Part One of our exclusive interview with De La Soul, we broke down the technical skill set it took to produce the visual spectacular that is "Get Away (feat the Spirit of The WU)." Today we continue with a little more tech talk, De La's legendary position in hip-hop and how the group has adapted throughout the years to stay ahead of the culture.
THE SOUL DYNAMIC: Pos you talked about "Ooh" earlier, De La Soul has definitely done some historic videos over the years, “Me, Myself and I," "Stakes is High," which you alluded to in the video with the balloon, I know it's real early, it just came out today, but where does "Get Away (feat.The Spirit of the WU)” rank among those videos for you and for the group?
Pos: Believe it or not, it's funny enough for me to say, but I don't usually enjoy videos. Here you are spending all day putting something together that's only going to amount to three minutes worth of time. I like when you've taken the time to understand a concept, how you're going to execute against it and when it's executed smoothly, that's how I rate videos. I mean "Get Away" is certainly up there, because it was a one day shoot and it had a gorilla style feel. For me to be in a group that came out in '88, I like when I can turn around and still feel like I'm doing something how it was back then. As opposed to, "we’re in De La Soul, we have this big tour bus outside waiting for us while we shoot a video." Again really I enjoyed the gorilla style feel of it. And everyone who came to do it — we came to do it — as if it was us against the world trying to put something out amazing. So it’s really up there for me.
THE SOUL DYNAMIC: Let's get into more of you guys as a group. How has De La Soul changed over the last nine years, it's been a while since you've been in the scene?
Pos: We've always see ourselves as people evolving, it's never been hard for us to put together music. We make music everyday, we write rhymes everyday, and sometimes we need an outsider to hear something we're working on and to be like, "Yo, why haven't you put that out?" At the end of the day we're so used to creating, it's almost like we're on auto pilot. I remember one time, god bless the dead, before Heavy D died, he told me,"I don't know if I should still rhyme, because I feel like I've said everything." It was crazy to hear him say that, because I know that I could have never feel like I said it all, because I'm constantly learning something new everyday that I want to implement in a rhyme or use creatively. And we love the challenge. The challenge of not just being a new group out not everyone is looking at, but being the older group, that now has to make you look at us, and earn your respect. And even though we have a career and a legacy that exists, we still love to earn your ear and have people appreciate us. We stay busy, we stay touring, whether it's with Gorillaz or whoever else, and it's a blessing to still be here and constanlty still be motivated to try something new.
THE SOUL DYNAMIC: You touched on this a little bit, but what inspires you to keep making music?
Pos: Our love for it, combined with trying to create and do something that hasn't been done before. We just don't stay in love with the fact, and this weighs on us as a chip on our shoulders, "Hey we created Three Feet High and Rise, and hey our album's in the Library of Congress." We don't care, we don't give a shit about none of that, we never cared about none of that, because we don't want to be complacent and because we're always trying to create something new, have fun and pay our bills (more laughter from everyone).
THE SOUL DYNAMIC: Just like everybody else.
Pos: Just like everyone else.
THE SOUL DYNAMIC: Ok, some people might take this video and see it as De La calling out the present state of hip-hop. How do you view the culture of hip-hop at the current moment and talk about how this video connects to that and what you're trying to say with "Get Away."
Pos: I love letting people understand this song is not really about, "Ok so you young guys, this is how you're suppose to do it. You're not doing it right, so get the hell out of here." It's about saying it to any M.C. — Period — who's wack, whether they're young or whether they're my age. I produced the record and I've always been a fan and loved the music that Wu-Tang used, so in sampling RZA's and GZA's voices, and in listening to what they were saying, it inspired how I wrote the rhyme. And then Dave heard it and fell in love with it. Understandably a lot of our fans, who may feel displaced from hip-hop, will gravitate to this song and hold it dearly. Now some of what I'm seeing on the internet is like "Yeah this is what real hip-hop should sound like," and you know that's not how I feel. We just try and make good music.
THE SOUL DYNAMIC: And the state of hip-hop?
