The music of hip-hop pioneers De La Soul — whose galvanizing 1989 debut, “Three Feet High and Rising,” is one of the genre’s greatest albums — will finally be available on streaming services for the first time on March 3, the group announced on Tuesday. The catalog, which has been held up for decades by complicated sample clearances and other legal issues, was acquired by Reservoir Media as part of its acquisition of the Tommy Boy Records catalog; Reservoir will distribute the catalog via its Chrysalis Records.
The announcement states, “The Reservoir and Chrysalis teams have worked with De La Soul, and their record label, AOI, to bring their music to digital streaming services. Reservoir is pleased to share that De La Soul’s first six albums, ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ (1989), ‘De La Soul Is Dead’ (1991), ‘Buhloone Mindstate’ (1993), ‘Stakes Is High’ (1996), ‘Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump’ (2000), and ‘AOI: Bionix’ (2001), will be available to fans everywhere March 3, 2023, on the 34th anniversary of the release of their debut album, ‘3 Feet High and Rising.’”
The catalog is preceded by the release of their single “The Magic Number” on Jan. 13 — the song, the opening track of “Three Feet High and Rising,” was used in the end credits of the 2021 blockbuster film “Spider-Man: No Way Home” but was not legally available at the time.
With 1989’s “Three Feet High and Rising,” the Long Island trio created one of the truly groundbreaking albums in hip-hop history, bringing a happy, psychedelic, flower-bedecked vibe — dubbed “the D.A.I.S.Y. Age” — to a genre that had largely been musically and lyrically aggressive and/or self-aggrandizing up to that point. With songs like “Me Myself and I,” “Say No Go,” “The Magic Number” and the earlier single “Plug Tunin’,” the album was certified platinum, reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop chart (and No. 24 on the Billboard 200 albums chart) and is universally recognized as one of the best and most influential albums in hip-hop history.
But the album and the group’s other early recordings for decades were mired in legal issues with Tommy Boy, stemming both from the extensive use of uncleared samples — a field that was an unexplored Wild West at the time — and the group’s contract with the company, which the members signed when they were teenagers. Consequently, De La Soul’s classic early recordings have never been available on streaming services — but according to today’s announcement, all of that is about to change.
De La Soul said, “We can’t believe this day is finally here, and we are excited to be able to share our music with fans, old and new. Golnar, Rell, Faith and the Reservoir team have been great partners in this entire process. We’re grateful that our relationship with them all has enabled this to happen.”
Faith Newman, Reservoir Executive Vice President of A&R and Catalog Development, added, “As someone who has devoted my life to hip-hop for over 30 years, my relationship with the guys in De La Soul dates back to my early days in the industry, and I can attest to how influential their catalog is to the genre.” She added, “When Reservoir acquired Tommy Boy, the first call we made was to De La Soul. We vowed to bring their music to streaming, and it means the world to our team to make good on that promise and expose a whole new generation of listeners to one of the most important catalogs in hip-hop history.”
Reservoir President and Chief Operating Officer Rell Lafargue also commented, “Bringing De La Soul’s music to streaming services is a big moment for Reservoir, Chrysalis, and fans everywhere. We identified this opportunity when we were in the preliminary stages of acquiring Tommy Boy. Over the past 18 months, we have worked tirelessly with De La Soul, maintaining a heightened attention to honoring the group’s original musical details, including bringing Prince Paul and the original team to the studio to prepare the catalog for streaming.” He added, “It is a real testament to our team and the group that we are able to execute these plans together. We couldn’t be prouder to embrace De La Soul’s historic artistry and support them in sharing their music with the world.”
Comprised of Posdnuos (Kelvin Mercer), Trugoy (David Jude Jolicoeur), and Maseo (Vincent Lamont Mason Jr.), De La Soul formed in Long Island, New York in high school when they caught the attention of producer Prince Paul. “3 Feet High and Rising,” released on March 3, 1989, was inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry, a list of sound recordings deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Yet to the group’s detriment, the album was also a canary in a coalmine for the sampling age, and many of the battles the group and Tommy Boy were embroiled in basically became precedents.
“I don’t know what [Tommy Boy’s] deals were with clearing samples, but back then a lot was probably done on a handshake, especially when you’re an independent” label like Tommy Boy, the group’s Mase told SiriusXM in 2019. “Nothing comes to the surface until it actually turns into something. If I was the record company at that time, I would have probably thought it was a small thing and not cleared it: ‘This little 30-second thing, who would come after that?’ And it happened!”
While the group’s relationship with Tommy Boy became very contentious as it navigated the then-new process of clearing samples, the members stressed that there was no bad blood.
“We’re not bashing Tommy Boy or [its founder] Tom Silverman in any way but we are happy that chapter is over and done with and we are happily looking forward to our new relationship with Reservoir.”