Daisy Chainz: What Will A De La Soul & 2 Chainz Collabo Do To Rap Music?
De La Soul have always been underdogs by design. In the late '80s, they were skewering macho and/or conformist tendencies within the adolescent b-boy culture on "Me Myself & I" (and it's b-side "Brainwashed Follower.") In the early '90s, they named their sophomore LP De La Soul Is Dead. And by the mid-'90s they could be found doing their own laundry in their music videos. In short, Plugs 1 through 3 have always taken a humorous, down-to-earth approach to the sometimes self-aggrandizing excess of hip-hop culture. True to form, their forthcoming and long-awaited album is titled De La Soul - ...And The Anonymous Nobody.
A closer inspection of the star-studded tracklist, however, reveals that the 'Nobodies' in question include Usher, David Byrne of the Talking Heads and 2 Chainz, to just name a few. The heavyweights lining up to go to bat for De La (you can add Snoop Doog, Damon Albarn, Estelle, Little Dragon and Jill Scott to the mix!) and the music they've teased so far are clear indicators that the other part of the De La Soul equation is also holding true to form this time out: no amount of self-deprecation can conceal that they are among the greatest in the game. Ever.
If a De La collabo with 2 Chainz (new supergroup: Daisy Chainz!) is a bit to brain-rearranging to even imagine, you are in luck. Plug 3, also known as Maseo, was gracious enough to get on the phone with Okayplayer from his London hotel room to participate in a Secret History of their classic '96 LP Stakes is High—and while we're running up the bill on an international call anyway, we had him give us the inside perspective on working with Usher, David Byrne and yes, the mighty 2 Chainz. Or as Mase prefers on thinking of him: the mighty Tity Boi. Read on below to get the full scoop.
Okayplayer: So, you guys are on a pretty hectic run [with touring] it seems like?
Maseo: Yeah. It's picking up, getting more and more hectic.
OKP: How many dates are you doing in the UK?
Mase: I'm really not sure, honestly. It's kind of a blur to me right now because I've been doing so much. I've just been relying on my team to have things in place and I can just show up and do my part. Because I'm still recording some other music. This album is completely done but I'm working with some other artists and still being a family man. Trying to meet the demand of all these things, I'm relying on my team. I know that I'm out here in the UK and Europe from June 26th. That's what I do know! And my squad got my full attention while I'm here.
OKP: So, they just point you at the stage and you do your thing?
Mase: Yeah, we trust each other. We spent a lotta years now. I don't think nobody is going to lead me to a pile of dung.
OKP: When you say you're working on other music is that your solo projects or artists that you're developing or is it De La projects?
Mase: Definitely the Maseo record. Which is due to come out on AOI Records and also my artist Bill Ray. He is a big reason why I'm really doing the Maseo Record because I have an artist that I really think is great and due to the changes in the business altogether. It's really been difficult building that name, so I'm definitely using this record as a platform to showcase him and deliver some good music for the people who are still checking for us.
OKP: There are a lot of people still checking for you!
Mase: I would like to keep delivering for them and putting them on to new things.
OKP: Do you have a rough time frame for that in mind? Is that a 2016 record or 2017?
Mase: I'm definitely looking in between. I'm going to say 2017 because I want to put out some records after we feel like we got the proper attention on ...And The Anonymous Nobody. I don't want to do anything that could possibly even drown out the new record or the new record drowning out the records [that] I'm looking to put out. By the time I put this record out, I want the fans to actually go, "Oh wow. They're ready for something else." Right now, they're checking for ...And the Anonymous Nobody. Can't counteract that with something other than that.
OKP: This is De La's year it seems like. I wanted to talk to you a little bit about the new LP... everything is complete and in the can at this point? The album is done now?
Mase: Yup. August 26th is the release date. It's mixed, mastered and ready to go. "TrainWreck" is out there now which is a single from the album, but also part of the campaign of the EP that we released with For Your Pain & Suffering which was the music we decided to let go due to the fact [that] we didn't have a release date yet for the people who supported the Kickstarter campaign. We put something out there to let them know, look we apologize, but the date is coming. There are just a few more things we need to wrap up administratively to make the record complete.
