This morning I was pleased to see that De La Soul had resolved the legal issues with their old label, and had regained control over their music.
3 Feet High And Rising has always been one of my favorite hip-hop LPs since I first heard it on a girlfriend’s cassette circa 1989. I have De La Soul music on CD and vinyl, so I have been listening to it all these years, but I’m glad they finally got their own music back, and are able to release it on the various streaming platforms like Apple Music.
Rachel Brodsky, Uproxx reports:
Legendary hip-hop trio De La Soul — Posdnuos, Trugoy and Maseo — have been locked in a battle with Tommy Boy Music for years to regain control of their masters. Now, according to Talib Kweli, it’s mission accomplished for The Plugs.
“After years of being taken advantage by the recording industry in the worst possible ways, De La Soul now owns all the rights to their masters and is in full control of the amazing music they have created,” Kweli wrote in an Instagram post over the weekend, writing that Maseo had confirmed the news. “Let’s salute Plugs 1, 2 and 3 for sticking to their guns and showing us that we can all beat the system if we come together as a community. Let’s hear it for black ownership of black art! Congratulations fellas.”
The news may not come as a huge surprise, since just two months ago, Reservoir Media acquired the Tommy Boy for close to $100 million. They also gained ownership of Tommy Boy’s catalog, which includes six De La Soul albums: 3 Feet High And Rising (1989), De La Soul Is Dead (1991), and Buhloone Mindstate (1993), Stakes Is High (1996), Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump (2000), and AOI: Bionix (2001). A spokesperson for Reservoir also confirmed that the new label ownership would mean that De La Soul’s catalog would at last come to streaming platforms. “We have already reached out to De La Soul and will work together to the bring the catalog and the music back to the fans,” a Reservoir rep told Variety.
(click here to continue reading De La Soul Have Finally Gained Control Of Their Masters, According To Talib Kweli.)
Rolling Stone had some back story on one of the impedements:
De La Soul vs. The Turtles (1991)
“Transmitting Live From Mars,” by De La Soul (1989) vs. “You Showed Me,” by the Turtles (written by Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark) (1969)
The Case: The hip-hop collective De La Soul built their masterpiece 3 Feet High and Rising from a vast library of samples spanning genres, languages and decades. At a time when sampling was relatively new (and relatively lawless), not all of the snippets received the proper clearance. Among these was a 12-second segment from the Turtles’ 1969 song “You Showed Me,” used on the interlude skit “Transmitting Live From Mars.” Former Turtles Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman leveled a $2.5 million lawsuit at Prince Paul and company in 1991. “Sampling is just a longer term for theft,” Volman told the L.A. Times. “Anybody who can honesty say sampling is some sort of creativity has never done anything creative.” Ironically, the song was written by none of the Turtles, but instead by Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark of the Byrds.
The Verdict: The case was settled out of court, with Volman and Kaylan netting a sum reportedly as high as $1.7 million. De La Soul claim they never paid that much.
Why It Matters: Rap artists believed this ruling set a dangerous precedent that would bankrupt them due to licensing or legal fees and would ultimately destroy hip-hop. The case precipitated a steady decline in sampling as labels grappled with the financial and logistical headaches of ensuring all artists were properly paid and credited. Heavily sampled albums like 3 Feet High would likely be impossible to make today.
(click here to continue reading Songs on Trial: 12 Landmark Music Copyright Cases – Rolling Stone.)