It’s getting towards a year since De La Soul announced they would be releasing their next album via Kickstarter, with contributors told they would eventually be getting what they paid for in April, in August or September. That’s August or September of 2015, I should add. Because ain’t nobody got their shit yet.
If you clicked on the above link, obviously I did not have the most glowing opinion of this set-up when it was initially announced, and I was also curious why my personal trepidation didn’t appear to be shared by many other people. With the ETA (now supposedly April 15) turning out to take twice as long as everybody was told, I think it is now safe to call this whole venture for what it is- straight bullshit. I ain’t paying $45 for a new De La Soul record at the shop, I ain’t paying $45 for a new De La Soul record I can’t potentially return to the shop given the plain fact that they aren’t putting it down like they were 20 years ago, and I sure as hell ain’t paying $45 a year in advance.
I clearly don’t speak for everybody in that regard though, as De La hit their Kickstarter goal within hours.
The noblest of ideas occasionally, if not usually, fall apart. Shit happens. But this was not a great idea to begin with. The initial reasoning behind it was that it was an experimental business model aimed at eliminating the labels and middle-men. My reaction to that was, if the only way to sell records without labels is to charge the consumer twice as much, six months to a year in advance, call me captain of fucking Team Labels.
Usually when businesses blatantly drop the ball like this, they try to make it up to their customers. I’ve been all ready to gloat about calling this shit right for months now. But I figured De La would humble themselves to acknowledge the inconvenience, maybe throw everybody a bonus 7" or something to make up for the delay. But judging by the interview with them in Rolling Stone a few weeks ago, they will be taking the opposite approach and bullshitting us even further instead.
First of all, Rolling Stone is straight ass when it comes to rap. 15 years ago my old roommate had a subscription and I used to peruse it on occasion, and I stopped reading their bullshit on principle even for free. There was one article about The Roots where they insisted they hadn’t sold out because they refused to take the stage at a private show in The Hamptons until their personal chef arrived. Lolwut. In another issue they proclaimed Jay-Z the best rapper going, then in another piece further in declared that underground rap was what was really happening and J-Live was shitting on the whole game.
Their recent interview with De La contained a couple similarly side-eyeable passages;
“We couldn’t do that on a regular label,” says Posdnous. “ How you gonna present them with a song like this? They may think it’s beautiful but then it’s like, ‘Okay, so, there’s no chorus. For maybe the first three minutes of the record, you’re nowhere to be found.’”
De La will be releasing the album under their newly minted AOI imprint. Physical and digital distribution will be handled by Kobalt, the label services company that has recently worked projects by Prince, Lenny Kravitz and Best Coast.
“The idea of signing [to] a label was a bit scary,” says bandmate Dave Jolicoeur, who says they treated the Kickstarter campaign like a challenge. “We’ve been, obviously, on a label for about 20 years or so and then got moved and kicked around in the whole WEA system, and then ended up on Sanctuary. They really didn’t support that record [2004's The Grind Date]. So just the idea of putting our project and what we create in someone else’s hands … is a scary thing.”
Oh come the fuck on. That’s bullshit. It’s just impossible to find a rap label who would let De La Soul do their thing? I don’t believe that for a second. Mass Appeal put out Meow The Jewels, and album of fucking cat sounds. Mello Music Group managed to put out a record by the notoriously demanding Pete Rock last year. All the weirdo shit Stones Throw has done- Peanut Butter Wolf was really going to meddle with De La?
As previously noted, the last pre-order I pitched in on was $20 a month in advance by a real “fuck the biz” crew who doesn’t have millions of fans. My buddy dropped his second LP last fall. He’s fully independent, living off the day jobs, making great music as a passion. $15 and the record was in my hand, thick stock cover and DL card included, which is what the clown boutique labels use to justify asking us for two or three times that amount of money, months in advance.
Don’t tell me you HAVE to charge people $45 for a record six months in advance, because it is very easy to prove that is a lie. Especially coming from one of the most successful groups in the history of rap.
The blowing of sunshine up asses continued;
The De La campaign was stocked with exclusive T-shirts, limited edition colored vinyl, and offers for video chats — not to mention the unmet (a $2,500 dinner with the group at soul food fusion mainstay Red Rooster went unclaimed) to the impossible (the idea for a sampler pre-loaded with the album ended up being scrapped). One of the more whimsical tiers, a $2,000 reward titled “Sneaker Pimpin,” meant that two lucky fans got to spend the day shopping in New York with the group’s resident sneakerhead, Posdnous.
“They were both from Australia, so I was just, like, honestly blown away,” says Posdnous. “You’re spending your money to fly from Australia just to hang out with me for a few hours?”
Though the original offer only promised a pair of signed sneakers and an afternoon hunting for kicks, Posdnous ended up calling in some favors to some sneaker companies for “parting gifts,” and the crew ran into Jeff Staple, designer of the highly limited “Pigeon Dunks,” whose rarity caused a small melee in 2005.
“I made a friend!” says Dave, who spent a day toy shopping in New York with a fan from Colorado. “He loves toys and stuff like that, but he just wanted to have a conversation. He wanted to talk and kick it and talk about music and hip-hop and pick my brain about everything De La. It was nice to see a fan use an opportunity to connect with an artist and really use it.”
Oh God, please stop. You didn’t “make a friend.” You SOLD your friendship. We’re really going to act like some dudes putting up a couple stacks in addition to the airfare required to fly across the world is some kind of feel-good, totally organic br0mance? Yeah, they’re spending their money to hang out with you for a few hours. YOU KNOW THIS, BECAUSE YOU PUT A PRICE ON IT AND SOLD IT. Get the fuck outta here with that...
De La Soul is like The Simpsons to me. Whatever issues we may have with the current product, those dues are paid. I have no problem with not feeling compelled to buy their new music. But I really don’t like seeing possibly my favorite rap group of all time talking a bunch of demonstrably bullshit self-serving hype.
De La Soul deserves to be called out on all this. But I’ll be damned if everybody isn’t on some “thank you sirs, may we have another!” shit. The rare individual who asks on FB when they’re finally going to have the music they paid for almost a year ago in their hands gets put on blast. That shit is super lame.
I do not believe in musical guilty pleasures. A great song by an otherwise shitty artist or human being is still a great song (best examples I can think of- Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me,” or pre-”You Can’t Touch This” MC Hammer). By the same token, there are no sacred cows in this shit. Illmatic is one of the greatest records ever. It Was Written was a steaming turd.
I get that not everybody is as much of a shit-talking jerk as myself. But c’mon, people. This is/was some clear-cut bullshit from the start, and it’s about our money. Well, it’s about your money I guess, no way I was getting down with this. But this little experiment has been as effective as it was necessary, and deserves to be called out as such. Unless you’re been downloading their shit for free, you don’t owe De La Soul a damn thing. And if you’re still waiting to receive the record you paid for a year ago, they owe you more than you’re going to get.