OKP: In terms of the music that you've let go so far, we have this great single with Snoop [Dogg]. Are there other collaborations on there that we should be looking for along those lines?
Mase: Yeah, the other collaborations are with David Byrne from the Talking Heads. Another collaboration is with Estelle and Pete Rock. Another one actually is with Usher. We also have Little Dragon, we got Roc Marciano. Who am I missing, I'm missing somebody. Oh, 2 Chainz! I like to say Tity Boi.
I like to say Tity Boi because I think what has gone wrong, especially with hip-hop, people put too much emphasis on someone's image as opposed to their music. I'm looking at the fact that, he is just as talented and he is lyrical and he make great records. I think if people delve more into people's talent, you could actually see where the artistic value is. And I feel like this record with 2 Chainz, we gave him the opportunity to probably even get on the beat he's been waiting to get on his whole career but he don't even have that link with producers maybe or maybe the audience don't check for him in that manner. To do this record with us, I think it was [inaudible]... because initially we were just trying to get him for a chorus, but then he was like, "Yo, man, I got to do a verse." Coming from De La are you kidding me? I think this is like everybody's opportunity to really give us some real MC shit.
There are times where cats make records definitely to please their audience at some point. Catering to a certain demographic or whoever is really just falling in love with what they're delivering. That could be a little less creative than what they would to see us for. I think anybody who has great talent like 2 Chainz, at some point wants to take some sort of risk because that's just where your artistic value lies. I think going off the grid of what he is really down for to do this record [is dope]. Give everybody an assessment on how he really is as a MC and regardless of what he is doing overall as an artist, he's still truly an MC. That's why I say, the rest of the world knows 2 Chainz but I've got Tity Boi on my record.
OKP: It's interesting that you say that because there is some kind of backlash you get going out of the box like that. It seems like a lot of those divisions between what's on this side of hip-hop and what's on that side is from our generation—I think we're roughly contemporaries—but the younger generations, it seems like they don't really recognize those divisions that much. De La and 2 Chainz and everything else is in their iTunes and their Soundcloud together. Do you echo that? Do you find that your younger fans are there for any type of collaboration and some of those segmentation of what "hip-hop" is are a little bit from a previous generation?
Mase: I think the younger fans we've acquired—they don't care. We acquired them from probably being with the Gorillaz. I think we acquired younger fans by even at times performing on different festivals and being somewhat of supporter of A$AP Rocky or Drake or even Kanye. Where we've been able to be in front of a younger audience based on the connection with these guys. Being a part of the events these guys are on. In front of an audience that may not know you but may walk away based on your performance.
That's always been something that we have been able to achieve being elder statesmen out there performing. Being able to draw in the audience that we might not once had to actually would go, leave the show that day, get on their smartphone and start Googling us up. I think the new fan, they champion it. They really don't care, they love 2 Chainz and they kind of like say to themselves, "Damn, I missed this group! How did I miss this group De La Soul?" I think they champion it. The people who have been following us from the door... the ones that truly represent the Golden Era... they're the ones who are a little bit more apprehensive, a little bit more skeptical. I think the heads from our era got tainted with imagery. Throughout the '90s, the corporation played a big part of the separation in genres. Because I came into this with all of us being meant to be different but being under one roof. Where you had the contrast of De La and N.W.A. but we shared the same stage together.
It wasn't like what happened in the '90s. You got the Spitkicker Tour over here with these kinds of rappers and the Okayplayer Tour with those kind of rappers. Then you got the Hard Knock Life Tour over there with another kind of rapper. I watched the segregation, the separation in our own genre where it was like we couldn't just be the positive rappers, not just conscious but backpacker rappers. Then over here you had, "gangster rap" and over here, I never even knew that there would even be gangster rap when we were coming up! It was always known to be reality rap. I watched all of that take place with the corporations playing both sides of the fence. Being the significant part in making the money but drawing the separation. The perception to the artist that was coming up at that time like Biggie [Smalls] and The LOX and DMX. I knew all of them had a genuine respect for us but it started to look like we didn't have that respect based on certain things that were transpiring over the course of careers developing.
