De La Soul want to uphold the legacy of 'this 50-year-old culture called hip-hop' : World Cafe : World Cafe Words and Music Podcast The legendary hip-hop group's back catalog is finally available on digital platforms. They look back on their genre-shaping career and remember their bandmate Trugoy the Dove.

De La Soul want to uphold the legacy of 'this 50-year-old culture called hip-hop'

De La Soul want to uphold the legacy of 'this 50-year-old culture called hip-hop'

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De La Soul pose for a portrait in 1990. Michael Ochs/Getty Images hide caption

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Michael Ochs/Getty Images

De La Soul pose for a portrait in 1990.

Michael Ochs/Getty Images

Set List

  • "The Magic Number"
  • "Stakes Is High"
  • "Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)"
  • "Itzsoweezee (Hot)"
  • "Talkin' All That Jazz" by Stetsasonic
  • "Feel Good Inc." by Gorillaz, feat. De La Soul
  • "Me, Myself and I"
  • "Fallin' " by Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul

A Schoolhouse Rock sample is not what you'd expect to hear from a hip-hop group, but De La Soul has never played by the rules.

Pioneers of alternative hip-hop, De La Soul was the brainchild of three Long Islanders: Kelvin Mercer, aka Posdnuos; Vincent Mason, aka DJ Maseo; and David Jolicoeur, aka Trugoy the Dove. The "three plugs" reshaped hip-hop with their debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising, and subsequent records like De La Soul is Dead and Stakes Is High.

After an excruciatingly long wait, all of their albums are finally available on streaming services. In this session, Posdnuos and Maseo join World Cafe to look back at the group's remarkable career, name-checking standout samples and verses that made their music unforgettable, and they reflect on the passing of Trugoy, who passed away earlier this year.

Interview Highlights


DJ Maseo on the release of De La Soul's music on streaming platforms

"I think the biggest gun that we shot to get everyone's attention was the internet, the unorthodox way of letting people know the travesty of the situation. It was very unorthodox the way we just brought it to everyone's attention because, normally, everyone's business is done in the back office, and I think, um, who we included was our fans. We work for them more than anything. That's how I truly looked at it, so I felt like everything that was done in the back office, let's try bringing it to the front office for a change and see what happens. I think that played a big part."

Posdnuos on collaborating with J Dilla on "Stakes Is High"

"[J Dilla] was like a personification of magic, like the magic dust that you see the Jacksons sprinkling in the "Can You Feel It" video? That's him and his music.

Hearing everything he was doing with his own group, Slum Village, let alone to still have the ability to crank out so many creative masterpieces outside of his group, it just inspired a whole bunch of us. Whether it was us, Tribe, Common, The Roots. So when it came down to ["Stakes Is High"] and we heard that song, we knew we wanted to have a title track, and that song and that music, just felt like God. It felt biblical. We was like, 'this is it.' "

On the passing of Trugoy

DJ Maseo: "Some days you laugh, some days you cry. But we're pushing through, you know, and doing what's necessary to continue the mission the three of us have and just taking on the fact that he's not really gone — he just transcended. He's definitely here. He's just not here in physical form, you know?"

Posdnuos: "And I mean, everything we created with him while he was here — and I'm not talking about just the music, but the memories? So many good ones ... All you can do is just think of the memories we got with this guy that will just have you laughing so hard. It's too many to name of amazing moments creatively and just as friends that we have. He had such an amazing life and touched so many people that it was a life well-earned and well-lived. He was the true artist of the group."


On sampling in hip-hop music

DJ Maseo: "I saw it as a brewing art form hearing artists and producers that came before us, such as Stetsasonic. That was really changing the trajectory of making it feel like it was okay to do what we consider to be collage art."

Posdnuos: "The early days, even when sampling came about it, everyone was still playing under the same rules: Let's take the break beats we already been cutting, and let's use some of the same music. Until certain people just started going outside of that. It became like this amazing level of, for certain artists, collage. Like Public Enemy. That's the soundscape of resistance, revolt, freedom, but it's art. It's not just looping. It went further than that for a lot of people."

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