DE LA SOUL with DEL THE FUNKY HOMOSAPIEN, FUCKED UP and others as part of Wakestock on the Toronto Islands, Saturday (July 28). $42.50, four-day pass $54.50. All ages. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
In a time before all Lils and Jibbs and Mims - before Nelly, Diddy, Jigga, Biggie or Busta - there was De La.
Posdnuos, Dave and Maseo's 1989 debut, 3 Feet High And Rising, was a hiphop high-water mark by a trio who continue to make evolution their priority.
Eighteen years later, De La Soul are still one of hiphop's most beloved groups, with a command of the genre that few can touch. Taking a studio break from working on new material in NYC, Posdnuos spilled on his group's continued popularity, the fall of East Coast hiphop and the bittersweetness of finally winning a Grammy.
It's been almost two decades since your first album. How has De La Soul managed to stay popular for so long?
Some of it is luck. Some of it is that we never believed our own hype. Even when we first came out, when we were wunderkinds and everyone was saying "De La's this, De La's that," we never believed it. We believed in the music. We were so eager to learn and try different things, and listen to (Prince) Paul or Chuck D or LL Cool J.
To this day, one of the reasons we're still here is that we can listen to a new artist with a take on things we never chose to see. We never see ourselves as just teachers; we're always students, still ready to learn.
As an East Coast hiphop artist, how do you feel about seeing New York rap slip from the charts and get overtaken by Southern rap?
East Coast rap is suffering. There's not that much creativity. Honestly, I personally don't hear and feel a lot of heart, and that's one thing I can give to a lot of the Southern rappers. A lot of Southern rap is cool, and some of it I really like. The majority of it doesn't hold my attention, but one thing I can say is that those artists really believe in what they're doing, and I think that translates. You may not be in sync with the way the drum machine sounds or the type of repetitive bass line they're using, but you can feel the energy from them.
I think that's one thing that De La Soul did - we had some real quirky stuff going on in 3 Feet High And Rising, but even someone who wouldn't normally listen to that could hear the truth in it.
What was it like winning a Grammy (for Feel Good Inc. with Gorillaz in the best pop vocal collaboration category)?
The thought of it is sweet. It's a great accomplishment, for the Gorillaz as well... but you also sometimes wish that you could have done it on your own. I hope some of the stuff we've done in the past was worth that same respect.
What went on with the Gorillaz drew a lot of attention from people who may not normally have been behind us, and now they've gone back through that to experience our prior projects. It's great, but we wish that albums like Stakes Is High (1996) and Buhloone Mindstate (1993) could have been recognized in that same light.
De La Soul play Saturday at 5:10 pm on the main stage as part of Wakestock, and the four-day fest (July 26-29) on the Toronto Islands features several other hot hiphop acts, including Lupe Fiasco (main stage, Sunday, 5:30 pm) Cadence Weapon (main stage, Sunday, 2:20 pm), BrassMunk (Wakestock indie stage, Saturday, 1 pm), and Evidence (main stage, Sunday, 4:30 pm).