De La Soul recently turned to Kickstarter.com to push their new project.
Few things are as pleasurable as track 2 from De La Soul’s first album 3 Feet High and Rising. Better known as Three Is The Magic Number the sample heavy track manages to be a head nodder, as well as funny and out there (What’s with Johnny Cash asking “How high’s the water, mama”?)
The whole album is great and perfectly encapsulates 1989 for me—a weird a fantastic time where hip-hop could be more than just neighborhood braggadocio. De La Soul, and their peers A Tribe Called Quest and The Jungle Brothers represented a more consciousstyle of hip-hop that wasn’t afraid to be different and funny.
Hip-hop has changed drastically over the past 26 years. While it blew up and became a billion dollar industry, the things that are at the top of the charts often consists of the same tired talk about how much weed you smoke, how you’re going to steal my girl and your crew is tougher than mine. And, sure, there’s a place for that—Biggie and Nas managed to become two of the greatest M.C.’s ever with just that subject matter—a little variety never hurts.
Enter De La Soul. The group hasn’t put out a proper album since 2004’s Grind Date. Part of the reason for the drought is the expense of clearing samples, and De La Soul has always been a sample heavy band.
To pay for their new independent album—because we all know the major label system is, in addition to being broken beyond repair, generally a terrible deal for musicians—the group turned to Kickstarter.com at the end of March. The site lets people pledge to give money to products and projects. Everything from video games to books to new tech products to albums can be funded in return for rewards. Kickstarter is not an investment vehicle, you don’t get shares in the new product. It’s more of a donation that, if whatever you’re backing, reaches its goals, then you get something out of it.
In their Kickstarter video announcing the project the group, Posdnuos, Dave and Maseo, talk openly about their place in the music industry and how the game has changed. “Sometimes we set out to make history,” says Posdnous. “Sometimes history sets out to make us.”
Over the past couple of years the group recorded over 200 hours jam sessions with various musicians. That music will make up the majority of the samples heard in the new album called and the Anonymous Nobody. Although, for a group as famous for its sampling as its rapping, there will be a few in there. “There might be three or four things,” Dave tells Billboard. “Maybe a certain snare that we didn’t capture , or a sampled voice. I mean, James Brown always sounds great.” Artists like 2 Chainz, Damon Albarn and David Byrne are expected to be on the album.
The album, with an initial goal of $110,00, hit $200,000 within 24 hours of going up. As of Monday afternoon, it sits at $348,630. Part of what likely drew people to give money to the group—besides wanting to support something awesome—is that people who give certain levels of money get increasingly great rewards. Here are just a few of the rewards offered:
Hang out on Skype with the boys
Go to the studio and be in a skit on the album
A pair of De La Soul SB Dunks
Go toy, record or sneaker shopping with your favorite member of the band
And while De La Soul isn’t the first group that was big in the 90s to turn to Kickstarter—the surviving members of TLC raised $430, 000 in February for a new album—this feels different. Could this be the start of a new D.A.I.S.Y. Age?
is a journalist living in Baltimore. He has written for publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, Billboard and The Baltimore Sun. He can be reached at email@example.com.