After releasing a series of Instagram posts detailing the bittersweet announcement of their early music finally hitting music streaming and downloading services, De La Soul has spoken further on the matter.
The Long Island rap trio recently appeared on Sway in the Morning to speak about the unfair streaming deal terms on their music released through Tommy Boy Entertainment, which was founded by Tom Silverman. The group claims that 90 percent of fan purchases will go to the record label while 10 percent will go to them.
The trio first explains how their catalog — from 3 Feet High and Rising to AOI: Bionix — was in limbo not only because it wasn’t prepared for the digital age but because Warner Bros. had acquired it (Warner Bros. acquired half of Tommy Boy through a partnership made in 1985). Half of that catalog then ended up getting lost to Warner Bros. because of a debt Tommy Boy had to pay to the label.
Ultimately, Warner Bros. didn’t attempt to put De La’s music on streaming and downloading services because of “issues that existed behind the projects,” most notably the clearance of samples on the albums.
“I don’t know what Tom Silverman’s deals were with clearning samples or if he even chose to clear samples but I know back then a lot was done on handshakes especially when you’re independent,” Maseo explains. “…By the time it got to Warner Bros. people come out of the wood works and say, ‘Hey, it’s time to cash a check.’ And I think, for the most part, the people who do come out the wood works, the business didn’t get dealt with at the time.”
Fast-forward to 2019, and Tommy Boy has acquired the catalog back but those same issues still exist, with the rap trio “somewhat aimlessly performing the music,” and only getting money from merchandise and touring.
From there, Trugoy says the group tried to get samples cleared for their albums but Silverman didn’t even think 3 Feet High and Rising would be as successful as it was.
“Tom Silverman didn’t think it was gonna do well at all,” Trugoy says. “Because of that reason they decided not to clear stuff.”
“And you’re paying the price?” Sway asks, to which Maseo responds, “Yeah, and we have continued to pay the price.”
“We’ve been looking to work it out and [Silverman] is not willing to work anything out,” Maseo says at one point. “…He’s vicariously gotten props from the culture.”
The trio also speaks on the 30-year anniversary of 3 Feet High and Rising, and how bittersweet the celebration is considering the situation they’re in with Tommy Boy. The anniversary is significant to their forthcoming “Gods of Rap” tour with the Wu-Tang Clan and Public Enemy, with all three rap groups celebrating anniversaries of notable albums.
“Let’s be straight up — we don’t really financially benefit,” Maseo says of the album being available digitally, before adding that the group has received “pennies” in comparison to what Tommy Boy received for the albums.
check out the interview in its entirety above.
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