De La Soul has been making history since their legendary debut album “3 Feet High and Rising” was released in 1989, and they’re not stopping. The trio of hip-hop elder statesmen brought a lifetime of energy, wisdom and talent to the backyard stage at StubHub’s SXSW party on Rainey Street, sparking emotional memories with older members of the crowd and earning awe and admiration from those too young to remember the moment in rap history that De La contributed to.
Maseo, the group’s DJ, kicked off the night with a tribute to late A Tribe Called Quest member Phife Dawg, playing the group’s hit “Can I Kick It” and shouting out the rap legend. Then Maseo and his groupmates Posdnuos and Trugoy broke into polished, relaxed performances of tracks from throughout their career. The trio performed to an adoring audience, which included a jovial and grinning CeeLo Green, and took time throughout the set to focus on important themes of living in the moment, unity, family and their fight to own their own music.
The three artists made numerous references to the battle they’ve been fighting with Tommy Boy Records to get the ownership and money they deserve from the music that they wrote. In February, they announced that their back catalog would be coming to streaming services, but that, as they wrote on Instagram, “Your purchases will roughly go 90% Tommy Boy, 10% De La.”
During their SXSW set, the group was visibly emotional about being handed what they referred to as “a bologna sandwich” in exchange for the art that they put their life and love into. “All we wanna do,” the artists explained, “is own our own music and pass it down to our children.” What a succinct and powerful way of explaining the vicious and unjust dynamics of the music industry.
To this day, no one has energy and chemistry like De La -- and no one has a voice like Pos, who sounded as iconic as ever, transporting you back to a different world, a different time in music history, with just a few words. When De La Soul tells the audience to put their cameras down and “be present,” people listen. When Pos claims one side of the crowd and pits it against Trugoy’s other side because as they said, “hip hop is always a friendly battle,” everyone was all in.
And when they said, “Today, we claim to be the greatest group ever, because we stuck together,” it was impossible to disagree. De La Soul means from the soul, and, let me tell you, the soul was overflowing.
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