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De La Soul Plans to Bring Classic Catalog to Streaming in Partnership With Reservoir

De La Soul
Robert Adam Mayer 

De La Soul

After a public battle with Tommy Silverman's storied label, Tommy Boy Music, De La Soul are back in control of their creative legacy and plan to bring their first six studio albums to streaming services later this year.

The iconic hip-hop trio has been trying to get its Tommy Boy recordings on streaming services for years, but abandoned the plan in 2019 when they couldn't come to terms with the label, hung up on agreeable royalty splits and the cost of licensing samples included in the tracks. But when Reservoir Music acquired 40-year-old Tommy Boy in June, the group resumed its effort.

"We have finally come down to a deal between ourselves and Reservoir Media to release our music in 2021," De La Soul member David "Trugoy" Jolicoeur said in an IG Live video posted Tuesday (Aug. 10). "We’re trying to work hard and diligently along with the good folks at Reservoir to get this done. We sat down and we got it done pretty quick … maybe in two weeks’ time tops. A totally different approach than what was happening with Tommy Boy. And I’m not speaking to bash Tommy Silverman or Tommy Boy in any way. But we’re happy that chapter is over and done with and looking forward to our relationship with Reservoir Media."

Reservoir confirmed the deal with Billboard but would not disclose terms.

"We have reached a new long-term agreement with De La Soul that gives the group a new voice and interest in how their historic catalog will be distributed," a company spokesperson said in a statement. "Reservoir couldn’t be happier to come to an agreement with De La Soul, one of the most important groups in the history of hip-hop, and it’s an honor to partner with them and make these classic albums available to the fans after all this time."

Added Faith Newman, Reservoir executive A&R and catalog development, in a statement: “Life can be funny when things come full circle. I’ve known the guys for over 30 years and it’s so exciting to be a part of this rebirth.”

Tommy Boy's catalog included a treasure trove of hip-hop master recordings with more than 6,000 songs in all including work by Coolio (“Gangsta’s Paradise”), House of Pain (“Jump Around”), Afrika Bambaata & the Soulsonic Force (“Planet Rock”) and De La Soul (“Me Myself and I”).

The six albums comprising De La Soul’s Tommy Boy catalog include their 1989 seminal debut 3 Feet High and Rising and De La Soul Is Dead. Through memorable singles like “Plug Tunin’,” “Me Myself and I,” “The Magic Number,” “Eye Know” and “Say No Go,” 3 Feet High and Rising not only ushered in a new, psychedelic era with the group’s distinctive brand of alternative rap but also scored platinum and No. 1 status on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Its game-changing influence was further cemented in 2010 when the album was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.

However, De La Soul’s use of uncleared samples from Hall & Oates, the Turtles and others in those early days of rap on 3 Feet High and Rising and follow-up De La Soul is Dead also sparked years of legal issues. The end result: the group’s early classic records have been withheld from streaming platforms for decades.

De La Soul’s fight to release their catalog on streaming services -- and to rectify terms of the Tommy Boy contract they signed as teenagers -- went public in February 2019 when the group aired grievances about their copyright issues with Tommy Boy on social media. Two years earlier, Tommy Boy founder Silverman had re-purchased the label from former partner Warner Music.

In a lengthy interview with Billboard that March, the group — whose additional members include Posdnuos and Maseo — said Silverman allegedly offered them a 90/10 split of the profits if he were to take their music to streaming services. At that point, De La Soul launched a boycott on social media, which drew the support of Nas, Questlove and Jay-Z, among others.

In August 2019, in the wake of their debut album’s 30th anniversary, De La Soul ended negotiations with Silverman. In a statement issued on Instagram at the time, Jolicoeur said, “After 30 years of profiting from our music and hard work... and after 7 long months of stalled negotiations, we are sad to say that we’ve been unable to reach an agreement and earn Tommy Boy’s respect for our legacy ... we’ve decided we will not do our 30+ years the disservice of settling on Tom Silverman’s terms.”

On Tuesday, however, Jolicoeur's tone was notably different. "I think we needed new soil to work with," he continued on IG Live, speaking of the new arrangement with Reservoir. "These good people are looking after us to do the right thing by ourselves, our music, our legacy and, of course, the fans."