Few hip-hop acts have more to brag about than De La Soul and yet few are so down to earth
The trio from Long Island, New York were at the forefront of a brave new frontier in hip-hop – shrugging off the macho posturing in favour of jazz oddities, creative wordplay and a heap of positivity.
We caught up with founding member Kelvin Mercer a.k.a Posdnuos about rivalries, the new album and always being a student.
Hi Pos, how does it feel to be the senior statesmen of hip-hop these days?
“We thankfully don’t look at ourselves that way. We approach this by always being students. So even now that we are a lot older, we don’t feel the need to stand over anyone telling them what to do because we ‘know it all’
“We don’t know it all because there is so much to learn and this is what allows our music to sound fresh and not dated.”
Your album Three Feet High and Rising is considered one of the greatest albums of the genre. Did you have any idea how huge it would become?
“We were just having fun doing what we love. The fact that a piece of time has become timeless is a blessing.”
Was there any rivalry between you and A Tribe Called Quest? Friendly or otherwise?
“Always friendly. But yes, we inspired each other to do better. All of us did, which includes the Jungle Brothers as well.”
What can you tell us about the new album And the Anonymous Nobody?
“It’s not boom bap, or hip-hop, or old school, it’s good music. There is country and western on this album. Rock, jazz, R&B and soul along with storytelling and partying.
“There is something for everyone. We have collaborations with Damon Albarn, David Byrne, Jill Scott, Little Dragon, Justin Hawkins of The Darkness, Usher and 2Chainz.”
You funded this album through Kickstarter. Were you surprised about the response?
“Truly moved. To have the album funded six times over what we asked for was a true testament to listeners wanting to hear a balance in music, and they wanted to hear it from us.”
Is crowdfunding the future of music?
“One of many. It’s a way for any group to deal directly with their fan-base, as well as people who are in sync with their point of view.”
You gave away your entire back catalogue for free a few years back. Why?
“Fans were continuously asking why our material was not up digitally and we thought it would be a great gesture to give it to them, until we figure out a way to make Warner Brothers (who own the masters) see how relevant our music is. So they can finally work through the legal issues with our music, due to sampling, so that we can put it out digitally.”
How is the response from UK crowds to your music?
“The UK has always had our back from the very beginning. So when it comes to the live perspective, they give us great energy!”
What’s been your favourite discovery while touring the UK?
“Hard to say. There has been so many. We have been coming here since 1988 so I would say learning very early that though we come from different backgrounds, there is a lot about all of us that is relatable.”
What’s so magic about three?
“We are still together. How many groups can say that?”
And the Anonymous Nobody is set for release on August 26 via Rough Trade Records
De La Soul play the following UK dates:
Jun 25: Kelvingrove Bandstand and Ampitheatre, Glasgow
Jul 8-9: Electric Beach Festival, Newquay
Jul 9-10: Mostly Jazz Funk and Soul Festival, Moseley
Jul 22: The Big Park, Amersham
More information can be found at delasoul.merchdirect.com/shows