Sometimes, you just have to give it away. Yes, for free, in bulk, and on the internet. This is what sampling law has done to musicians. The Eagles are so litigious that Frank Ocean will never be able to commercially release his debut smash release nostalgia, Ultra, which makes liberal use of the band’s “Hotel California.” The Verve lost 100% of their royalties from “Bittersweet Symphony” after the Rolling Stones pursued legal action. And now, due to ongoing problems with sample clearance that has prevented the group from making its full catalogue available via digital retailers such as iTunes, De La Soul is gonna just give away all of its Tommy Boy-era material, for 25 hours, starting on Valentine’s Day.
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According to Rolling Stone, the band is offering its music to fans in response to years of legal and financial wrangling, thanks to changes in the ownership of Tommy Boy, unclear language in the group’s early contracts, and of course sampling clearances. (Their debut 3 Feet High And Rising, which was added to the Library of Congress in 2010, remains a pioneering album in terms of its collage-like use of samples.)
A note on De La’s website reading “~ Check back on Valentine’s Day at 11 AM EST for some de la love! ~” first linked to news of the Native Tongues Posse group’s Valentine’s Day gift to their fans. Sweeter than the boxes that See’s and Russell Stover are dishing out, Plugs One, Two, and Three (you may know them as Posdnuous, Trugoy and Maseo) never had the chance to sell their music on iTunes, and are now using the novelty of the digital download to announce that this is the year they’re coming back, and stronger than ever.
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It’s not as altruistic, or arbitrary as just giving the music away, however: the group has at least two releases forthcoming, and the offer gives them a mainstream visibility they haven’t enjoyed in years. We’ll be getting both De La’s first full-length album in a decade, You’re Welcome, and a extremely interesting six-song EP, Preemium Soul on the Rocks, production duties for which was split by seminal beatsmiths DJ Premier and Pete Rock.
You’re Welcome follows up 2004’s guest-appearance-heavy The Grind Date, as well as the “unofficial” 2012 release First Serve, which was released under the guise of Plug 1 & Plug 2 Present…, but remains conspicuously absent from listings of their discography. The upcoming full-length was delayed repeatedly as the trio perfects its sound, a demonstration of perfectionism that stands in stark contrast to the monthly mixtapes other artists release to cultivate an online following. But no matter how soon that record takes to end up in the hands of the group’s fans, the excitement surrounding the giveaway announcement suggests that De La Soul is far from dead.
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