Pos: The state of hip-hop, you know there's a lot of great hip-hop artists today and there's a lot of bull shit. Due to the fact that we have this great engine called the internet, you get to see and view a whole lot more bull shit, but what I always try to tell people is all that was still there when we were coming up and if you're trying to be mad at these young kids, whether it's (Lil) Wayne or whoever else, for talking about drugs and street violence, I educate them and say when I was thirteen, Busy Bee and Cold Krush were talking about cocaine and weed as well. I got the tapes to prove it, they were doing the same thing. What I do feel is missing, is music complete in album form. The way that technology is today, people just want it now and they're given the option to pick and choose what they want from your album, as oppose to you presenting it as a entire piece of work. Its dictating the way people write music, artists are like "I'm just gonna put out one or two hit records to make the album sell," so that's how they write. Now we come from the era of the N.W.A's, who had a complete album in Straight Outta Compton or Run DMC, who had one in Tougher Than Leather and so we continue to give you complete portions of music. Even now with us shooting out song after song, when the album comes out we feel it's going to be a complete entity. But I'm not one of those dudes who hate on young dudes, I'm not. I listen to everything. I sit in front of the music, I don't need my little son to tell me what to listen too, I listen, no different than when I was 17, and I'm 43 years old now. I listen to music. It's my job and it's a job that I love to do.
THE SOUL DYNAMIC: You’re planning to release one track a month until the whole album is out?
Pos Yes, we're not stupid. We want to be apart of where the era is now as well. And we realize that people and artist can constantly give their fans music. So while we're shaping and getting the album where we want it, we want to throw out music as well. And today you have no choice but to constantly be working, especially with everyone's level of ADHD and with all this technology. Right now people are like, "we love it, we love what you just did, what's next?" Immediately. It's just where the culture is.
THE SOUL DYNAMIC: That being said then how are you feeling about this next album?
Pos: It's excellent, what we have so far! I mean we are our own worst critics. We have more than one style of album in the works. We're trying to do a whole live album and have like 80 something joints in the can there. Then we have a more conventional De La album going where we have a ton of stuff already in the can as well. We're so busy trying to live up to expectations of us as fans. We want our fans to feel the way Run DMC or Slick Rick made us feel when they put out music — dope.
Kris: It's mad inspiring to hear you talk.
Pos: We're just normal cats who love what we do. Sometimes you have to respect the fact that other people's opinions matter in what you do. We as musicians can find ourselves becoming our worst enemies, because we're our biggest critics, when all we have to do is step back and realize "you know what," we can just throw it out there and have fun with it. And that's just what we're trying to do now.
Lenny: (He jumps in) I guess the last question is, how's LL (De La Soul is currently on tour with Public Enemy, Ice Cube and LL Cool J)?
Pos: He's killing it. We're on this King of the Mic tour, it's dope. He's in a position where he has pressure on him every night. I mean we come out as an opener and we do our best to dismantle that stage. Public Enemy comes after us, kills it. Ice Cube comes after him — destroys it. And then LL has to come clean up and kill it all, and out of everyone I just named — LL is the only one who's standing on that stage by himself. He don't have a group, he don't have a hype man, and he's standing there with his fucking muscles, sweating, killing it. He's doing his thing.
THE SOUL DYNAMIC: Did you ever think that this would still be going on twenty, thirty years ago, that you'd still be performing on stage ?
Pos: The crazy thing is, honestly, I actually was foolish enough to think that. I've always looked at what I wanted to do, which is this music thing, as how I saw the Eagles and Chicago — we'll be here forever. When you see people falling off, people you love like EPMD or the Fugees or even my own family Tribe, I couldn't believe it, because I was foolish enough to think that we would all be here together. So, it's so dope to be on this run with them now. The first major tour we ever did in '89 was the Nitro tour, which was us, LL, N.W.A, Public Enemy, Slick Rick and here we are with some of those groups from that tour together again. And it's dope to see how we've come from 18/19 years old back then, when you're running around chasing girls, wilin out, and now we're all parents and you see none of that. You see people's kids backstage, and we all sit here and bug out after the show and we're like, "We will see ya'll tomorrow." Lenny you know us, you know that shit. Before it was,"Where's the after party," now it's, "We're gonna go get some sleep." It's a beautiful thing. It's been a blessing.
And it's that hustler's spirit which transcends. A one day shoot, a crew of NYC's best and brightest, each bringing their own respective brand of talent to a project that needed nothing less than flawless execution and a result that culminated in quality. "Get Away (feat. the Spirit of the WU)" is a video that speaks to an old school ethic being the bond still tying us together today. Even in the midst of our instant gratification, speed of light communication and increasing technologically dependent culture — through all of it, the true essence of hip-hop is still standing.
Writer | Rene Ramirez
Photographer | Jonnelle Monzon