NEW YORK CITY (WABC) — “Our America: Hidden Stories” is a six-part series that explores America’s history of slavery and its impact on society today.
One such story is that of De La Soul, the Long Island-born hip-hop group that spent years battling for control of their own music.
“You know my man is gone, you know the person I intended on celebrating all of this with. So this makes it bittersweet,” said Vincent Mason better known as DJ Maseo of De La Soul.
The loss of Dave Jolicoeur one-third of the influential group De La Soul left a hole in the hip-hop community and beyond.
But the rapper, also known as Trugoy the Dove, lives on through the group’s music which is now available on all streaming platforms for the first time.
A milestone moment that wouldn’t have been possible without Reservoir Media Management
“The music is some of the greatest hip-hop music ever recorded,” said Rell Lafargue President and Chief Operating Officer of Reservoir. “It’s culturally important and to have it missing from the streaming services was a big problem.”
Music executives got De La Soul’s catalog in 2021 when they bought Tommy Boy records.
The biggest hurdle was overcoming legal and copyright issues.
“There were a few samples that weren’t clear,” Lafargue said. “So we had to go in and really knock on a lot of doors.”
As part of the new deal, De La Soul owns the rights to their masters.
It was something that was just well deserved for the work,” Maseo said. “Work that we put in.”
And long overdue.
“We were only expected to sell a certain amount of records, and we superseded that,” Maseo said. “So, in being a part of a company you expect to get a raise at some point. You don’t expect to stay on the same pay scale.”
“When Tommy Boy folded we moved into the digital world,” Maseo said. “Records eventually stopped selling.”
One of hip hops advocates for independence is rapper Papoose also known as Shamele Mackie.
He now heads the hip-hop division at the music distribution company TuneCore where he scouts new talent and helps them become their own boss.
“TuneCore is the only place where you make 100% profit to yourself as an artist,” Papoose said. “(There’s) no one else who’s going to do that. The artist should be able to achieve that longevity and deserves to achieve that longevity.”
De La Soul has endured and their impact on the genre has been significant.
“Most rappers were wearing you know gold chains and rings and then they came along wearing kind of like hippie-ish kind of garb,” said Faith Newman the Executive VP of Catalog Development. “They didn’t sound like anybody else and they didn’t look like anybody else.”
“We earned our respect by being original, by being different, and by being good,” Maseo said.
Not only is De La Soul’s album available on streaming, but Reservoir will also be releasing records every few weeks.
“We did this for fans,” Lafargue said. “We did it for De La Soul. We do it for hip-hop.”
Catch the first episode of “Our America: Hidden Stories” Saturday at 2:00 p.m. on Channel 7 or wherever you stream ABC7NY.
We worked with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah Jones and her award-winning “1619 Project” to produce this series.
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