The revered lyricist said during an interview with Okayplayer that De La Soul was already hard at work on their 1996 album when he linked up with the A Tribe Called Quest rhymer, and that Tip was flipping through a few beats Dilla had sent to him when he heard what ended up being the instrumental for “Stakes Is High.”
“Well, when it came to ‘Stakes is High,’ we had already started working on the album, knew that was going to be the name. And we knew that we wanted a title track,” Pos recalled. “So I looped up some record, I rhymed, and that was the start. But even then I was like, ‘No, I think this ain’t it,’ Posdnuous said. “And Dave was like, ‘Yeah, no, the rhyme is cool. The music is dope.’ But we were like, ‘Nah, the music itself has to sound like the coming down of God, the Koran, Budda, everything.'”
He continued: “It just had to sound like the end of days. So, one day I’m at Q-Tip’s crib and he was like, ‘Yo, I just got a bunch of shit from Dilla. You want to hear?’ So he starts playing me every track. And every track that comes on is better than the last. But he will always be like, ‘Yo, what do you think of it?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s dope.’ He’s like, ‘Word yeah, I think this is something me and Phife could get on.’
“The next track would come on. ‘Yo, what do you think of this one?’ And he’s looking at me. I’m like, ‘Dog, that’s crazy.’ And he’s like, ‘Word yeah, I was thinking about maybe letting Ali see what he, blah, blah, blah.'”
Posdnuous said once heard the beat’s signature horns, he knew De La Soul needed to have it.
“When them horns came I’m telling you, three seconds in I said, ‘I cannot tell Q-Tip this shit is dope,'” he admitted. “I started picking at it. He went to the next track, started playing it. I said, ‘That’s dope. Can I use your bathroom real quick?’ I go in the bathroom, pull out my mobile phone, call Dave and was like, ‘Yo, it’s this fucking track Q-Tip just played for me from Jay Dee. It’s ‘Stakes is High.’ This is what we need.’ He said, ‘Word, Merce.'”
De La Soul’s latest interview, which coincided with what would have been J Dilla’s 49th birthday, is the latest press the group has done since it was announced their entire catalog will finally be available on streaming in 2023. “The Magic Number,” which originally dropped back in 1989 from De La’s seminal debut 3 Feet High and Rising,arrived on DSPs in January along with a statement from Reservoir Media confirming they’d be distributing the trio’s first six albums on March 3.
“We can’t believe this day is finally here, and we are excited to be able to share our music with fans, old and new,” De La Soul said as part of the statement. “Golnar, Rell, Faith and the Reservoir team have been great partners in this entire process. We’re grateful that our relationship with them all has enabled this to happen.”
The group recently sat down for a seperate interview with Ebro Darden on Apple Music to reflect back on their iconic catalog — more specifically 3 Feet High & Rising.
“3 Feet High and Rising was inspired, maybe just the state that we were in as kids, just not afraid to say, ‘This is me.’ At the same time, it also gave birth to an era, a sound, a style in Hip Hop,” Trugory said.
Posdnuos added: “Dealing with how the media was labeling us, purposely putting us as the champion of gangsta rap or… None of that really mattered to us.”
De La Soul’s last album was 2016’s And The Anonymous Nobody…, which featured Snoop Dogg, 2 Chainz, Usher, Estelle, Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn and more. The project peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 and was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2017 Grammy Awards.