There was one or two, maybe three images out there that really tainted some rappers and drew the separation. In my experience, I knew it was a manipulation to do that. Of course, you've got of the fans of today or the fans of yesterday. They'll question a record like 2 Chainz based on the fact that they identify with that separation in hip-hop that took place around the time when they were coming up.
OKP: If you could contrast that or fast-forward to the way you guys have developed the audience for this album using Kickstarter and everything — you're more directly in touch with your fanbase, without that corporation in between. Is there a plus side to that? Do you feel like you guys know your audience on a more one-to-one basis with this album?
Mase: We always knew our audience. I think it had nothing to do with just the process of this album. We've had a significant connection with our audience ever since we started touring. Touring for us was pre-internet. The internet is virtually shaking hands, kissing babies while we've literally always done that. We're the group who actually go to these markets that we tour and we go to the stores and we go to the malls. We run into the people, go to the record shops. We touch the people, we talk to them. We get out and we get a good sense of how everybody feels. Even down to the person who would say, "Man I never messed with De La Soul until I heard this record and when I heard this record it made me go back to that record." It's crazy going to places like Liverpool and you end up meeting some hardcore gangsters on the streets, and they go, "Yo, my favorite record is 'Keeping The Faith'." Or, "My favorite record is 'Saturday'."
Especially for me, I'm a people person by nature. Even just being a DJ I just got to do that. It's important and it feels good and inspiring when somebody come up to you and say, "I named my son after you. Or that someone and his wife met at a De La show. "We're still together to this day and we've got four beautiful children. Two are off in college right now." Those kind of stories. Even the more heavier stories...
Mase: There was a kid who was in heavy depression and only thing that made him happy was De La Soul. At some point, he hit rock bottom and committed suicide. But we got the opportunity to just speak to his parents because they couldn't really understand what was wrong with him. They were going through all his things. The only thing that kept coming up to them was De La Soul. The only thing that made their son really truly happy was De La Soul and they had no clue who we were, what we were about. Nothing. After he passed, they got more into it, began to learn what really made him happy and got more into us as a group and they were like, "Wow, this group is great." They were holding on to that one little positive thing.
Just one little good you want to hold on to when somebody passes away. A great memory. And here it is—a mom and a dad, but mom spoke the most—it made me cry. It really made me cry because she was very distressed and didn't understand what kind of space her son was in but all she did know was like this group made him very happy. He named his cat "I Am I Be." He had De La tattoos. When she went to his room after his death, she learned everything in it was about us. I’m a parent so I can empathize—just having that thought drove me crazy. You never want to go before your child. That’s just not how a life cycle is supposed to go.
OKP: Wow. That is intense (I'm a parent also, so I know exactly what you mean). So, how do you deal with that level of connection, when you're connecting directly to all your fans, via social media?
Mase: Yeah, no more gatekeepers! Really, there's no more gatekeepers but unfortunately the gatekeepers are trying to—well the ex-gatekeepers—they still trying to find a way to be gatekeepers. The way they try today is with influx. If you know a little something about mind-control, it's just somebody force feeding you something until you believe it. I think they're trying their best with mind control games but they still got other ways to come at you, because after the internet days? We're in such an information world. Kids are a lot smarter than we ever were.
We're the X generation. We were smart. We were definitely smart but we were fed a lot of copycat too. There it is. We were smart enough to not believe everything but still got caught up in the phase of not knowing what to believe. Whereas information is so on demand now. You could catch somebody off a click. You got kids out there really cross referencing information. Not just going to one particular source. They'll cross reference that shit. It's hard to bullshit. It's really just hard to bullshit and get over on people—it's a bad day for corporations.
