After decades of failed negotiations involving sample clearances and contractual issues, the music of rap legends De La Soul will finally be available on streaming services on March 3. The move was made possible after the trio’s first six albums, including its all-time great 1989 debut Three Feet High and Rising, were acquired by Reservoir Media as part of a deal with De La Soul’s longtime label Tommy Boy Records.
Ahead of the full catalog, the single “The Magic Number” will arrive on streaming sites on Jan. 13. Besides Three Feet High and Rising, the streaming arrivals include 1991’s De La Soul Is Dead, 1993’s Buhloone Mindstate, 1996’s Stakes Is High, 2000’s Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump, and the following year’s AOI: Bionix. Proper reissues of the catalog are also planned for 2023, starting with new vinyl, CD, and cassette editions of Three Feet High and Rising on March 3.
Later De La Soul releases such as 2004’s The Grind Date and 2016’s And the Anonymous Nobody… have been available to stream for years, as they were not originally released as part of the group’s Tommy Boy deal.
“As someone who has devoted my life to hip-hop for over 30 years, my relationship with the guys in De La Soul dates back to my early days in the industry, and I can attest to how influential their catalog is to the genre,” says Reservoir EVP of A&R and catalog development Faith Newman. “When Reservoir acquired Tommy Boy, the first call we made was to De La Soul. We vowed to bring their music to streaming, and it means the world to our team to make good on that promise and expose a whole new generation of listeners to one of the most important catalogs in hip-hop history.”
The streaming issue most recently flared up in 2019, when Tommy Boy prematurely announced that it was bringing the catalog into the digital age. De La Soul responded by claiming that the proposed agreement was “unbalanced” and “unfair” and said 90% of the revenue would go to the label, leaving group members with only 10%.
“We wish Tommy Boy no ills but we do call for a boycott of anything bearing the name,” De La Soul said at the time. “Karma will do the rest … that old enslaved record label contract dinosaur is long dead and gone, but unfortunately still stinks.”
De La Soul has kept busy despite the ongoing streaming fight, with its members having appeared on several Gorillaz albums and frequently performed live with the group. De La Soul will tour internationally this spring, including a big April 8 performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall.