In a statement to the publication Thursday (Feb. 28), Tommy Boy explained they haven’t had a moment to sit down with the iconic group to discuss in detail the streaming release of their catalog–notably for the 30th anniversary of their debut album 3 Feet High and Rising.
“Because Tommy Boy has not had the opportunity to sit down together with De La Soul and finalize our negotiations — something we’ve wanted to do for months — we have decided to postpone the digital release of their catalog scheduled for tomorrow,” the statement reads. “We know fans are eager to hear these amazing recordings and we are hopeful for a quick resolution.”
3 Feet High and Rising is one of the most influential hip-hop albums of all time. Produced by Prince Paul of Stetsasonic, the album toyed with sampling before it became a creative go-to for the genre. While the album has been praised by many and even placed in The Library of Congress’ preserved works, it faced major litigations over unlicensed usage of songs like the Turtles’ “You Showed Me” and “Transmitting Live From Mars.”
Sampling was a new practice in 1989 and laws are now in place to protect all parties but De La Soul has suffered greatly for their creative direction.
Despite the sampling issues, a rep for Tommy Boy tells Variety that clearance issues are not the biggest factor in their battle with De La Soul and, “negotiating points are still to be finalized.”
In an interview with Sway in the Morning Wednesday (Feb. 27) Maseo pointed to the samples as a problem for the group.
“I don’t know what [Tommy Boy’s] deals were with clearing samples, but back then a lot was probably done on a handshake, especially when you’re an independent” label like Tommy Boy, he said. “Nothing comes to the surface until it actually turns into something. If I was the record company at that time, I would have probably thought it was a small thing and not cleared it: ‘This little 30-second thing, who would come after that?’ And it happened! I think by the time [the catalog] got to Warner Bros., people started coming out of the woodwork, and I think for the most part [those] people are the ones whose business didn’t get dealt with.”
The group announced Tommy Boy’s plans to release their catalog on streaming services earlier this week but also revealed they would receive 10 percent (nearly pennies) while the record label would receive the rest. Tidal expressed they would not stream the albums until De La Soul was met with a fair deal from the label. The group also announced that Tommy Boy wants them to sign a confidentiality agreement before hearing the new terms.
“What’s on the table [contractually] for De La Soul is unfavorable, especially based on the infractions that have taken place, the bills that exist over time.” Maseo added. “And we have continued to pay the price, and that’s one of our big concerns with [the streaming releases of their albums].”
What can happen next will more than likely set another history-making move for De La Soul and educate the industry on the very twisted deals of the past.