They have been known for bullshit so long. I think the only one that's really able to get away with their bullshit today is McDonald's. That's a lot of mind control but other than that, everybody is having a hard time. Especially when it comes to music. First of all, the fans are getting it for free. They can actually extract it for free. Let me not say they get them for free. They can extract it for free. You got real music lovers now going, "If it ain't good, I'm not buying that shit. But I'll extract the one or two songs that I like." In other words, if your album is hot, I'll buy the whole shit but if it's not hot, the one or two songs I like. I'll just rip them shit and you don't even get my dollar. Of course the gatekeepers are having a really difficult time because we have that direct connection. I can definitely say for us, it's always been genuine. Fans will holla at me like they think they're a fucking family member. It's even to the point where like, I got so much of a connection with my fans, I could check them!
When I know they're over the top and don't feel a way. Like, "Yo, B calm the fuck down. Calm down, you will get what you want but don't badger me with it."
OKP: Tell us what it's like collaborating with David Byrne?
Mase: David Byrne. Just let me just say everybody we collaborate with, we're fans of their music. It was surreal to know that he even said yes. Then to turn around and really engage in the collaboration. Come on, he could have farted on the record and we would have been like, "Yo, great!" To engage in the artistry and respect our direction. Really like reaching out, sending two or three versions of what he recorded. Asking us, "Is this cool to do? Is this cool to say?" And we're like, "You're David Byrne! Anything [you do] is cool."
He really engaged us and this was when you start to learn people a little bit more than their celebrity status. That they really are truly great musicians and they really respect music. Not just your music, but the music in general. He is, what? 40 years plus in his career maybe? Still jumping in the sandbox with some younger cats. Let me show you the sand castle we made when we were coming up. That's always a great feeling to be able to work with somebody you highly respect and here you weren't even thinking would answer your call.
OKP: Amazing synchronicity because we just announced he'll be playing The Roots Picnic in New York City and we're all just coming off of the high of the original Roots Picnic where Usher headlined. Who's also on your album?!
Mase: I got to see the show! I got to see the touch line of the show at Brooklyn Bowl. It was incredible. Usher is a genius. I always used to say to him since he was 12. We can say Usher birthed the Chris Browns, the Ne-Yos, the Marios, the Miguels. He birthed these dudes. Then at the same time, you could tell his influences were Michael Jackson and Prince. You could see all his early influence. Even R. Kelly is an influence of his.
OKP: It was very cool with to see him with the Roots and watch him step into that more classic Barry White and Prince mode of soul to show off his chops. Is the De La collaboration something on a classic smoothout jam? Or what's the vibe like with the track you guys did?
OKP: The name of the track is "Greyhound". It's hard to even classify this record. It's definitely not like a soulful R&B style is. In my opinion, it's a little bit more contemporary. It's more verbal, a storytelling kind of a thing. This one is hard to even classify! A De La/Usher record, you probably expect something that's more in the soul music vein, maybe even grabbing a club scene type of thing. Nah. This record is going to have way more of an impact with the real De La fan and I think it will resonate to an Usher fan more with the video. Because it's really about the storyboard.
You got to check the storyline. Obviously, Pos and Dave telling it from different perspectives but Pos sets it off about a young girl trying to make it in New York City, in having adversity. Trying to really stick with the dream of trying to make it. And Usher's part is so like, it's infectious. Only record I could think I could try to compare it to is the record that Damon Albarn did with Hypnotic Brass [Ensemble]. It's just infectious. It's not about dancing, partying, nothing. It's really like it might make you cry. It's one of them heartfelt records. I think a fan will find it a little bit more heartfelt in their private moments. It's definitely one of them ride out records. You get more into your spark with this one.
OKP: It doesn't sound like you could really do it justice with words...you know what, you better just send it to me.
Mase: You know.
OKP: I'm just messing with you. It sounds brilliant, I'm really forward to it is what I'm saying.
Mase: You can't fucking share it with nobody. But I don't believe you, if send it to you, I think you're going to play it for everybody...
OKP: I will only play it for me, myself and I...