All hell broke loose when De La Soul revealed the terms of Tommy Boy Records’ streaming contract earlier this week. The revered Hip Hop trio’s catalog has notoriously been tied up in negotiations for years and it looks like their first six albums will finally be available on all streaming platforms in the near future.
The problem? Pos, Dave and Maseo are being offered 10 percent of the deal, while Tommy Boy is raking in 90 percent. The situation is so dire, Questlove kicked off a “Tommy Boy Boycott” with JAY-Z, TIDAL, Nas, A Tribe Called Quest’s Jarobi and The Beat Junkies’ DJ Rhettmatic (among others) quickly falling in line.
But Maseo has been careful about what he puts out there. The group’s issues lie with Tommy Boy founder Tom Silverman who Maseo says has “always been pretty much an unfair business man.”
Silverman currently owns all of De La Soul’s masters and Pos, Dave and Mase are well aware there’s only so much they can do legally. However, the fact remains this is 30 years of blood, sweat and tears — all they want is a favorable deal.
“This is exposing the truth of the situation at least,” Maseo tells HipHopDX. “At the end of the day, we all take a hit whether we are the good guy or the bad guy in the situation. I was careful enough to say it’s not everybody. All we ask is to be fair. For what we’ve been able to sustain … look, Tom lost the catalog. And losing the catalog, I could have potentially lost my career. Between now and then, look what I’ve been able to sustain.”
Despite De La’s continued success, it’s taken a toll on all of them.
“There’s been a lot of pain and suffering through this,” he admits. “To even take care of my family, I had to tour like a mother fucker. Do you know all the things I’ve missed because of shit like this? I’m not substantially living the way as it appears to be.”
Interestingly enough, De La was considering launching their own “Tommy Boy Boycott,” but Questlove coincidentally took the reigns.
“Let me tell you what’s crazy,” he explains. “We flirted with the idea of a boycott for a long time — for about a good month-and-a-half. It’s crazy Questlove came out of the blue with that. We honestly wanted to be really clear on it being a boycott. It just sat there on our tongue. We were like, ‘What the fuck do we do!?’
“We legally can’t fight and can’t afford to fight. We ended up refraining from that. Tom [Silverman] can legally do this. It’s pretty much turned into a protest to us and a boycott for the fans. The boycott manifested on its own. It had been up to this point just a protest.”
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DE LA SOUL is the foundation for the young or old, Hip Hop lovers or not. It’s UNIVERSAL RESPECT for these brothers! My friends. Word to the GZA – “Tommy ain’t my motherfucker boy” When you don’t respect the foundation you’re Doomed for Bad Karma! Look out for New Moves Made by De La & i. #delasoul #realunity #Tommyboycott #respecttheartist
Although Mase doesn’t “feel good” about the entire situation, he would sooner die than roll over and simply ignore what’s happening, although he’s treading lightly.
“I’m taking a knee,” he says. “I don’t feel good about this at all. The fans get it. You guys remember when we gave it away for free ,right? At this point in time, at the end of the day, I know I gotta be careful based on him [Silverman] being mad. The retaliation could be nasty. I gotta think further on how rich people think.”
Pos, Mase and Dave were barely out of high school when they released their seminal album, 1989’s 3 Feet High and Rising. They were just three wide-eyed New York kids with a voracious love of Hip Hop and an ambition to match. Mase admits their youth and naivety to the music business got them in this spot.
“When you reflect on all of it, it was a 12” deal that lead to another 12” that led to an option of three more options contingent on how the first one would go and what they thought the success would be,” he says. “The lawyer at the time, J. Kramer, we used him based on just following the lead of Stetsasonic and KRS-One. KRS used to always say his name in his music.”
He continues, “At that time, you’re just learning who’s been burned in the business prior to your entry and the things that have gone on in not just Hip Hop but also music in general. These are things we were aware of coming up. Take care of your business. Hire a lawyer. Even to this day, we can read the contracts all day long, but theres’s legal jargon.
“I didn’t go to school to become a attorney. You just hope your attorney is on your team. The thing is, everybody is in business for themselves. As we learned over the years, they are more with the labels than the artists they rep. It’s like a good ol’ boys club.”
De La is still in good spirits despite all of this.
“I’m through the hiccup,” he says. “The world knows. JAY-Z knows. Questlove knows. Ebro knows. Apple Music knows. Everybody knows! I really feel free at this point. I’m honestly ready to move on with my life. 30 years!? We already missed the download era. I already got my grey hairs [laughs]. I’m alright. I think what’s happening now that’s atypical De La, you get clowned now. It’s like, we don’t expect you to change. Get the fuck outta here now.”
Besides, Pos, Dave and Mase have more enticing things on the horizon. They are getting ready to head overseas with Public Enemy and Wu-Tang Clan for a string of shows. And they’re also back in the studio with DJ Premier and Pete Rock working on a follow-up to 2016’s And The Anonymous Nobody and a third installment in the Art Official Intelligence series.
“We gotta get back in the studio,” he confesses. “This is a distraction. It’s a pretty good one. It’s distracting the entire world. It’s creating the distraction we need so we can get back to work. This part of it feels really good. Tom [Silverman] has gotten away with so much in this culture. He doesn’t deserve the celebration. We do. He doesn’t.
“I‘m gonna be honest. I’m celebrating. My crew, we on the same page with this. Like yeah, ‘Fuck him, let’s go.’ All our friends get it together. I just want to like like like like it!!”
Evidently, the boycott is working. On Thursday (February 28), De La shared an update and it looks like the tables are turning.
“Dear Fans, Tommy Boy wants to negotiate, but only if we sign a confidentiality agreement first,” the post reads. “Feels like they want to silence us to ensure that we cannot share this story with you, while they continue to short change our legacy at the negotiating table.
“How about we close a deal first, then we agree to keep the deal confidential.”