21 years after their first critically acclaimed album, De La Soul is finishing up work on yet another LP aimed for a release this year. But in 2010, the revered trio is under no pretenses regarding how the value of albums has lowered in recent times.
The group’s last regular studio album was 2004’s Grind Date. Since then, De La has dropped two compilation albums of vaulted material (The Impossible: Mission TV Series, Operation Japan) and a mixtape (Are You In?: Nike+ Original Run).
Unlike some veteran emcees who’ve blamed mixtapes for the genre’s low album sales, De La member Maseo attributes the entire’s industry’s transition to digital as the true culprit.
“I don’t think it is mixtapes. The digital era has diluted the importance of albums. Mixtapes has always been here, even from the time of cassette tapes,” Maseo said, referencing with mixtape pioneers like Ron G and Kid Capri ruled the scene. “The attention spans are so short now [because] of the digital wave. No one cares to hear a whole project anymore; people just want one or two songs. People are just going to download to get the snippets of what they like.”
In 1996 De La Soul dropped their Stake Is High album. The LP is remembered fondly for its pointed criticism of the rampant materialism and gangsta rap personas that were dominant in mainstream Hip-Hop. 14 years later, Maseo feels that project can be applied to any era and still be important to analyzing Hip-Hop culture.
“To be honest with you and not to sound egotistical, but I think the music we make is pretty timeless,” he stated. “[Stakes Is High] is still relevant to what is going on today. The message still is the same; the stakes is high [in the music industry].
A release date for the new album has not been determined. De La Soul’s last show was a headlining set on July 31 at Atlanta’s 1st annual One MusicFest.
My mother is a big De La Soul fan. I originally brought Stakes Is High for her as a birthday present when I was 14. At the time, I liked some of the music on there but didn’t really come to appreciate what they were saying until the end of my high school days a few years later. It wasn’t until then that I began to really question the images and content being thrown at me on TV, radio and in print.
These days, I get a laugh when fans in my age group give such an idealized, flawless view of the music from this era. Albums like Stakes Is High and songs such as “I Used to Love H.E.R.” and “What They Do” remind us that we as a culture always face challenges with our music. And that is an important part of Hip-Hop’s journey that shouldn’t be overlooked when we share our knowledge with the younger generations.