Samples Send De La Soul’s Older Music into Digital Rights Hell

If are ever in the mood for some old-school hip hop and search iTunes for De La Soul’s 3 Feet Hight and Rising or any of their early records, you will come up dry. None of the group’s work from the late 80s/early 90s is available for sale. Nor can they been found on Spotify or any other streaming site.

Why? It’s not because the group doesn’t want it to be. This New York Times article explains the problem.

On Valentine’s Day in 2014, De La Soul did something surprising: The group gave away almost all of its work.

After gathering fans’ email addresses in an online call-out, this hip-hop trio from Long Island sent out links to zip files for its first six albums. Those albums — including its 1989 debut, “3 Feet High and Rising,” a platinum record in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry — are some of the genre’s most influential and sonically adventurous, threading samples from obscure, kitschy records alongside recognizable pop, jazz and funk hooks.

The links were available for a day, and the group says the response overloaded the servers hosting the music files. They also attracted the attention of Warner Music, which has owned those records since 2002, when it acquired the catalog of Tommy Boy Records, a pioneering indie hip-hop label.

The attention wasn’t just because the group was giving its catalog away. It was because those six albums have never been available to buy digitally or to stream.

In a recent interview, the group explained that it had reached a boiling point.

Read on. YouTube? Not a problem.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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