MASEO with DJs PAUL E. LOPES, SON OF SOUL, FASE and BAG OF TRIX at Roxy Blu (12 Brant), Friday (February 21), $15. www.hotstepper.com
When last we heard from conscious hiphop heroes De La Soul, the Long Island trio had seen their record label dissolve and were resigned to releasing their music on their own. If anything, the current chaos of the music industry has only solidified De La's position.
Fourteen years after releasing their classic 3 Feet High And Rising disc, De La Soul remain the perennial hiphop outsiders, eschewing the money hustle, operating on their own schedule and growing old gracefully by making rap music for adults.
Two-thirds of the way through their ambitious Art Official Intelligence trilogy, the program was upended when De La's long-time label, Tommy Boy, collapsed. But rather than pack it in, the trio decided to go it alone.
While most of their major-label contemporaries whine about music downloading and its effect on their sales, De La Soul are using the Internet to their advantage, embracing the technology and using it to take the place of a traditional label.
"Traditionally, to break a record you have to spend so much on promotion, videos and payola," De La Soul DJ Vincent "Maseo" Mason explains from Florida prior to a DJ gig at Roxy Blu Friday (February 21). "The Internet changes all that. We already have some value and the majority of our audience is online, so it's easy for us.
"I can send an e-mail splash with my new single and video to my fans. I get 250,000 hits on www.spitkicker.com every month. Anyone who's complaining about the Internet simply is not educated on what's available."
Part of that philosophy comes from De La Soul's willingness to admit that they're not about to be the hiphop flavour of the month again anytime soon. A trio of 32-year-old family men doesn't stand a chance against a kid thug like 50 Cent, and to their credit, De La Soul agree.
It's a realistic approach that's manifested itself in mature, intelligent records, and it's what's kept De La Soul together for so long in an industry where longevity is a rarity.
"I have a loyal 300,000 fans who check for us every time we put out a record," Maseo offers. "Anyone else is extra. We're not interested in being current or hot.
"I have a lot more to gain from a reserved approach. It shows consistency, quality and longevity, and those are things that stand up. There was an era of hiphop when the music made was going to be played forever. Me, Myself & I will be played forever. I have a nine-year-old son who recently heard Sugarhill Gang for the first time, and it blew his mind. That's quality, in my mind, not fleeting success.
"We're considered to be legends in this game. We don't need to aim for anything beyond that."