Hear De La Soul’s Highly Acclaimed & Influential Hip-Hop Albums Streaming Free for the First Time

If you don’t lis­ten to rap, you’ve heard the same ques­tions over and over in response to that con­fes­sion. One of the most com­mon is “But have you heard De La Soul?” — which in recent years was eas­i­er said than done, at least on stream­ing plat­forms. “What kept De La’s tunes out of rota­tion was a frus­trat­ing morass of out­dat­ed con­tracts and record label par­si­mo­ny,” writes Oliv­er Wang at NPR. One com­pli­ca­tion had to do with sam­pling, a stan­dard hip hop prac­tice con­duct­ed in such a far-reach­ing, free­wheel­ing, and elab­o­rate man­ner by De La Soul that the prospect of rene­go­ti­at­ing each and every son­ic snip­pet they’d cleared in the CD-and-tape era inspired untold cor­po­rate intran­si­gence.

But as of this month, “all this has final­ly been rec­ti­fied. The group’s most impor­tant record­ings are now legal­ly avail­able on the inter­net.” None of them is more impor­tant than their debut, 3 Feet High and Ris­ing, orig­i­nal­ly released in 1989 and added to the Library of Con­gress’ Nation­al Record­ing Reg­istry in 2010.

As Wang writes, the album “reshaped the pub­lic imag­i­na­tion of what hip-hop could be. The core trio — Pos­d­nu­os, Tru­goy and DJ Pase­mas­ter Mase — assist­ed by mentor/producer Prince Paul all came straight out­ta the wilds of sub­ur­ban Long Island, rap­ping about advice-spout­ing croc­o­diles, Mar­t­ian trans­mis­sions, and an artis­tic meta-con­cept they dubbed The D.A.I.S.Y. (Da Inner Soul, Y’all) Age.”

Clear­ly, De La Soul had a set of artis­tic pri­or­i­ties all their own. “Sam­ple-hun­gry rap pro­duc­ers had spent the pre­vi­ous few years min­ing the James Brown and P‑Funk cat­a­logs and though De La sam­pled from both on their debut, they were more like­ly to cre­ate mem­o­rable musi­cal moments from chil­dren’s tele­vi­sion songs (‘The Mag­ic Num­ber’), obscure doo-wop sin­gles (‘Plug Tunin”) and clas­sic ’80s pop hits (‘Say No Go’),” to say noth­ing of a learn-at-home French record. The first time I remem­ber hear­ing De La Soul was when an ear­ly-morn­ing col­lege-radio DJ put on the 3 Feet High track “Eye Know,” which sam­ples Steely Dan — as well as the Mad Lads, Lee Dorsey, and Otis Red­ding.

As if 3 Feet High and Ris­ing weren’t enough of a cav­al­cade of won­ders, it comes as only one of six De La Soul albums new­ly avail­able to stream. On the group’s offi­cial Youtube chan­nel and oth­er stream­ing plat­forms, you can also hear De La Soul Is Dead (1991), Buhloone Mind­state (1993), Stakes Is High (1996), and the Art Offi­cial Intel­li­gence pair Thump and Bion­ix (2001), each of which marks an expan­sion of the group’s already con­sid­er­able ambi­tions. They all join the already-stream­able albums released over the twen­ty years up to the death of found­ing mem­ber David “Tru­goy” Joli­coeur last month, an event that may put end to De La Soul as a record­ing enti­ty. But if you do lis­ten through their expan­sive and inven­tive body of work, be pre­pared for anoth­er ques­tion: have you heard A Tribe Called Quest?

Relat­ed con­tent:

The His­to­ry of Hip Hop Music Visu­al­ized on a Turntable Cir­cuit Dia­gram: Fea­tures 700 Artists, from DJ Kool Herc to Kanye West

How Jazz Became the “Moth­er of Hip Hop”

150 Songs from 100+ Rap­pers Get Art­ful­ly Woven into One Great Mashup: Watch the “40 Years of Hip Hop”

How Sam­pling Trans­formed Music and Cre­at­ed New Tapes­tries of Sound: An Inter­ac­tive Demon­stra­tion by Producer/DJ Mark Ron­son

The Birth of Hip Hop: How DJ Kool Herc Used Turnta­bles to Change the Musi­cal World (1973)

Enter the The Cor­nell Hip Hop Archive: A Vast Dig­i­tal Col­lec­tion of Hip Hop Pho­tos, Posters & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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