing nowadays; to be wearing a white collar and then all of a sudden you're grabbing your dick in the GAP commercial or some shit like that. Or you're saying Nigger in a couple of your songs, thinking you can curse. That just don't mix well with me, knowin that people in the church don't go for that. People who believe in Christianity don't go for that.
KRONICK: A little more De La history. Did any of you guys ever work at a Burger King? I always picture you guys in goofy uniforms everytime I hear Biddies In The BK Lounge.
POS: Yeah. We all worked at Burger King. We got crazy stories. People pissed in shakes. First it was the shake mix. Sometimes instead of dumping out the shake mix the store manager would get all cheap and reuse the shake mix by putting it in the freezer. We would bug out sometimes and throw a pickle in the shake mix. People turned around and started putting mayonaisse in the shake mix. Then one day this kid pee'd in the shake mix. I was like, "ya'll wildin'" We were just being young and bugging out. I know what I saw happen in the fast food industry environment. I know I've eaten a couple Mickey D messed up ones.
MASE: I had a couple of booger burgers.
POS: I know! I seen cats have colds while they was making burgers then they'd cough and flem would fall in. I seen it all.
KRONICK: So what would you say is the safest item to order from a fast food joint?
POS: I don't know. There isn't really too much safe stuff unless you see them making your food.
MASE: The safest item has got to be fries. You know what I'm sayin'?
POS: We even saw our manager get shot at Burger King. Burger King was kinda off the hook. The BK lounge was no joke.
KRONICK: So what does the lable "underground" mean to De La Soul? Because a lot of times I think some groups lable themselves as being underground as an excuse...
POS & MASE: Because they're wack!
MASE: I mean, it's just an avenue for a lot of groups who don't really have no talent to go and showcase what little talent they have. And anyone who's really of any value, just goes on in and explodes.
POS: I mean, you could even have someone with talent, but just because someone may not understand that way of being or the way they're saying stuff is not the in shit; their deffence cycle is to say: "I'm keeping it real!" That's not because you're keeping it real! Maybe you're just not the shit right now. Maybe you're not winning. Or maybe you're just wack! I'm sorry. I mean, we've been blessed to meet a lot of dope cats and asked to be a part of a lot of things like the Lyricist Lounge and all that. But there's a lot of wack mutherfuckers that come through there. There's a lot of wack niggas that come through Rawkus (Records). They're wack!!! I hate when I see people always turning around and saying, "yeah, we're underground" C'mon B, Redman was underground. So there ain't no underground no more. I seen cats say shit like, "fuck (Funkmaster) Flex! I'm only gonna let Stretch & Bobbito spin my shit!" And then all of a sudden Flex will play their shit and they'll be like, "Oh my God! Flex played my shit! Flex played my shit!" Wait a minute. I thought you said, "fuck Flex!" We've never been on that. From the point of Plug Tunnin' doin' what it did, it stood out to be what it was. If it was underground, cool. We did the same for Potholes In My Lawn and we did the same for Me, Myself, And I. When we blew up on Me, Myself, And I we didn't ever look down on it and say that was gonna be our pop record. We just do what we do. If what we do falls on the underground, or it's not the most publisized thing, that's cool. As long as we're being true to what we are.
MASE: Underground is just a term now. What it always meant to me was somebody that was hot but just didn't have no success yet.
POS: That's all that underground ever meant. It didn't mean that if you're underground you're more "real". Or that you're more "better" or that "people aren't ready for you". Mase hit it right on the head. Underground was like the independent label that wasn't... Arista! Def Jam was underground! Def Jam ain't underground no more! That's all underground ever meant; you're under the ground. Mutherfuckers claiming underground think it's a dope badge to wear. Ain't no dope badge to wear, niggas want to eat! There ain't nuthin' wrong with turnin' around making a dope song and then your daughter or your son can eat from that. You think you keepin' it real because your son or your daughter can't eat and you can be mad? That's stupid. That's under-stupid, not underground. (Just then the third and final element steps into the room, Dave a.k.a. Trugoy)
KRONICK: You're late. I used alot my good question already. So did you used to work at Burger King too?
DAVE: Yeah, we all worked there. Mase worked at Burger King but he didn't work at the one we worked at. I know his brother did for about 2 weeks. I think Pos worked there for about 2 years and worked there for a summer, and then it was over.
KRONICK: Did this overlap any of the time you guys spent in the studio for the first album?
DAVE: Naw. Actually that happend before the album. Maybe a year before that. We were just a bunch of Hip Hop heads back then. We'd clean up late at night and play the box and listen to stuff like Girls Ain't Nuthin' But Trouble, Kool G. Rap and Polo, Please Listen To My Demo. I remember those songs distictively. We used to play the same tape over and over again every night. The next summer we saved up some money and approached Prince Paul about going into the studio and working with us.
KRONICK: You're known simply as Dave. Is that your government name? And what about Trugoy?
DAVE: That's my birth name. Unfortunately, being around rappers... seeing them feed into the whole... identity thing. Or more like what the identity means. People look at you and say, "whoa, that's Trugoy!" Just seeing how people around me was reacting to it was sometimes a bit overboard. I was kinda tired of it. But at the same time what could I do about it? I can't tell the next person how to act in regards to stardom. So I decided to drop all that. For me it meant something else. Like that's Dave doing his art through Trugoy. At the same time I was like, "who needs it?!" I'm gonna be Dave at the end of the day, so I'll just keep it Dave.
KRONICK: So you're rollin' with Dave for 2000?
DAVE: Yup. Dave. Other people throw names on me sometimes. Like Dave Banner. Dave Dickens.
KRONICK: The Johnny Blaze syndrome.
DAVE: Yeah, you know.
KRONICK: So if you were stranded on a desert island and you could only bring 3 cd's, one pair of sneakers, and watch one channel on TV what would they be?
DAVE: Um... my channel would probably be HGTV. That's the home and garden network. I watch that religiously. I like to scope the architecture and design.
KRONICK: Wow. did you go to school for that?
DAVE: Actually I did 2 years at the New York Institute Of Technology. But when the whole Hip Hop thing started to take off I put the school thing on hold. Hoping to go back to it someday. I took a $1500 drafting course. I'm looking forward to taking a CAD (Computer Assisted Drafting) course in the future. Yeah, so HGTV would definately be the one channel. The 3 cd's would be... one of them would have to be Sting's Dream Of The Blue Turtle album. One of Mary J's albums, probably the third one. And the last Red Hot Chili Peppers album. Sneakers would have to be... what kicks do I like to wear? Can I say a pair of Timberlands?
KRONICK: Good for any occasion.
DAVE: Yeah, ya know.
KRONICK: So how old are you?
DAVE: I'm 31.
KRONICK: Do you ever feel weird at the club?
DAVE: I don't hang out. Don't go to the clubs, don't go to the How Can I Be Down's, Freakfest and all that. I remove myself from that whole scene. I usually stay home, raise kids, write rhymes... that's it. That's what I do.
KRONICK: A lot of times when something new comes out, as a critic, it seems so much easier to say, "I like their old shit better". People will say this without even really considering all the changes and growth that the artist might have gone through.
DAVE: I've lived that. I did that actually. I kinda feel stupid about it now that I think about it. I remember when Tribe did their second album Low End Theory we were on tour with them. We were in a hotel room and they played it for us and I was like, "It's banging, but I like the first album better." I think a part of it was not wanting to accept the fact that they've moved on and tried different things. I feel like an asshole now because that was one of the most incredible albums of all time.