De La Soul - Higher And Higher
Hip hop legends De La Soul are bringing their hits to Sydney, playing the Metro in May. 3D’s Nina Bertok took a look back at their career with rapper Dave Jolicouer, while casting an eye toward what the future holds.
All they ever wanted was to hear their song on the radio but 20 years after the release of their ground-breaking debut album 3 Feet High And Rising, De La Soul have become hip hop legends in their own right. Despite a stellar, two decade-strong career, rapper Dave Jolicoeur insists the New York trio are still very much students of their genre.
“The only way you can be successful is if you forever allow yourself to learn new things,” he says. “The day that you no longer keep yourself open to absorbing new things, that’s the day it ends. We are absolutely still learning, much more the business end of things than anything. That might sound strange when you think about how long we’ve been around for, but it’s been tough to get a handle on that aspect. Especially in the last couple of years, we’ve learned the importance of getting people who can do the job right as opposed to just keeping friends around. We’ve never been as stern as we could have been, which is hard when you have a great relationship with a person that’s not necessarily doing the best job for you. It’s not easy severing ties but if you’re trying to run a business, you’ve got to do that sometimes.”
Far from having it easy, over the years De La Soul have been branded just about everything under the sun – from ‘tree-huggers’ to ‘sell-outs’. “It was frustrating but that’s an inevitable part that comes with the whole game; the media has to box you into a category,” Jolicoeur says. “For us, the bottom line was always turning people onto our music. Just getting one song played on the radio was enough for us. We never thought we’d make it this far. I remember us being kids from this small neighbourhood who created our own little crew after school and we’d get together and record songs in the basement and beatbox because we loved it.”
Fast-forward to 2009, and Jolicoeur describes his beloved genre as a “corporate monster.”
“The creative aspect and the art form is what’s lost in the game now. There is no appreciation for where hip hop came from, the understanding of the history of it. It has fallen a long way and it’s become like a monster in some ways – just an industry, a corporation, an entity. It’s great to see rappers making millions of dollars and people earning money and jobs being created, but it’s unfortunate that the music isn’t that great. On the other hand, there is great music out there, but nobody knows about it because these very same big guys and their companies are so rich that they are able to block the smaller guys from getting into the circle to present something new.”
And while Jolicoeur admits De La Soul are no spring chickens, he claims the group still has plenty of fresh ideas to offer. “Right now I can’t hear the future of hip hop. I think De La Soul is still the future of hip hop. I think we’re still capable of doing something completely brand new. Much of that comes from us knowing what and who we are, it’s about feeling comfortable and enjoying life, and I don’t know how many rappers can say the same.”
WHO: De La Soul
WHAT: Play The Metro Theatre
WHEN: Tuesday 5 May