After sharing their entire catalog for free, De La Soul looks back on some of its biggest songs After sharing their entire catalog for free, De La Soul looks back on some of its biggest songs

De La Soul Reflects On The Group's Greatest Hits

When De La Soul—one of the most influential, groundbreaking hip-hop acts of all time—announces that they are making their ENTIRE catalogue available for free via digital download (for a limited time), you don’t ask why. You quickly make your way to the goodness. At this point, De La has gone beyond cliché legendary status. The innovative Long Island trio of Kelvin “Posdnous” Mercer, David “Dave” Jolicoeur and Vincent “Maseo” Mason are now a larger-than-life institution that to this day is still keeping fans guessing.

From the foundational shakeup of their joyously loopy 1989 landmark debut 3 Feet High and Rising (Tommy Boy) to the grown man genius of 2004’s The Grind Date, the Native Tongue provocateurs still matter (be on the lookout for De La’s upcoming release later this year, You're Welcome). In honor of De La Soul’s speechless offering, VIBE presents a mini Full Clip of sorts. Here is the group in their own words on some of their most important tracks over the years. Put up the peace sign, yall! —Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)

“Potholes In My Lawn” (Tommy Boy, 1988)
Dave: It was really rough, but once we brought Prince Paul into the picture he gave it an upgrade of a lifetime. To an extent Paul was a fourth member [of De La Soul]. He helped bring our ideas together; he took the silliness and directed it so it could become something. Like everyone else, our inspiration was Run-DMC. They were classic, but at the same time they were taking the music to place to new places. To see the image of Run, DMC, and Jam Master Jay maintained even when we didn’t care much for the music years later that spirit was real. Just the whole idea of two MC’s and DJ, that was important. They were it. We modeled ourselves around them. But we took that inspiration to new places.

Maseo: We came into the studio with “Potholes In My Lawn” and “Freedom of Speak” to include on a demo. “Potholes In My Lawn” ended up being our first single. Paul had good professional structure. He took charge, yet still gave us that freedom.

“Plug Tunin’” (Tommy Boy, 1988)
Maseo: We would do it off of The Honey Drippers’ “Impeach The President.” Somehow we started to make a conceptual song, but it really didn’t become much of anything until Pos found a sample.

Posdnous: In the beginning “Plug Tunin’” was really a routine. Being young, we were still taking a lot of lessons from groups like Cold Crush Brothers and Crash Crew. I had a 45 of a song called “Written On The Wall” by the Invitations. It was a doo-wop record and I had a little pause cassette thing and I paused it like, “Yo, this could be dope.” And funny enough, on the b-side of “Written On The Wall,” it said Plug Side. So that’s the only reason we titled it “Plug Tunin.’” I played it for Dave and he was like, Yo that can work! We ended up doing the whole thing on a Casio RZ-1.

“Me Myself and I” (Tommy Boy, 1988)
Dave: We hated the song [laughs]. But it’s the gift and the curse. We felt like there were so many other songs that were 100 times better than that. But you respect it for what it is. At the end of the day, people loved the song. And what more can you ask for? Although it was pretty much bullshit.

“Brainwashed Followers” (Tommy Boy, 1988)
Dave: This was part of our joking skits, but we appreciated that people got something out of it. Just being in the studio bored, the idea just came to throw this 11-year old kid on the track and let him talk shit about De La Soul. He was acting as the voice of the masses. We wanted to make sense of the fact that people were trying to box us in [as rap hippies early on in our careers].

“Pease Porridge” (Tommy Boy, 1991)
Maseo: That song stemmed from a lot of stuff we went through on LL Cool J’s Nitro tour. We all became family from us to Big Daddy Kane to Slick Rick to LL to NWA. It was a huge rap tour, but it wasn’t much security. So anytime we had a problem in a particular city like Detroit, it was intense. We were literally fighting for the right reasons; protecting one another and being treated unfairly especially at that time with us being the new act. De La Soul stood out based on the fact that we were known for love and peace.

Posdnous: We got kicked off the tour for fighting. So all this led to the intro of “Peas Porridge.” We also addressed an incident that happened at [a club] with some one hurting Baby Chris (Violator head Chris Lighty) and us just trying to help. But once again De La, A Tribe Called Quest and Jungle Brothers stood out. So it was us really just playing off of [our experiences].

“Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa” (Tommy Boy, 1991)
Posdnous: We were coming out of the train and we saw this homeless guy wearing a Santa Claus suit on. The title popped in my head. The subject matter came from someone close to me where she was getting abused by her father. So I thought, We can make this work. Prince Paul gave us a beat tape when we were on the road and the original instrumental demo of “Millie” was on it already. It was so melancholy and dark… all fit together.

“Breakadawn” (Tommy Boy, 1993)
Dave: There are times when Pos is going to love a record and I’m going to hate it and vice versa. I think when “Breakadawn” was chosen to be a single and the video it was just too much for a record. It sounded like we were going pop, which at that time was a no-no. There were so many other songs on Buhloone Mindstate that defined De La Soul’s sound and creativity. But when you are working with a machine that is trying to sell records, the right thing to do is to put “Breakadawn” out.

“Stakes Is High” (Tommy Boy, 1996)
Posdnous: It got back to us that Tupac was a little upset because the “Ego Trippin’” video reminded him of “I Get Around.” After “Stakes Is High” it was more his homeboys telling him that these dudes are dissing you. So he felt like he had to come at us. But it wasn’t really about Pac. It was about how we felt about the industry. It’s funny that we are talking about this because a year ago I ran into Pac’s sister. We were on the same flight together and she was like, “Yo, Pac really loved ya’ll dudes. He was just really hurt.”

Maseo: It’s funny how everyone is saying how hip-hop has become too materialistic and violent now. But we were saying it back then.

“All Good?” feat. Chaka Kahn (Tommy Boy Entertainment, 2000)
Maseo: That was the best studio session I’ve had in my whole career. She (Chaka) was so down to earth, so motherly. I had to run to the store to get her a fuzzy navel [laughs].

“Feel Good Inc.” Gorillaz feat. De La Soul (Virgin Records, 2005)
Dave: Come to find out Damon Albam was a fan of our music. In the beginning there was this you stay on this side of the [studio] and we will stay on that side. And then you bring in a big sack of weed and it just worked out [laughs]. That’s what it was all about…vibing and a big dump truck of weed.

“Big Mouf” (Nike, 2009)
Dave: For us a song like “Big Mouth” was a challenge in terms of putting together music for athletes, runners especially. It started off with saying something about Nike [laughs]. But eventually we got to the point where we were not trying to sell anything here.

Maseo: Since the days of Tommy Boy we’ve been unconventional. It’s a big part of who we are. It’s just transcending into business. This is fun. The idea that people at the Nike conglomerate enjoyed our music and that it played it part at what they’re doing it just made sense.

Posdnous: We’ve always had to go to outside ways to make sure people hear us. We never looked at this as something to do just because Def Jam wasn’t going to sign us. We always try to challenge ourselves.

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VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

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We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

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NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

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After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

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As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

What Kiana Lede is most excited about, of course, is making music. She hopes to work on a new EP and then release an album after that. The ultimate goal is to fully realize the dreams in her personal and professional life, and she assures she’s just getting started.

“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

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