Miami, FL

By now, it’s well documented De La Soul and Tommy Boy Records’ founder Tom Silverman aren’t seeing eye-to-eye. The legendary New York Hip Hop trio has been in a battle to take control of their first six albums for what feels like an eternity.

Last week, Posdnuos, Dave and Maseo revealed negotiations had stalled, and there was no resolution. According to one of De La’s Instagram posts, Silverman flatly stated he’s “not in the business of giving artists back their masters.”

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But in a recent interview with HipHopDX, Maseo explained that while he understands that’s often part of the business, he noted they were so young when they got into it that it was easy for the powers that be to persuade them into signing something that might not have been in their best interest.

“I was young,” he tells DX. “First of all, the way it was presented to me at the time, you know, it was presented in a manipulating manner when I think back. You’ve got your lawyers, and your business manager … when you’ve got all these people and here it is, they already have ongoing relationships with one another prior to it, you kind of get coerced to do something that appears to be customary.

“I actually spoke about this with Dave the other day. I was like, ‘Dave, man we were coerced to do those certain things.’ I was like, ‘After going through the trials and tribulations and gaining knowledge of this whole thing, people give you a perception like things are just customary.’ When publishing advances were offered, it was like this is what’s customary to take because they definitely wanted the publishing, you know?”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzOOCnkUlnA

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Maseo does say they received writer’s credit but that well eventually ran dry.

“At the end of the day, we did get publishing advances and we got writer’s credit,” he explains. “Writer’s credit means we’ll get paid for the songs we played, but we have no ownership. Records do stop playing, so when they stop playing, you stop getting paid. But overall, the catalog still holds some value.”

Although Tommy Boy didn’t literally say, “fuck you guys,” it was essentially implied, at least that’s how Maseo perceived it. He’s also baffled by the fact Tommy Boy attempted to release their first six albums on all streaming platforms on the 30th anniversary of 1989’s seminal De La Soul album, 3 Feet Hight and Rising. 

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“In much nicer words he said, ‘I’m not in the business of giving artists back their masters. Period,'” he says. “You know, at the end of the day, it’s like come on, man. I deserve my masters based on the value that I give to sustain myself and my group.

“There must have been a reason to celebrate all of this on our anniversary. You could have actually released an entire Tommy Boy catalog that you got back and waited for your anniversary. Why are you not trying to do this on his anniversary?”

This isn’t the first time Tommy Boy has been at the center of controversy. Naughty By Nature’s Treach once unleashed a small army of vermin and reptiles into their former New York City offices, which Maseo says is the reason most major labels have security.

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“Anybody who gets into this kind of situation, you’re definitely angry, you’re in a rage,” he admits. “You really want to hurt somebody. You go through these emotions that … in Hip Hop, most rappers will act out. You know what I’m saying? But I’m gonna wait.

“Once upon a time, Treach did go up to the offices and let out a bunch of rats and snakes. This was the mid-90s when Tommy Boy was still on 86th Street. Treach went in the office and let out rats and snakes all throughout the office. They had to shut down. That’s what also led to them moving downtown. That is also the reason why most record companies have security up there.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRIc_EjwMp8

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Maseo says there was a period when Silverman welcomed the drama.

“Tom, once upon a time, even used to like artists hitting the label,” he recalls. “He’d always think the good and bad helped sell records, really the artists talking shit about the label, that’s good for record sales. He would say stuff like that. Now it’s kind of taboo because you’re looking like you may not be able to do normal business in the future.

“But let’s be clear, they fell off. They’re trying to make a comeback. They’re too busy trying to say we’re not relevant when they’re not relevant. We’ve had continued success without Tommy Boy. Let’s close the coffin on this so we can really get back to work.”

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De La is currently cooking up two new full-length albums, including a third installment of the Art Official Intelligence series. DJ Premier and Pete Rock are providing beats for the projects. They will serve as the follow-ups to De La’s 2016 Grammy Award-nominated album, And The Anonymous Nobody.