De La Soul’s “And the Anonymous Nobody” was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2017 Grammy Awards on Feb. 12. It’s been 26 years since De La Soul came on the scene with their landmark album “3 Feet High and Rising,” which introduced the world to a style that combined clever wordplay with samples from a vast catalog of funk, soul and jazz. But it’s been 11 long years since the hip-hop trio released a full-length album. For their latest, the group is went the traditional record label model and asked for public funding ( & influence) on Kickstarter. They reached their $110,000 goal in less than a day and went on to triple that goal with 25 days to go. The band landed in legal trouble for sampling other people’s music without permission in the past, so over the past few years, De La Soul has been jamming and recording with musicians to create hundreds of hours of new music. On this new album, the group take these new tracks and essentially sample themselves. Let the copyright lawyers try to crack that case. David Jude Jolicoeur and Kelvin “Pos” Mercer join The Frame from Atlanta (where the album is being recorded) to talk sampling, going without a record label and what you can expect from the new album ahead of their upcoming show at Bali’s latest summer festival addition 2017 – Bestival.
What brought you back together to record this album?
Dave: We’re always recording in some fashion. It’s something that we do while we’re on the road, it’s something that we do while we’re at home, and the time was just pressing — we had put out a couple singles here and there and a couple of mixtape projects that people were reacting to, and then we just fell into this situation with this amazing band, the Rhythm Roots All-Stars, so we figured, “Hey, this can be a great concept here. Let’s pursue it and work on a true De La, studio-released album.”
You’re took an interesting approach with this record. It sounds like you’re creating a database of music and then sampling yourselves?
Dave: Yeah, but it didn’t begin that way. It wasn’t like we sat down and said, “Ha ha, this is how we combat the sampling situation.” It really came creatively, just sitting down in the studio with musicians, which we’ve never done before, and loosely directing them to create sounds.
We had been recording at Vox Studio in L.A., an old studio that many of the greats had recorded at, and the sounds from those boards came out sounding so warm and so good. It sounded like old-school records that we would sample from.
So we were like, “Why don’t we just continue to jam and jam and jam, and then we’ll go back and listen to these things and see what we can get out of them?” That’s where the idea came from, so we’re now listening back to over 200 hours of music and sourcing samples from those sessions.
This endeavor was funded on Kickstarter, and you reached your goal very quickly. Why did you feel that crowd funding was the best idea for this album? Did you try to go through a label?
Dave: Being away from the politics of the industry and labels was one of the best feelings in our 26, 27 years. [laughs] We didn’t want to pursue anything with a label; we wanted to find a way to do this ourselves.
Kickstarter, being one of those places where entrepreneurs and creative people are, was very interesting to us. It just was the best option, instead of — I hate to put it this way, but this is the way it feels — putting our hands behind our backs and enslaving us to another corporation/record company and forfeiting our creative life.
We wanted to be able to express ourselves without having anyone stick their heads into a studio, like, “We’d like a song like this, you guys should work with these producers, we’ve got writers, et cetera.” We’ve so loved being able to shut the doors, do what we do, and say, “Here, world, this is what we’ve got.” Love it or hate it, at least we know it’s coming from us.
You’ve been together since 1987. How have you managed to stay together as a group despite everything that life throws your way?
Pos: We’ve known each other even longer than that, just from going to school together since maybe sixth grade. To enter into a creative partnership as a group and learn business with each other, we’re like brothers. There’s days when we hate each other, but at the end of the day we love each other.
We put up with each other, we take it, and we’ve learned to respect each other’s views. It’s not necessarily work all the time, also — we’re family, and that can shine through any problems we might have.
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